When the Lord restored the fortunes of Zion,
we were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
and our tongue with shouts of joy;
then they said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord has done great things for us;
we are glad.
Restore our fortunes, O Lord,
like streams in the Negeb!
Those who sow in tears
shall reap with shouts of joy!
He who goes out weeping,
bearing the seed for sowing,
shall come home with shouts of joy,
bringing his sheaves with him.
I’ve been stuck on this Psalm lately as well as a few passages in Isaiah; all dancing around the theme of promises of God being fulfilled. But what does that look like? It’s easier to let disappointment guide my steps most of the time but hope always somehow makes a surprising, scrappy comeback. And then the question begins again- where to go from here?
I generally don’t like to write in my Bible’s margins (or any book’s for that matter) but one of the few I have made is a one word comment on Exodus 3:12, “vague.” God is speaking out of a burning bush to Moses and says, “but I will be with you, and this shall be the sign for you, that I have sent you: when you have brought the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God on this mountain.”
So, let me get this straight…after I risk my neck and try to persuade Pharaoh to let all his free labor prance straight out of Egypt, after I convince an entire people group that they should follow me into the wilderness, once I’ve done all that and escaped and made it out, then I’ll know it was the right thing to have done? I mean, I’m sure it has a different effect when the statement is being made from a burning bush but it still sounds pretty ridiculous to me. Once you do all the hard work and pass through all the craziness, then you’ll know. Thanks a lot.
It seems to be a pattern of our Father though. The God of Israel. The one who told Abraham, “Hey, I want to do something really amazing with you. Get up and leave everything you know, adopt a nomadic lifestyle, walk through barrenness even as I promise you a child, and check out this land that I’m actually going to wait and give to your children, not to you right now.”
How did Abraham not just completely lose it at some point? Through all the years of unmet desires and expectations? Actually, perhaps he kind of did, there were definitely some poor decisions made at more than a few different points along the way.
But you know what I find remarkable in Abraham’s first response to the grand, and again rather vague, promise about a land for his offspring? He built an altar.
He built an altar and worshipped God there. Looking out over a land that wasn’t his with a promise he already knew he wouldn’t enjoy the fruit of.
He built an altar.
I don’t know what that looks like for you today. Whether it’s giving something over to God in prayer one more time, whether it’s throwing glasses against the wall of your basement with your roommates, whether it’s singing your heart into a place of worship, or writing the scary deep hope out in your journal, but I think it’s time to build an altar.
Not wrestling through the how and why, although that will surely come, but stopping in the middle of an unfulfilled promise and saying that no matter what I’ll see come to fruition or not, I met God here and that’s what I want to declare to the next generation. He met me here.
Wherever you are, I pray that above the chaos and pain, the honor and beauty of being met by the Lord will fill your heart with gladness and your tongue with shouts of joy. Because He’s already done great things for us. He met us here.
“Surely the Lord is in this place and I did not know it.” (Genesis 28:16)