Picking Up the Pieces
This is the seventh in a series Songs of Ascent Psalms 126. This Psalm was written about the time of the return from captivity in about 538BC. This Psalm was most likely written either by Ezra the Priest or Nehemiah. The first delegation that returned to Zion came with the express purpose of rebuilding the Temple that had been destroyed ultimately by the Babylonians prior to 586BC. In this Psalm, the people were coming back to an utter destruction that once was their home, Temple, and community. When I consider this picture and the words of the Psalm, Sin, by its very nature, is not bias it destroys everything in its path. One might believe that the Temple of all things would have been spared because of the prayers of Solomon; yet, as we will read, it too was destroyed right along with houses, businesses, and civic gathering places. 21st century man faces the same issues – living a life of sin and watching it get destroyed. God never paints a rosy picture of the job ahead of us in the tasks he sends us on. If you receive a rosy picture, you can be sure you are listening to the wrong person; consider the case of Ahab and Hezekiah (1 Kings 22). As I present three points that I believe are crucial to our healing from sin, I challenge you, the reader, to think about your life pre-sinful fall, steps to forgiveness and, what it was like trying to pick up the pieces.
Point 1 – Starting at Ground Zero (vs. 1-2, Luke 15:11-32)
Many know the story of the prodigal son and can probably recite it from memory but, I feel the story has wider implications specific to the events being told in this Psalm as well as for the 1st century Jew and, present-day mankind. The journey back home from a life of sin is always agonizing because, the doubts and fears that scream in the ears “What are you thinking? How can you possibly go back to ___ when you wasted ______?” The Devil uses these fears, our failures, and misgivings to keep us from having peace in our life; because, he profits from sin and destruction. When we get to the kingdom of God, we find that our fears are for naught because, we find in God forgiveness rather than a lecture. This does not mean that there will not be a rough road ahead nor, that the people we hurt by our actions will be as quick to forgive much less welcome us back. When we sin, life as we know it, changes irrevocably. Equally, the luxury we enjoyed prior to the fall does not by proxy return simply because we came to our senses; so, we start off with less and sometimes, nothing at all except the knowledge that we are in the place where healing begins. Consider the case of Naomi (Ruth).
Sin by its very nature and disposition, separates us from a relationship with God (Isa 59:2); consequently, it also separates us from the ones we love. You will notice that the young man in the parable did not just go to his room and live his life, he left his entire family behind. Rebuilding our broken lives, unlike mending a simple wall, requires much more work, a strong stomach and, a renewed vision. Sin destroys everything that is in our lives one step at a time. We try to cover up our sins by giving away items that do not belong to us; for the kings of Judah, it was the gold and silver that adorned the Temple (2nd Kings 18:16). In present day, we do not strip valuable metals off of our house but, we strip away precious things like, our spouse, kids, our home, jobs, etc. that we may never be able to reclaim again. When we seek to rebuild our lives, it must be with the understanding that the people we have hurt may never trust us again much less have anything to do with us. In the book of Proverbs, it states “through love and faithfulness a sin is atoned for; through the fear of the Lord, evil is avoided” (Pr 16:6). The point is, healing from sin takes time, persistence, and patience.
Point 2 – Tale of Two Exiles (vs. 3-4)
In the history of Israel, there were two noted periods of exile; the first being the 400 years in Egypt and the 2nd the exile of 586. In the first exile, the people came to Egypt 70 in all and left with more 10,000 (Ex 4). My hypothesis is, the people who were exiled to Babylon had a preconceived notion, based on false prophesy, that God would do the same thing in the present exile as he did in the 1st. Jeremiah, the prophet they should have listened to, said “the exile will be 70 years” (Jer 29:10 and Daniel 9). So. Following my hypothesis, all the people had to do was wait out 70 years and then “wa Lah, we’re a powerful nation once again”. Unfortunately, the 70 years came, and 70 years went, and the nation remained, for the most part, in Babylon. Did God fail them? Of course not! What you will find out, in the course of reading scripture, is that things rarely if ever happen the same way twice as Israel found out at the time of Christ.
In the book of Ezra, the Emperor gave the command that “anybody whose heart was stirred could go and rebuild the temple” (Ezra 1:15). When Ezra left for Jerusalem, 1315 people went with him which seems like a rather large number until you consider how many went into exile and the growth of the population during the 70 years (Ezra 8). That means, that there were a whole lot of people whose hearts were not stirred by the thought of the temple and Jerusalem. When the number of people going one direction is smaller than the number going in the other, the smaller number might think “maybe I am wrong and need to change my mind”’ Yet, we read Jesus’ take on it “wide is the path that leads to destruction, narrow is the gate that leads to life” (Mat 7:13-14). When we come out of sin, we face the same problem that is, many will not come with us. For example, when a marriage is dissolved because of infidelity or debt, or any other reason, one of the two might come to the cross for salvation but the other may not to say nothing of the kids. For this, we must adhere to the verses 3-4 to pray for them (Matthew Henry Commentary). We must be prepared for the fact that even with our very best prayers and pleadings, the people may never come back; consider how 10 tribes disappeared in 70 years.
Point 3 – Doing our part (vs. 5-6)
As a child of God, it is easy to think “I will wait on God” and do nothing to help; after all, it says in one verse “wait upon the Lord and he will renew your strength” (Isa 40:31). Yet, these two verses speak to the need for us to put our hands to the yoke that God has called us to. We are each given gifts that we will need for our journey what we do with them, is our gift back to God. If we neglect these gifts, they will be given to others who will use them.
Sometimes, we may find ourselves surrounded by differing groups of people. On one side are the hecklers who tell us what we cannot do. On the other, are the critics who tell us we should do. On the third side are the armchair quarterbacks whose favorite line is “if I were doing it, I would _____”. Yet, there is a fourth and that is the ones we need to listen to and that is our cheering section (Heb 12:1-3). Christian ministry, like parenting, can be a daunting task because, the pressure we see can seem bigger than the faith we hold on to; this, leads us to second guess ourselves and to eventually quit. Satan uses the noise from the present pressure to scare and intimidate the child of God into surrendering his/her post. Whenever God gives his servant a task to do, he equally gives them everything they need to do the task right. Our response to the Devil’s prodding is found in Psalms 56:3-9.
Conclusion: Picking up the pieces of our lives after a disaster like the exile of 586, must come with the understanding that all of the pieces may not fit together correctly. Unlike a jigsaw puzzle, in which the parts are evenly cut, parts of our life are shattered by the storms and quite possibly lost forever. When we put the puzzle of our life together, we cannot exclude the bad things we did nor, can we overlook them; because, it is from the bad times that we came to the cross. So, we fill in those shattered areas with grace as Paul’s message to the Corinthian church speaks to (2nd Cor 12:9). Each of us has something or many things in our past that we are not proud of and, if there was any way possible to go back to 10 minutes before we acted, we would gladly do so. However, once we sin, it is a done deal! Fortunately, it is not the end of our story simply, the start of a new chapter if we chose to take the journey. For my readers who have not accepted Jesus into your life, I want to hear from you so that, together, we can make that right. Please, come walk with me!
P.S. I welcome your comments and suggestions on all of my writings.