What comes to mind when you hear or read the words, fortunes restored? I think of a decaying manor house set in an English countryside, and a once prominent family with no means to restore it. There are a brother and a sister there, living in just a couple of the many rooms, taking care of a grandfather who is lost in memories of hunting parties and better days. A royal appointment, an advantageous but still for love marriage, or an industrious business returns family and manor to genteel prosperity and a deep generosity.
Perhaps an impoverished orphan who was once wealthy is discovered, and a distant relative or friend of the family comes to claim the child and everyone lives happily ever after (The Little Princess).
There are many other scenarios, but in all of them the fortune restored is a family’s wealth and former golden lifestyle. If it’s a Hollywood version, they live happily and more kindly ever after – deserving recipients of all that is regained.
That’s not what Psalm 126 is about. The fortunes restored are restored to a people, not a family or individual. Restoration was a return home and freedom to rebuild and worship at the Temple. Walking to Jerusalem, praying this psalm, surrounded by pilgrims all going up to the Temple: this is living the dream – who wouldn’t shout for joy?
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 it was said among the nations, “The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord has done great things for us, and we rejoiced.
Restore our fortunes, O Lord, like the watercourses in the Negeb.
May those who sow in tears reap with shouts of joy.
Those who go out weeping, bearing the seed for sowing, shall come home with shouts of joy, carrying their sheaves. Psalm 126, NRSV