Theodore Herzl said, “If you will it, it is no dream.” Those simple, yet profound words articulated by Israel’s visionary express the Zionist longing to return to the homeland of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Herzl’s dream became a reality with the rebirth of the modern nation on May 14, 1948.
On Yom Yerushalayim—Jerusalem Day—lovers of Zion worldwide celebrate the liberation and the reunification of the city of Jerusalem in 1967 following the Six Day War. (1)
The Six-Day War altered the course of history. For the first time since the return of the Diaspora, Jewish people were again able to enter the Old City of Jerusalem and had access to the Temple Mount and the Western Wall—the holiest and most revered sites in Israel.
Some 2,500 years before Herzl envisioned a return to the Jewish homeland, however, the diaspora living in captivity in Babylon clung to the same dream:
When the Lord brought back the captivity of Zion,
We were like those who dream.
Then our mouth was filled with laughter,
And our tongue with singing.
Then they said among the nations,
“The Lord has done great things for them.”
The Lord has done great things for us,
And we are glad (Ps. 126:1-3).
It’s hard to escape the emotion of the Jewish people returning to Zion, which is another name for Jerusalem.
This was no mere dream. They were home. It was miraculous. Even the nations of the world recognized the significance and exclaimed, “The Lord has done great things for them” (v. 2).
The psalmist highlights the fulfillment of one of Jeremiah’s prophecies and not the sorrows of the 70-year captivity that began in 607 B.C. when Nebuchadnezzar invaded the land and drove the people of Judah to Babylon in chains. (Jer. 25:11-14).
As prophesied, Cyrus gave the Babylonian exiles the right of return to their homeland including the beloved city of Jerusalem (Ezra 1:1-11). You can feel the excitement in the psalmist’s words, “When the Lord brought back the captivity of Zion, we were like those who dream” (Ps. 126: 1).
Previously, the author had petitioned the Lord for a full restoration to the land
Bring back our captivity, O Lord,
As the streams in the South (Ps. 126:4).
This was more than a bold request. Very likely, the psalmist was among the first wave of 42,360 exiles returning under the leadership of Ezra (Ezra 2:64). The group represented only a fraction of the previous Jewish population in the land.
God promised His Chosen People that even when they were removed from their homeland, He would always bring them back (Dt. 30:4-5).
Like the prolonged return of the diaspora from Babylon, those making aliyah from the worldwide Diaspora today are returning incrementally. These modern day exiles are fulfilling prophecy like their ancestors. Some 2,700 years ago, the prophet Isaiah predicted what is now the thriving energetic city of Jerusalem:
Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, and He who formed you from the womb . . . who confirms the word of His servant, and performs the counsel of His messengers; who says to Jerusalem, “You shall be inhabited,” to the cities of Judah, “You shall be built,” and I will raise up her waste places (Isa. 44:24, 26).
We live at a privileged time in God’s plan and purpose as witnesses of the rebirth and phenomenal growth of the nation of Israel as well as the reunification of the Eternal City of Jerusalem (2 Chr. 6:5-6). In a defensive war for survival, Israel pushed back persistent enemies obsessed with annihilation of the modern state and emerged triumphant in 1967.
The psalmist closes with a reminder that, “those who sow in tears will reap in joy” (v. 6). (2) Zion has shed many tears as God’s Chosen People persevered through wars of survival and the toil of rebuilding their ancient homeland. Because of the persistent efforts of previous generations since 1948, Israel and the worldwide Jewish community celebrate Yom Yerushalayim with great joy—just as prophesied.
Now, take your place among the nations of the world and boldly declare, the Lord has done great things for them!
1) Featured, Israel panorama and Jerusalem collage. (Photo credits, By Pixabay/[Public domain]/Enhancement, MKM Portfolios)
1) For more information on The Six Day War, follow the link to The Anniversary of the Six Day War.
2) Most Christians are quick to recognize that the fifth and sixth verses of Psalm 126 are often used to encourage evangelistic efforts. In context, the passage actually provides motivation for God’s Chosen People returning to and rebuilding the city of Jerusalem.
Copyright © Charles E. McCracken 2019 (updated 2022), devotional comments only. Repost/Reprint with permission from the author. Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.