Try out the new BibleStudyTools.com. Click here!

Psalm 126:5

 

EXPOSITION

Verse 5. They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. Hence, present distress must not be viewed as if it would last for ever; it is not the end, by any means, but only a means to the end. Sorrow is our sowing, rejoicing shall be our reaping. If there were no sowing in tears there would be no reaping in joy. If we were never captives we could never lead our captivity captive. Our mouth had never been filled with holy laughter if it had not been first filled with the bitterness of grief. We must sow: we may have to sow in the wet weather of sorrow; but we shall reap, and reap in the bright summer season of joy. Let us keep to the work of this present sowing time, and find strength in the promise which is here so positively given us. Here is one of the Lord's shalls and wills; it is freely given both to workers, waiters, and weepers, and they may rest assured that it will not fail: "in due season they shall reap."

This sentence may well pass current in the church as an inspired proverb. It is not every sowing which is thus insured against all danger, and guaranteed a harvest; but the promise specially belongs to sowing in tears. When a man's heart is so stirred that he weeps over the sins of others, he is elect to usefulness. Winners of souls are first weepers for souls. As there is no birth without travail, so is there no spiritual harvest without painful tillage. When our own hearts are broken with grief at man's transgression we shall break other men's hearts: tears of earnestness beget tears of repentance: "deep calleth unto deep."

 

EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS

Verse 5. They that sow in tears. I never saw people sowing in tears exactly, but have often known them to do it in fear and distress sufficient to draw them from any eye. In seasons of great scarcity, the poor peasants part in sorrow with every measure of precious seed cast into the ground. It is like taking bread out of the mouths of their children; and in such times many bitter tears are actually shed over it. The distress is frequently so great that government is obliged to furnish seed, or none would be sown. Ibrahim Pasha did this more than once within my remembrance, copying the example, perhaps, of his great predecessor in Egypt when the seven years famine was ended.

The thoughts of this psalm may likewise have been suggested by the extreme danger which frequently attends the farmer in his ploughing and sowing. The calamity which fell upon the husbandmen of Job when the oxen were ploughing, and the asses feeding beside them, and the Sabeans fell upon them and took them away, and slew the servants with the edge of the sword ( Job 1:14-15 ), is often repeated in our day. To understand this you must remember what I have just told you about the situation of the arable lands in the open country; and here again we meet that verbal accuracy: the sower "goes forth" -- that is, from the village. The people of Ibel and Khiem, in Merj' Aiyun, for example, have their best grain growing fields down in the 'Ard Hfileh, six or eight miles from their homes, and just that much nearer the lawless border of the desert. When the country is disturbed, or the government weak, they cannot sow these lands except at the risk of their lives. Indeed, they always go forth in large companies, and completely armed, ready to drop the plough and seize the musket at a moment's warning; and yet, with all this care, many sad and fatal calamities overtake the men who must thus sow in tears. And still another origin may be found for the thoughts of the psalm in the extreme difficulty of the work itself in many places. The soil is rocky, impracticable, overgrown with sharp thorns; and it costs much painful toil to break up and gather out the rock, cut and burn the briars, and to subdue the stubborn soil, especially with their feeble oxen and insignificant ploughs. Join all these together, and the sentiment is very forcibly brought out, that he who labours hard, in cold and rain, in fear and danger, in poverty and in want, casting his precious seed into the ground, will surely come again, at harvest time, with rejoicing, and bearing his sheaves with him. -- W.M. Thomson.

Verse 5. They that sow in tears shalt reap in joy, etc. This promise is conveyed under images borrowed from the instructive scenes of agriculture. In the sweat of his brow the husbandman tills his land, and casts the seed into the ground, where for a time it lies dead and buried. A dark and dreary winter succeeds, and all seems to be lost; but at the return of spring universal nature revives, and the once desolate fields are covered with corn which, when matured by the sun's heat, the cheerful reapers cut down, and it is brought home with triumphant shouts of joy. Here, O disciple of Jesus, behold an emblem of lily present labour and thy future reward! Thou "sowest", perhaps, in "tears"; thou doest thy duty amidst persecution, and affliction, sickness, pain, and sorrow; you labour in the Church, and no account is made of thy labours, no profit seems likely to arise from them. Say, thou must thyself drop into the dust of death, and all the storms of that winter must pass over thee, until thy form shall be perished, and thou shalt see corruption. Yet the day is coming when thou shalt "reap in joy", and plentiful shall be thy harvest. For thus thy blessed Master "went forth weeping", a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief, "bearing precious seed" and sowing it around him, till at length his own body was buried, like a grain of wheat, in the furrow of the grave. But he arose, and is now in heaven, from whence he shall "doubtless come again with rejoicing", with the voice of the archangel and the trump of God, "bringing his sheaves with him". Then shall every man receive the fruit of his works, and have praise of God. --George Horne (1730-1792), in "A Commentary on the Psalms."

Verse 5. They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. They sow in faith; and God will bless that seed: it shall grow up to heaven, for it is sown in the side of Jesus Christ who is in heaven. "He that believeth on God", this is the seed; "shall have everlasting life" (Joh 5:24); this is the harvest. Qui credit quod non videt, videbit quod credit, -- he that believes what he doth not see; this is the seed: shall one day see what he hath believed; this is the harvest.

They sow in obedience: this is also a blessed seed, that will not fail to prosper Wheresoever it is cast. "If ye keep my commandments"; this is the seed: "ye shall abide in my love" ( John 15:10 ); this is the harvest. ( Romans 6:22 ), "Ye are become servants to God, and have your fruit unto holiness"; this is the sowing: "and the end everlasting life"; this is the reaping. Obedientia in tetris, regnabit in coelis, -- he that serves God on earth, and sows the seed of obedience, shall in heaven reap the harvest of a kingdom.

They sow in repentance; and this seed must needs grow up to blessedness ... Many saints have now reaped their crop in heaven, that sowed their seed in tears. David, Mary Magdalene, Peter: as if they had made good the proverb, "No coming to heaven with dry eyes." Thus nature and God differ in their proceedings. To have a good crop on earth, we desire a fair seedtime; but here a wet time of sowing shall bring the best harvest in the barn of heaven. "Blessed are they that mourn"; this is the seeding: "for they shall be comforted" ( Matthew 5:4 ); this is the harvest.

They sow in renouncing the world, and adherence to Christ; and they reap a great harvest. "Behold", saith Peter to Christ, "we have forsaken all, and followed thee" (Mt 19:27); this is the seeding. "What shall we have therefore?" What? "You shall sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel" ( Matthew 19:28-29 ); all that you have lost shall be centupled to you: "and you shall inherit everlasting life"; this is the harvest. "Sow to yourselves in righteousness, and reap in mercy": Hosea 10:12 .

They sow in charity. He that sows this seed shall be sure of a plentiful crop. "Whosoever shall give to drink to one of these little ones a cup of cold water only" - - a little refreshing -- "in the name of a disciple; verily I say unto you, he shall in no wise lose his reward": Matthew 10:42 . But if he that giveth a little shall be thus recompensed, then "he that soweth bountifully shall reap bountifully": 2 Corinthians 9:6 . Therefore sparse abroad with a full hand, like a seeds man in a broad field, without fear. Doth any think he shall lose by his charity? No worldling, when he sows his seed, thinks he shall lose his seed; he hopes for increase at harvest. Do you dare trust the ground and not God? Sure God is a better paymaster than the earth: grace doth give a larger recompense than nature. Below thou mayest receive forty grains for one; but in heaven, (by the promise of Christ,) a hundred fold: a "measure heapen, and shaken, and thrust together, and yet running over." "Blessed is he that considereth the poor"; this is the seeding: "the Lord shall deliver him in the time of trouble" ( Psalms 41:1 ); this is the harvest. --Thomas Adams.

Verse 5. They that sow in tears, etc. Observe two things here.

  1. That the afflictions of God's people are as sowing in tears.
  2. In sowing ye know there is great pains. The land must be first tilled and dressed; and there is pains in casting the seed into it; and then it takes a great dressing all the year, before it be set in the barnyard.
  3. It requires great charges, too, and therefore it is called "precious seed." For ye know that seed corn is aye dearest.
  4. There is also great hazard; for corn, after it is sown, is subject to many dangers. And so it is with the children of God in a good cause.
  5. Then after the seed time follows the harvest, and that comes with joy. There be three degrees of the happiness of God's children, in reaping of fruits.
    1. In the first fruits. Even when they are enduring anything for the Gospel of Christ, it carries contentment and fruit with it.
    2. After the first fruits, then come sheaves to refresh the husbandman, and to assure him that the full harvest is coming. The Lord now and then gives testimony of a full deliverance to his own people, especially of the deliverance of Sion, and lets them taste of the sheaves which they have reaped.
    3. And lastly, they get the full harvest; and that is gotten at the great and last day. Then we get peace without trouble, joy without grief, profit without loss, pleasure without pain; and then we have a full sight of the face of God. --Alexander Henderson.

Verse 5. They that sow in tears shall reap in joy. Gospel tears are not lost; they are seeds of comfort: while the penitent doth pour out tears, God pours in joy. If thou wouldst be cheerful, saith Chrysostom, be sad. It was the end of Christ's anointing and coming into the world, that he might comfort them that mourn: Isaiah 61:3 . Christ had the oil of gladness poured on him, as Chrysostom saith, that he might pour it on the mourner; well then might the apostle call it "a repentance not to be repented of": 2 Corinthians 7:10 ... Here is sweet fruit from a bitter stock: Christ caused the earthen vessels to be filled with water, and then turned the water into wine: John 2:9 . So when the eye, that earthen vessel, hath been filled with water brim full, then Christ will turn the water of tears into the wine of joy. Holy mourning, saith St. Basil, is the seed out of which the flower of eternal joy doth grow. --Thomas Watson (-1690?), in "The Beatitudes."

Verse 5. They that sow in tears shall reap. We must take notice of the reapers: "They shall reap." Which they? They that did sow; they shall, and none but they shall. They shall; and good reason they should, because it was they that did sow. And though some that have sown in tears do complain of the lateness or thinness of the harvest, that they have not reaped in joy, as is here promised; know that some grounds are later than others, and in some years tile harvest falleth later than in others, and that God, who is the Lord of the harvest, in his good time will ripen thy joy, and thou shalt reap it: and in the meantime, if we try it narrowly, we shall find the cause in ourselves, both of the lateness of our joy, because we were too late in sowing our tears; and of the thinness of our joy, because we did sow our tears too thin. And if after our sowing of tears we find no harvest of joy at all, we may be well assured that either our seed was not good, or else some of the mischances are come upon them, which came upon the seed that came to no good in the thirteenth of Matthew. --Walter Balcanqual, in "a Sermon preached at St. Marice Spittle", 1623.

Verse 5. They that sow in tears, etc. I saw in seedtime a husbandman at plough in a very rainy day. Asking him the reason why he would not rather leave off than labour in such foul weather, his answer was returned me in their country rhythm: --

"Sow beans in the mud,
And they'll come up like a wood."

This could not but remind me of David's expression, "They that sow in tears shall reap in joy", etc. --Thomas Fuller (1608-1661), in "Good Thoughts in Worse Times."

Verse 5. Sow in tears. There are tears which are themselves the seed that we must sow; tears of sorrow for sin, our own and others; tears of sympathy with the afflicted church; and tears of tenderness in prayer and under the word. --Matthew Henry.

Verse 5. Shall reap in joy. This spiritual harvest comes not alike soon to all, no more than the other which is outward doth. But here the comfort, whoever hath a seed time of grace pass over his soul shall have his harvest time also of joy: this law God hath bound himself to as strongly as to the other, which "is not to cease while the earth remaineth" ( Genesis 8:22 ); yea, more strongly; for that was to the world in general, not to every country, town, or field in particular, for some of these may want a harvest, and yet God may keep his word: but God cannot perform his promise if any one particular saint should everlastingly go without his reaping time. And therefore you who think so basely of the gospel and the professors of it, because at present their peace and comfort are not come, should know that it is on the way to them, and comes to stay everlastingly with them; whereas your peace is going from you every moment, and is sure to leave you without any hope of returning to you again. Look not how the Christian begins, but ends. The Spirit of God by his convictions comes into the soul with some terrors, but it closes with peace and joy. As we say of the month of March, it enters like a lion, but goes out like a lamb. "Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace": Psalms 37:37 . -- William Gumall.

Verse 5-6. In my little reading and small experience, I have found that corn sown in dear years and times of scarcity hath yielded much more increase than at other times; so that presently after much want, there hath followed great plenty of grain, even beyond expectation. --Humphrey Hardwick, in a Sermon entitled "The Difficulty of Sion's Deliverance and Reformation", 1644.

Verse 5-6. Mind we the undoubted certainty of our harvest verified by divers absolute positive asseverations in the text: "he shall reap"; "he shall come again"; "he shall bring his sheaves with him." Here's no item of contingency or possibility, but all absolute affirmations; and you know heaven and earth shall pass away, but a jot of God's word shall not fail. Nothing shall prevent the harvest of a labourer in Sion's vineyard. --Humphrey Hardwick.

Verse 5-6. In a fuller, deeper sense, the sower in tears is the Man of sorrows himself. Believers know him thus. He has accomplished, in the sore travail of his soul, the seed time of affliction which is to bear its satisfying harvest when he shall again appear as the reaper of his own reward. He will fill his bosom with sheaves in that day of joy. The garner of his gladness will be filled to overflowing. By how much his affliction surpassed the natural measure of human grief, when he underwent for our sakes the dread realities of death and judgment; by so much shall the fulness of his pure delight as the eternal blesser of his people excel their joy (yet what a measure, too, is there!) whose sum of blessedness is to be for ever with the Lord. --Arthur Pridham, in "Notes and Reflections on the Psalms", 1869.

 

HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS

Verse 5. The Christian Husbandman.

  1. Illustrate the metaphor. The husbandman has a great variety of work before him; every season and every day brings its proper business. So the Christian has duties in the closet, in the family, in the church, in the world, etc., etc.
  2. Whence it is that many Christians sow in tears.

    1. It may be owing to the badness of the soil.
    2. The inclemency of the season.
    3. The malice and opposition of enemies.
    4. Past disappointments.
  3. What connection there is between sowing in tears and reaping in joy.

    1. A joyful harvest, by God's blessing, is the natural consequence of a dripping seed time.
    2. God, who cannot lie, hath promised it.
  4. When this joyful harvest may be expected. It must not be expected in our wintry world, for there is not sun enough to ripen it. Heaven is the Christian's summer. When you come to reap the fruits of your present trials, you will bless God, who made you sow in tears. Improvement.

    1. How greatly are they to blame who in this busy time stand all the day idle!

b) How greatly have Christians the advantage of the rest of the world!

c) Let the hope and prospect of this joyful harvest support us under all the glooms and distresses of this vale of tears. --Outline of a Sermon by Samuel Lavington, 1726- 1807.

Verse 5. Two pictures. The connecting "shall."

Verse 5.

  1. There must be sowing before reaping.

  1. What men sow they will reap. If they sow precious seed, they will reap precious seed.
  2. In proportion as they sow they will reap. "He that soweth sparingly", etc.
  3. The sowing may be with sorrow, but the reaping will be with joy.
  4. In proportion to the sorrow of sowing will be the joy of reaping. --G. R.
Read Psalm 126:5