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Read Psalm 137

By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept
    when we remembered Zion.
There on the poplars
    we hung our harps,
for there our captors asked us for songs,
    our tormentors demanded songs of joy;
    they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”

How can we sing the songs of the Lord
    while in a foreign land?
If I forget you, Jerusalem,
    may my right hand forget its skill.
May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth
    if I do not remember you,
if I do not consider Jerusalem
    my highest joy.

Remember, Lord, what the Edomites did
    on the day Jerusalem fell.
“Tear it down,” they cried,
    “tear it down to its foundations!”
Daughter Babylon, doomed to destruction,
    happy is the one who repays you
    according to what you have done to us.
Happy is the one who seizes your infants
    and dashes them against the rocks.

Go Deeper

The most important thing to note while reading this psalm is that it is a psalm of exile. This chapter is written after the Hebrew people have been taken from their land and brought into captivity by the Babylonians. In the Old Testament, the exile took place after God was so exhausted by the Israelites’ sin that He handed them over to those who do not know Him. These Israelites had grown comfortable with their sin, and God used exile to wake them up to the dangers of their rebellion. 

When we think of exile, we cannot just assume the Israelites were carried off peacefully into a foreign land. What really happened was that the temple was destroyed, fellow Israelites were killed, and their homes were taken from them. This traumatic experience filled the Israelites with so much anger towards their captors that they would even say here in verse 9, “Happy is the one who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.” This was likely written because this is precisely what happened to the Israelite families (Isaiah 13:16). Since they had lived through this incredibly painful experience, the people of God were without hope. While their captors mocked them and asked them to sing, they responded by saying, “How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land?” (v. 4). In other words, “How can we sing songs of hope when our situation is hopeless?”

While we are not currently held captive by our enemies, we too, are in a state of exile. As believers, we aren’t living in our true home. We are made to be at home in heaven with our Lord as king. As we are in a state of exile while on earth, there will be much that will bring us discouragement. There will be times of pain, exhaustion, and despair. But because of Jesus, we can respond differently than the writer of this psalm. While they are driven to anger and dejection, we can be driven to peace and confidence. Our hope does not need to be in the future destruction of our enemies because we know that Christ has defeated Satan and death, our true enemies. Today, we can sing songs of hope while in exile because we have a faithful God who will one day bring us home.

Questions

  1. What most stands out to you about this passage?
  2. How is our time on earth similar to the Israelites’ time in exile? How might you have grown too comfortable here?
  3. What promises of God give you hope in times of pain?

By the Way

In 2 Corinthians 4:16-18, Paul gives us a helpful passage to remember when it comes to living as people of hope in the midst of affliction: 

So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”

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4 thoughts on “Psalm 137”

  1. I’m remembering Paul and Silas in Acts 16 who were “exiled” in prison with their feet in stocks, making movement impossible. V25-26 declares “About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening. Suddenly there was such a violent earthquake that the foundations of the jail were shaken, and immediately all the doors were opened, and everyone’s chains came loose.” Instead of lamenting and giving up, they chose to declare His praise in the midst of the trial. Today, I want to remember to praise Him through the storms of life. The lyrics of Worthy of Your Name are fitting to praise Him:
    You’re my Author, my Maker, my Ransom, my Savior, my Refuge, my Hiding Place. You’re my Helper, my Healer, my Blessed Redeemer, my Answer, my Saving Grace. You’re my Hope in the shadows, my Strength in the battle, my Anchor for all my days. You stand by my side and you stood in my place, Jesus no other name.”

  2. I read this and all I can come up with is, to praise Him in the storm.
    The storms of this life are temporary but Jesus is eternal.
    I pray for those that suffer in all things, from the physical to the emotional. I pray for those that suffer from things we cannot see and I pray for those that suffer from what is apparent.
    Mostly, I pray those that don’t know Him, would rise up from the storm by letting Him into their hearts.
    Rain down on us Lord. May we experience your cleansing spirit and the long reaching effects of a shared life with you

  3. Rwanda, 1994: When one tribe lost site of another’s humanity, the scene described in Psalm 137:9 became reality for tens of thousands of children. God has asked us to love Him…and others… with all our hearts (Matt 22:37-38).
    Lord, help us love as you do.

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