“By the Rivers of Babylon”
I don’t know about you, but depending on your age, the first lines of Psalm 137 may have taken you back to the 1970’s and the Pop/Reggae band Boney-M.
Psalms 137 is a song of lament, sung by the Jews who had been taken into captivity by the Babylonians. One of the main tasks of the Levites was to sing songs of praise in the temple. After the destruction of Jerusalem and the forced exile of its inhabitants to Babylon, the captors demanded – “Sing for us the songs of Zion.” The question that the song asks is “How shall we sing God’s song in a foreign land?” We don’t know the fate of the Levites who defied the Babylonian captors’ orders, but we can only imagine. One traditional source says that Nebuchadnezzar killed 80,000 Jews.
While we can feel the anguish in this haunting song of lament, how does it speak to us today? To the Reggae singing Rastafarians, it was a song of protest against the police and those in authority. While we live in a time and a place where we enjoy great freedoms and safety, we are in danger of being carried off into captivity. In II Timothy 2:23-26 (NLT), Paul gives these instructions:
Again I say, don’t get involved in foolish, ignorant arguments that only start fights. A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but must be kind to everyone, be able to teach, and be patient with difficult people. Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth. Then they will come to their senses and escape from the devil’s trap. For they have been held captive by him to do whatever he wants.
Satan desires to carry souls off into captivity. When a person falls into sin, he is carried away from Zion (the presence of God). Our task, as an approved workman, is to “gently instruct those who oppose the truth,” to help those being held captive by the devil to escape captivity and be restored to right relationship with God.
Perhaps as a believer, you have forgotten Jerusalem. In Psalms 137:5-6 the Levite songwriter cries out:
If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
let my right hand forget how to play the harp.
May my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth
if I fail to remember you,
if I don’t make Jerusalem my greatest joy.
Today, let us make Jerusalem our greatest joy! Let us long for God’s presence like an exile in Babylon, weeping by the river bank, remembering Zion.
By: Steve Musen — Leadership Team