Psalm 137

Psalm 137

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How Shall We Sing the Lord’s Song?

137   By the waters of Babylon,
    there we sat down and wept,
    when we remembered Zion.
  On the willows there
    we hung up our lyres.
  For there our captors
    required of us songs,
  and our tormentors, mirth, saying,
    “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
  How shall we sing the LORD’s song
    in a foreign land?
  If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
    let my right hand forget its skill!
  Let my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth,
    if I do not remember you,
  if I do not set Jerusalem
    above my highest joy!
  Remember, O LORD, against the Edomites
    the day of Jerusalem,
  how they said, “Lay it bare, lay it bare,
    down to its foundations!”
  O daughter of Babylon, doomed to be destroyed,
    blessed shall he be who repays you
    with what you have done to us!
  Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones
    and dashes them against the rock!

(ESV)


Psalm 137 Commentary

by Hank Workman

It’s a striking scene.

Gathered on the shores of one of Babylon’s rivers the people remembered what they had lost.  Held in captivity due to their disobedience, they had lost everything.  Often in foreign lands where there was no temple, the Israelite’s would gather to the river where religious services would be held.  We find this in Acts 16.  However, there was none to be had.  There was no song to sing so they hung their harps on the poplars on the riverbank.

Such mourning their tears unending as they remembered Zion.  They thought of the loved ones now dead, everything they owned gone.  Their great temple and city they loved destroyed.  They mourned for being held captive and the bleak future that gaped before them.  And they wept for their sin, the sin that had brought them to this place where the judgment of God was found after countless warnings.

The memory of all things that had been good rose to the top and grief was with every breath they took.

Sometimes we stand on such a riverbank.  Everything we have hoped for has disappeared.  Through our own choices even, we find ourselves alone and isolated; living in bondage.  Our God who faithfully walked beside us and gave fair warning again and again as He called us deeper was met with resistance.  Eventually, our insolence to what He held for us gave way and we are now in a place never imagined or dreamed.  We mourn not only for what we’ve lost but what could have been.

Yet, there is hope.  This God of ours love endures forever.  His mighty hand still is outstretched to help and aid us toward change.  He calls us even in the mourning of our lives when we’ve hung up our harps as no song is in our hearts, to turn to Him.  His grace continues to be extended even through our rebellion.

There is no doubt our sins create results.  Some we live with the rest of our lives.  But there is a firm truth even in this – our God continues to seek reconciliation.  He continues to lead us back to Him so that we will turn and be forgiven, restored.

This is possibly what He’s waiting on right now.


Psalm 137 Commentary

by Brad Boyles

How do we worship in a foreign land?

Being completely cut off from their native land, and without their temple to worship in, the people of Israel were heartsick. They had no high priest, no king, no ark of the covenant, and found themselves lost in a culture they could not relate to. Think of what this means for a Christian today. If the Holy Spirit pulled out of our lives and we found ourselves living in a completely different nation without the freedom to regularly gather for worship, it would overwhelm us.

It is no wonder the people of Israel were downtrodden. The psalm describes their weeping at the rivers of Babylon.

By the rivers of Babylon, There we sat down and wept, When we remembered Zion.

Psalms 137:1 NASB

However, God uses all circumstances to glorify Himself and stir a new growth within us. It was not all negative. Because they lacked a temple, the people created a synagogue. They also began gathering together all of their writings which eventually led to the Scriptures we now have in the Old Testament. As the people adapted to the foreign culture and the new language, it opened to the door for the Bible to eventually be translated into Greek.

We usually don’t see the blessings in such a place. Foreign territory is unfamiliar and uncomfortable. We tend to view such places as a hindrance to what God is trying to do. As we look back at history, it would be wise for us to consider that God often places mysterious and significant gifts in foreign territory. These are the places He does some of His best work.

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