ISRAEL’S LOWEST POINT
Lord, You are faithful in Your promises and consistent in Your purposes. I confidently embrace Your purposes for me.
Read PSALM 137
1 By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept
when we remembered Zion.
2 There on the poplars
we hung our harps,
3 for there our captors asked us for songs,
our tormentors demanded songs of joy;
they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
4 How can we sing the songs of the Lord
while in a foreign land?
5 If I forget you, Jerusalem,
may my right hand forget its skill.
6 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.
7 Remember, Lord, what the Edomites did
on the day Jerusalem fell.
“Tear it down,” they cried,
“tear it down to its foundations!”
8 Daughter Babylon, doomed to destruction,
happy is the one who repays you
according to what you have done to us.
9 Happy is the one who seizes your infants
and dashes them against the rocks.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
Examine yourself today to see whether you are harboring bitter thoughts and offer them up to God.
In 597 B.C. Jerusalem was destroyed by the Babylonian Empire. Many of Judea’s leading citizens were forcibly transported to Babylon, thus disabling the state of Judea. Then in 586 B.C. the Jewish Temple was destroyed. These degradations marked the disruption of all the main Jewish institutions. This famous psalm is a tragic lament for what had been lost and a poem of longing for the sight of Jerusalem. The psalmist is unable to sing or to play the songs of Zion when teased (tormented?) by the captors.
It begins beautifully and ends problematically. To be away from Jerusalem felt to the exiles like being away from the Lord (v 4). In time, they would discover that the Lord was with them wherever they happened to be.1 Also, in time, they would refashion their faith significantly – making the written Scriptures rather than the Temple more central and (probably) beginning to gather in synagogue congregations for study. By the grace of God, exile was to prove a testing and transforming experience which has made its impact even on Christianity. Through judgment, God works purification so that even wrath can lead to mercy.
What, then, do we make of verses 7–9? How can we consider these worthy of a place within the canon? Whether we think them worthy or not, they are real. When the Scriptures describe, this is not the same as something being prescribed. In its distress, when Jerusalem was being destroyed, the neighboring Edomites joined in plundering and defiling the city.2 Such actions were clearly treacherous. No wonder Judeans were bitter – and bitter people hope for revenge even if they should not. The best that can be said is that it is better out than in. It is better to express bitterness to God than to suppress it. God can deal with it.
‘Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath’.3
Father, when storms assail and hindrances oppress me, thank You for Your hope for today and strength for tomorrow.