THE POWER OF REMEMBERING
Loving God, we remember today Your faithfulness and grace. Help us to rest in the reassurance that You ever remember us.
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.
Most of us have no idea what is involved in getting conquered, uprooted and marched off to a foreign land. God’s people Israel had to suffer through this.
Memory is a powerful thing. In my work as a local church minister, I’m often confronted with death, sadness and pain. As part of the process of preparing the bereaved for the funeral, I will often ask to hear the many and varied memories that a family or partner may bear of a loved one who has recently died. This is carried over into the liturgy of my denomination where space is given to recall memories of the deceased, and we thank God for them. For many, this is a cathartic part of the process of grief; but for others, memories can evoke troubling emotions and experiences long-forgotten or hidden away. In this psalm, the author is struggling with the pain of remembering tragedy and loss. The Judean exile of 587 B.C. caused great anguish and pain to the whole nation (1). The torment intensified when their captors sought to make them perform their songs as cheap entertainment (3,4).
The psalmist knows that for him, remembering is painful, but he would rather experience the pain of remembering than forget Jerusalem altogether (5,6). Jerusalem represents the place of worship and communion with God, the place of God’s dwelling. The psalmist is keen to remain anchored to his heritage and not forget his origins.
Lastly, and with determination, the psalmist pleads with God not to forget the suffering of his people (7) and expresses some of the pain and anger he is experiencing in his tirade against Babylon, Israel’s oppressor. It is important to have a safe compartment where one can find a voice for memories that cause pain and deep hurt. Facing up to such memories can bring healing and liberty from the desire to inflict revenge or pain on others.
Are there particular memories that you find helpful and reassuring? Are there others that bring pain? Spend some time conscious of God’s presence and bring these experiences before him.
Lord, teach us how to approach You with the pain we carry from unfortunate events in our past and how to cast it upon You (1 Pet. 5:7).
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