Monday, June 6, 2011

Psalm 137

Tears in Exile

It is held by most Biblical scholars that this psalm was penned towards the latter end of the captivity of God's people in Babylon. The early lines of this psalm are very well known, as they describe the sadness of the Israelites, asked to "sing the Lord's song in a foreign land". This they refuse to do, leaving their harps hanging on trees.  The people of God were posted by the rivers of Babylon, in a strange land, a great way from their own country, where they were brought as prisoners of war.  The land of Babylon is now a house of bondage for God's people. 

Thoughts of Zion drew tears from their eyes.  The remembrance of the temple of their God, the palace of their king, and the centre of their national life broke them down.

We wept when we remembered Zion.
~ Ps. 137:1
 The people of Edom had looted the fallen city of Jerusalem and gloated over its destruction.  Spurgeon's commentary takes us to the last chapter of II Ch 36:14-20 where we find the melancholy tale of Judah's captivity. Many of their friends had been slain by the sword—the house of God was burned—the walls of Jerusalem were broken down—and they themselves were captives in a foreign land. No wonder that they sat down and wept when they remembered Zion.

So it is often with the believer when led captive by sin—he sits down and weeps when he remembers Zion. Zion is the place where God makes Himself known. 

The Chaldeans were cruel conquerors.  When they saw the tears of the Israelites, the Chaldeans taunted them to sing their sweet songs of Zion, perhaps the Songs of Ascent we recently studied.  Spurgeon makes this note:
It is the sweet presence of God with us that makes the soul of the believer sing.
But when that presence is away, the Lord's house is but a howling wilderness; and you say, "How can we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?"

This psalm is a vivid reminder of God and His word.  He warned His people . . . over and over . . . of what was going to the be CONSEQUENCES of their sin!  My pastor, Dr. Jimmy Young, posted a wonderful observation regarding this on my church's blog:
This morning, in my time with God, I ran up against a statement that Isaiah made that stopped me in my tracks:
“Who gave up Jacob to the looter, and Israel to the plunderers? Was it not the Lord, against whom we have sinned, in whose ways they would not walk, and whose law they would not obey?”  ~Is. 42:24

Does that sting? I think it ought to, because what it says is that our heavenly Father is willing to turn us over to the plunderers when we refuse to obey. That little fact needs to be remembered. When we forget, we toy with sin, and end up in the hands of the plunderers… we get plundered.

I can’t speak for you, but I would rather avoid that. I am not suggesting that He boots us out of the family. But that verse states rather clearly that God is actively engaged in administering the consequences of our sin.

Guys, the advice I would give is this: we all need daily reminders of who God is and what He said. Without that, our memories fade, and the outcome is often disastrous. This is not fear-mongering. It is trying to explain why we can’t kick bad habits. We cannot, we must not forget the holiness of God.

“Sin is the dare of God's justice, the rape of His mercy, the jeer of His patience, the slight of His power, and the contempt of His love."  ~ John Bunyan

"Above all, at its core, sin is offense against God. Why is it not only wrong but also foolish to offend God? God is our final good, our Maker and Savior, the one in whom alone our restless hearts come to rest.”  ~Cornelius Plantinga

  • Sin matters to God . . . and He will administer consequences of our sin!
  • I praise the Lord that I am forgiven of my sins through repentance and faith . . . that even though I may suffer consequences of my actions, I am ultimately forgiven and will spend eternity with God because of Christ's atoning work!
     O Lord, it is with a heart full of gratitude that I come before You, thanking You for the forgiveness of my sins because of Christ's atoning work on the cross.  How I bless You, Father, that You have regarded my lowly state, and reached down and plucked me from a life of sin and shame to a victorious life as a child of God!  May I never forget the words of Psalm 137 and remember Your hatred of sin  . . . that consequences will surely come, and that You will not be mocked! 
     You are a just & holy God, and sin is indeed a mockery of You.and a contempt of Your love.  May my heart be ever soft to my sin and repentance always forthcoming.  Receive me, O Lord, on the merit of Your Son Jesus Christ, in whose name I pray ~ Amen

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