By the rivers of Babylon—there we sat down and wept when we remembered Zion. There we hung up our lyres on the poplar trees, for our captors there asked us for songs, and our tormentors, for rejoicing: “Sing us one of the songs of Zion.” How can we sing the Lord’s song on foreign soil? If I forget you, Jerusalem, may my right hand forget [it’s skill]. May my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not exalt Jerusalem as my greatest joy! (Psalm 137 vv. 1-6).
Sometimes crying is more appropriate than singing! I find myself at times feeling homesick for the past. I’ve looked back with longing to the days when I was growing up on Word of Life Island, Schroon Lake, New York, where we spent wonderful summers. Or the days when I was in public school in Maplewood, New Jersey. Or the beautiful high school campus of Hampden DuBose Academy in Zellwood, Florida. But we can never go back except in our memories. I can identify with the homesick Israelites.
The people of God are homesick for their beloved homeland. Captive in Babylon, hundreds of miles from Jerusalem, they lament the loss of their freedom. Even the tough Hebrew spirit, known for it’s fervor and fire, is quenched, and all they can do is weep. They have been deeply hurt by slavery and oppression.
When their captors demand entertainment, “one of the songs of Zion,” they refuse and hang their harps on the poplar trees “by the rivers of Babylon” (vv. 1-3), The motivation for music making had been hammered out of their lives.
Instead, the psalmist reminisces about Jerusalem, where tribes and families once gathered to praise the Lord. He will remember those days at all costs and vows to consider Jerusalem his “greatest joy” (v. 6). Remembering will keep his zeal fresh.
This psalmist, like other musicians who despair over lost opportunities, is open to a deep work of God in his life. When the Lord restores his glory to Zion, there will be singing and dancing! But that will come later. Because God is good, the future will be good if we walk with him!
O Lord, do an exciting and colorful work in my life also, and may I burst out in creative worship of your mighty name and awesome power!