Friday, July 03, 2020

The Vision (7.3.20): A Song for Exiles: Psalm 137

Image: Gaillardia (aka, Fire-Wheel, Indian Blanket) flowers, Topsail Island, North Carolina, July 2020.

Note: Devotional taken from last Sunday's sermon on Psalm 137.

How shall we sing the LORD’s song in a strange land? (Psalm 137:4).

Psalm 137 was composed after the fall of Jerusalem by one carried away into exile in Babylon. The central section, vv. 4-6, expresses a resolution to faithfulness in the midst of great distress.

It begins with a rhetorical question: “How shall we sing the LORD’s song in a strange land?” (v. 4).

There are several angles to this question. From one perspective, it may be asking, how can we possibly sing praises to God in the midst of such despair and loss?

Have you ever found it hard to coax your heart to sing praises unto your God?

There is another angle to this question: How shall we sing the song of Jehovah, the one true and jealous God, in a land filled with idols and pagan deities?

Next, the Psalmist expresses a resolution never to forget Jerusalem, never to forget the temple where the one true God was worshiped.

The Psalmist vows, “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning” (v. 5); “If I do not remember thee, let tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy” (v. 6).

I once heard a sermon on Psalm 137 in which the preacher rightly suggested that the new covenant believer might substitute the word “Christ” for “Jerusalem” in vv. 5-6: If I forget Christ, let my right hand become useless; if I do not remember Christ, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Christ above my chief joy.

I recently read a book by a Russian scholar who described how for over 70 years communism tried to stamp out the Christian faith in that land. This author then addressed Christians in the West who are fearful of entering what has been called a modern “post-Christian” age. He closed with the following: “The post-Christian age will come only after the second coming of Jesus Christ. As long as the history of mankind continues on earth, Christ will continue to act in history. His divine countenance will always attract people, and generation after generation will become Jesus generations” (Hilarion Alfeyev, Jesus Christ: His Life and Teaching, Vol. 1, 537).

Like the Psalmist of old, whatever our present circumstances, we will continue to sing the Lord’s song in a strange land and resolve to stand firm in the faith, prizing Christ above our chief joy.

Grace and peace, Pastor Jeff

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