When you are away from home, do you ever long to be back and start missing particular settings? Perhaps you remember the past and people who are no longer alive. Perhaps it is when you are at worship in a foreign land that memories of worship ‘back home’ come flooding into your mind.
The Israelites in captivity in Babylon seem to have experienced some of this. Although they hadn’t been faithful to God in their homeland they still had fond memories of the temple and the worship that went on there. They longed to be home. Perhaps where they were had an impact on them as well, as the area around Jerusalem is very mountainous and they were exiled to a flat country. Listen as they describe what they were missing.
“By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. There on the poplars we hung our harps, for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, ‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion!’” (Psalms 137:1-3 NIV)
They would sit by the river and weep when they remembered what it had been like ‘back home’. Even when asked to sing the joyous songs of home, songs praising YHVH, they couldn’t bring themselves to do it.
“How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land? If I forget you, Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill. 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.” (Psalms 137:4-6)
If only they had felt this way about Jerusalem and worshipping God in the past! They could have averted the captivity by turning to God and remaining faithful to him. But no, they wanted to live like everyone else. Now that it was too late they longed for the days that could have been. They longed for the city where God had chosen to live. They did not want to forget Jerusalem.
“Remember, Lord , what the Edomites did on the day Jerusalem fell. ‘Tear it down,’ they cried, ‘tear it down to its foundations!’ Daughter Babylon, doomed to destruction, happy is the one who repays you according to what you have done to us. Happy is the one who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.” (Psalms 137:7-9)
We learn from this a little about what happened when Jerusalem was destroyed. Perhaps what is said here sheds light on when the prophet Obadiah wrote his short prophecy, as he described very similar conditions to what the psalmist recorded.
Can you imagine such hatred against you and your nation – hatred of God’s people – as was expressed when Jerusalem was attacked? Perhaps we see some of this around us in the world today. Those who follow Jesus are ridiculed, misrepresented, and sometimes even persecuted simply for being Christians. Many know what it is like to have what they hold dearest to be scorned by those around them. No wonder the Israelites wished that what had been done to them would be done to those who had harmed them.
What is the solution? For the Israelites, they needed to return to God and once again be faithful to him. Yet even after the exile was over and the people were back in Jerusalem, the prophets were still encouraging them to return to God and be faithful.
That is the message for us as well. We need to be faithful. We need to be faithful despite what happens around us. Faithfulness is required of God’s people at all times. It is when we are faithful that those around us will see that we truly believe in the one who can right all wrongs. May we always live for him.
Photo by Bruno/Germany from pixabay.com
Readings for next week: Daniel 10-12; Psalm 137; Ezekiel 1-6