Today’s Lectio Divina: Excerpts from Psalm 137. (MsgB)
Alongside Babylon’s rivers we sat on the banks; we cried and cried, remembering the good old days in Zion. Alongside the quaking aspens we stacked our unplayed harps;
That’s where our captors demanded songs, sarcastic and mocking: “Sing us a happy Zion song!”
Oh, how could we ever sing God’s song in this wasteland?
If I ever forget you, Jerusalem, let my fingers wither and fall off like leaves.
Let my tongue swell and turn black if I fail to remember you,
If I fail, O dear Jerusalem, to honor you as my greatest.
Quite bluntly, captivity is no picnic in the park.
Being held hostage in a foreign land sucks.
In truth, the human spirit has been created by God to be free, and when that freedom, for one reason or another, is denied or taken away completely, we human beings find ourselves in quite a dilemma.
Over time, captivity in a foreign land plays awful games with your mind. Slowly but surely, memories of your former life in the land that you love begin to fade away. Eventually your whole identity begins to change. In some cases, when a people group has been held against its will for several generations, many lose their identity completely, becoming a nothing-people with no place to call home. Refugees, born into slavery or captivity, finally find themselves caught up in a world where nothing really feels like it belongs. Nothing really makes sense.
Sure, you get up in the morning, put on your clothes and go to work, but something doesn’t quite feel right to you. Something’s missing. Something’s not quite the way it should be. You long for something deep inside you, but since you’ve never actually been to the homeland, you’re not quite sure why that longing exists. All you know is that it aches inside and you can’t escape that pain even on days when nothing is actually oppressing you.
The people of Israel have had to live through this kind of refugee-experience numerous times in their long history. Psalm 137 was most likely written during the long captivity of God’s people in Babylon after the destruction of King David’s temple. In this case, the composer of this song still has vivid memories of living in Jerusalem. But, as I see it, the memories are starting to fade, so this musician sits down and writes a song that’s meant specifically to help him and his friends to never forget their homeland.
God forbid, if you and I, as refugees of heaven, ever forget our homeland!
Earth, you see, is not our home. This planet we live on, as we know it today, is not heaven. The book of Genesis tells us that God originally planned this place to look and feel a lot like home, but quickly, even before the first generation of human beings died off, the wheels began coming off of our little red wagon. We rebelled, you see, telling God, face to face, that we could do life better without Him. Our heavenly Father reluctantly deferred to our stubbornness, knowing what bad things would happen, but withdrew His presence just enough so that we could have our self-inflicted freedom.
Oh man, our parents should have known better, but then it happened. Evil was right there on the doorstep, waiting for such an opportune moment. Satan swept in like a flood and took us all into captivity. He not only swept us off our feet, he even began re-arranging the furniture on planet earth. Once a bright cheerful place where living and loving was possible has now become a dark, dreary dungeon where slavery and hatred are commonplace occurrences.
Even at our darkest moments in slavery, there remains a hope inside of us that the story isn’t over. Rumor has it that our Father in Heaven has devised a rescue effort. Help is coming, so we must not lose hope. We must keep the home fires burning in our souls. We must sing out once again those songs that remind us that this place is not our home. We are better than this hell-hole in which we live. We are children of a Distant Land. We are Royalty. Sons and Daughters of our Rescuing King.
So even when the Devil comes to rattle the jail cell keys in front of our faces, just keep singing about the Homeland, just as the Psalmist and his friends did back in the day. Our Dad is coming to help us. Don’t give up hope yet! Our Story isn’t over!
My prayer: Father God, our lives today seems so similar to the times of captivity Israel must have felt in Babylon. Jesus, our Rescuing Savior has come, but that coming happened so many years ago. Nearly two thousand years before I was born. I know He has promised to return for us, but I groan inside, waiting for the full redemption He promised us. Like the Psalmist of old, help me to keep singing about the Homeland that feels so far away some days. For Your name’s sake. Amen.
My questions to ponder: What practical things can I do today to keep the ancient longings for the Homeland burning inside me? Can I write a song as the Psalmist did? Can I recall a Homeland story told to me by past generations? Can I recite a poem that speaks of the final redemption yet to come? Something that will help both my comrades and me keep our longings alive for the promises of God?
So what is God speaking to you today as you ponder the Psalms?
Over a 50-week period, you and I will take a deeper look at The Psalms: God’s Songbook of Prayers. In order to keep all the blog sessions organized, we suggest you bookmark our Contemplating the Psalms home page for ease of use. Keep in mind that one of the best ways to explore the on-going applications of this blog series is to walk alongside a biblically-based, Christ-centered spiritual director who is familiar with how to make material like this part of your overall spiritual formation in God. Many of our directors in our Contemplative Activist network are available to companion you in your journey with Jesus. Click here for more info.
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