Hope Again in a Strange Land
“1 By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept
when we remembered Zion.
2 There on the poplars
we hung our harps,
3 for there our captors asked us for songs,
our tormentors demanded songs of joy;
they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
4 How can we sing the songs of the LORD
while in a foreign land?
5 If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
may my right hand forget its skill .
6 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.
7 Remember, O LORD, what the Edomites did
on the day Jerusalem fell.
“Tear it down,” they cried,
“tear it down to its foundations!”
8 O Daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction,
happy is he who repays you
for what you have done to us-
9 he who seizes your infants
and dashes them against the rocks.” Psalms 37 NIV
Often times in the Psalms there were poetic writings that expressed the personal feelings and emotions form the writers based on their circumstances, good or bad, that was taking place in the life of the writer. The author of Psalms 137 writes this Psalm from beside the rivers of Babylon during the Babylonian exile. The Babylonians had besieged Israel and taken many of them into captivity in Babylon.
They had been taken from their home land of Zion.
To me Zion is probably just a place where they had freedom, but to the Israelites, Zion was so much more. It represented their place of strength, security, honor, and pride. Perhaps most importantly, to the Israelites, Zion represented the presence of God, because that was where God had chosen to meet them in the past.
Isaiah 8:18 NIV reflects the thought that God resided on Mount Zion when it says, “18 Here am I, and the children the LORD has given me. We are signs and symbols in Israel from the LORD Almighty, who dwells on Mount Zion.” (emphasis mine).
Zion, was to Israel, what Jesus is to Christians. Zion was what they viewed as their connection to God and they were broken as a people because they missed being in the place where they thought God would bless them.
Israel made the mistake of thinking that it was the place (Zion) they were at in life that was the most important thing for God to bless them. They thought, “If only we were back in Zion, we could praise God. If only we were in that place where the Lord Almighty dwells, we would be blessed again.”
That, by the way, is a common misunderstanding that I must deal with today as well. I think that if we had a greater income, I would be blessed by God. I think that if my job gave me a better position, I could sing greater praises to God. I think that if my life situations were more favorable, then God would bless me. I think that I can give to God only when I am out of debt, then God would bless me.
For Israel, the reality was that even when they were in Zion, Zion wasn’t in them. Even when they were in the Promised Land they didn’t have God’s blessing because they depended on the place more than they depended on His presence. Instead, they needed to make sure that regardless of where they found themselves, they could find hope in God.
That is my lesson today. I need to be able to find hope again in a strange land. I need to be able to recognize the presence of God ANYWHERE. I am not to be dependant on a situation, circumstance, or place. I need to depend on and trust in the presence of God.
When the Babylonians told the Israelites to sing songs of joy, the Israelites were unable to praise God because they remembered the days in Israel when they were near to the presence of God.
The lesson here is that I cannot let my perception of how I think God can bless me, hold me back from being fully dependant upon His presence to lead and guide me.
I think the main point today is, “Getting from where I am to where I want to be requires that I start where I am and not from where I wish I were.” In order to be content to worship God and find hope in any circumstance I find myself in, I must learn to live on the basis of who I am in God rather than based on what my feelings tell me. I must depend more on who He is, and less on where He meets me.
Someone once said that far too often, “we try to pray ourselves out of something we have behaved ourselves into.” God says that who I am in Him, is far more important than where I think He will be.
Lord You are amazing and far beyond anything I can understand. Reveal Yourself to me wherever I find myself dear Jesus. Amen.