How shall we sing the Lord’s song In a strange land? Psalm 137:4
The Mourning of the Exiles in Babylon
Psalm 137 Perhaps written during the Babylonian Captivity, this psalm communicates a sense of anguish so deep that it cannot be expressed even in the familiar musical lament. The psalmist tells of the exiles’ tears and of their poignant memories of Jerusalem. The psalm ends with an appeal to God to repay those responsible for Zion’s fall.
137:1, 2 Babylon was one of the great empires in world history. When this psalm was written, the Jews were living there in involuntary exile. We wept: The emotions of the psalm are clearly indicated. The memory of Zion was painful for those in a foreign land. Hung our harps: Making joyful music to the Lord in a strange land was so difficult that the captives refused to make music at all. They took the words of their captors as taunts.
137:5, 6 If I forget you: It is difficult for the modern reader to appreciate the love for Zion among the people of OT faith. As we observe regularly in the Psalms, this love was not just for a place but for its function in their lives. It was in Jerusalem that the temple had been built. The place was holy because of God’s presence there.
137:7 Remember, O Lord: After speaking with great passion about his own remembering and forgetting, the psalmist calls upon the Lord to remember the abominable actions of the people of Edom in the day of Jerusalem’s trouble. Raze it: The men of Edom leered and jeered as Jerusalem was shamefully leveled.
7 Remember, O Lord, against the sons of Edom The day of Jerusalem, Who said, “Raze it, raze it, To its very foundation!”
137:9 Happy is the same term of blessing that begins the first psalm. The blessing would come on the army that finally destroyed the wicked city of Babylon, that had itself been used as a tool of judgment in the hands of Almighty God (Habakkuk 1:12-17).
9 Happy the one who takes and dashes Your little ones against the rock!
** Living among strangers is a very lonely experience. It could be the language barrier that separates us. One may overcome it by learning a new language. But, it’s the “strangeness” that gets God’s people. In the absence of God, there would be no moral values to share, no justice to uphold, and no genuine love for others. Thus, the loneliness and strangeness. We often learn this in a hard way – after the fact. An exile in a strange land may not be a bad thing as long as our stay there doesn’t last forever.
137 1 By the rivers of Babylon, There we sat down, yea, we wept When we remembered Zion. 2 We hung our harps Upon the willows in the midst of it. 3 For there those who carried us away captive asked of us a song, And those who plundered us requested mirth, Saying, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!” 4 How shall we sing the Lord’s song In a strange land? 5 If I forget you, O Jerusalem, Let my right hand forget its skill! 6 If I do not remember you, Let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth– If I do not exalt Jerusalem Above my chief joy. 7 Remember, O Lord, against the sons of Edom The day of Jerusalem, Who said, “Raze it, raze it, To its very foundation!” 8 O daughter of Babylon, who are to be destroyed, Happy the one who repays you as you have served us! 9 Happy the one who takes and dashes Your little ones against the rock!