1 By the waters of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion. Psalm 137
Though this verse is a lament for the temple of God where He dwelt (Zion), it is thoroughly sobering for any Christian to read. I would say even more so for the Christian than the Israelite… Gods dwelling place was in the temple for the Israelite, and put simply this particular person was feeling the emptiness of being away from the temple, Zion (the presence of God), held captive and feeling lost in the “foreign land” of Babylon.
I like to think of somewhere that I am totally comfortable. Like Christmas at my parents, or sitting on the couch on a winter night, fire going, coffee brewed, my wife asleep next to me, feeling completely at ease. We all have our places of comfort, places of passion, pleasure, hope, love, and happiness. Think of yours. Now think of being snatched away, and held captive in a place where there is no comfort, no place for passion, no pleasure, no hope, love, and no happiness. Some may say: “well I am not in such a place.” We might want to think this through… Have you ever wept for Zion?
Back in the day when Israel was held captive by the Babylonians, God’s dwelling place was in the temple, called Zion. Today the spirit of God dwells in us Christians, we are the temple. So let me ask again: have you ever wept for Zion? Have you ever sat at the waters of Babylon held captive by sin and wept for Zion, the presence of Jesus with in you, for salvation?
Our lament as sinners should be similar to the next couple of verses.
2 upon the willows in the midst of it (the waters of Babylon) we hung our harps.
3 For there our captors demanded of us songs, and our tormentors mirth, saying “sing us one of the songs of Zion.”
I think every person that calls them self a Christian ought to be able to relate to this sobering confession in a very personal way. If not then I fear that God has not yet truly struck the chord of repentance in that sinners heart. God has worked miracles in my life, and he is teaching me to obey and live by His Word. Constantly growing me through trials, He works in me a deep yearning for His Word. Admittedly this is a working progress, because like the rest of us, the sinner that I am doesn’t want to repent from sin and turn to God, but be independent of God and love my sin. I thank God that He is in the business of crushing mans pride, and giving the gift of repentance on a daily basis. The more God tempers me to love Him through His word, the more I see my sinful state and the more I weep for Zion, salvation, Jesus, God… We are all sinners in need of repentance, we must turn from Babylon and long for Zion.
The reason I pound repentance like a drum is because repentance is a beautiful song that is pleasing to God. When repentance is truly sung, there will be weeping for Zion, a longing for Christ… We repent because God shows us the absurdity and filth of our sin, and then we desire him instead… As sinners against God we are not beside the clear blue waters, sunbathing in Babylon; we are drooped in death, and covered in the stench of sin before God. We must come to the place where we hate our sin, because as Christians, we see Jesus marred by it on the cross, and then risen from the dead because of our justification, guilt free before God. We repent because we are forgiven. We repent because Jesus bore our sin. Therefore we repent because the life of Christ is in us. It is truly a sanctifying process, being renewed to the image of Christ Jesus through repentance.
This next verse is one of those verses that God used to floor me…
4 How can we sing the Lords song in a foreign land?
If we are constantly still “in a land of sin”, count on it, we are held captive in a miserable and tormenting land, even if we deny it. This Psalmist said, “by the waters of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion.” And so the cry of repentance should say: “By the waters of sin, there I sat down and wept, when I remembered Jesus…”
As Christians we have to say: “how can we sing the Lords song in a foreign land of sin, tormented by our captors, with no harp, no joy, no hope, no Jesus?” We can’t… We all must sing the true song of repentance from sin, and then the deep true longing for redemption in Jesus will be clearly heard and given by God without measure, full of grace and truth.
Lord, let us gather our harps of repentance from the trees of Babylon, so that we can finally sing Your song!
Yours in Christ