This Psalm can be viewed as a picture by clicking Here
or it can be viewed as a video presentation, complete with the music of the psalm, by clicking Here
I want us to take a look at one of the saddest,
but very profound, of the Psalms. It is one of the
imprecatory Psalms. That is, a Psalm asking God
to bring suffering on someone. In our New Testament
churches, we are generally taught this is a
Psalm of the past. One from an age of ignorance
on the character of God. We are told God is loving,
so these were early, barbaric tolerations God
allowed among His people. The study of why the
Psalm-styled imprecatory prayers are actually part
of a truly godly walk, is rarely taught. It is a study
that goes beyond the limits of this message, and
must be saved for another day. For today, I want
to consider the great weight that is seen in Psalm
137. The foundation of grief it covers, is one that
should be rending our hearts today. It mourns the
desolation of God's House.
1 By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down,
yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.
This first verse takes us to the time of Judah's being
carried into Babylonian captivity. The captives
were marched into the Babylonian region. The
Psalmist recalls having entered this area.
For a moment, imagine being one of these
captives. Your homes destroyed. Your children
slaughtered by the soldiers around you. You are
being carried to serve as slaves of these people.
That is what we would tend to be meditating in
our grief. This Psalmist does recall that, but his
heart is ultimately somewhere else. He is recalling
Zion. Not just Jerusalem. Zion particularly
has God's dwelling place in view.
2 We hanged our harps upon the willows
in the midst thereof.
To me, this is such a compelling image. That is
why I created the picture on the front of this article.
Just imagine coming along the shore of this
river of Babylon and hearing the random plucking
of strings somewhere. You follow the twang, tong,
twong and come upon this scene. You scratch your
head and wonder, "What on earth! Why would
anyone hang these out like this?" Those instruments
would symbolize the abandonment of joy,
and sorrow over the destruction of God's House.
These "harps" were actually lyres. Consider that
you were being forced on this long march. You would
only take the most valued and necessary treasures.
You've got to carry it, remember. These musicians
obviously treasured them greatly, so wouldn't flippantly
abandon them. This abandonment is revealing
of how important the worship of God was to
them. Suddenly, something dawned upon them as
they began to enter the environs of Babylon.
3 For there they that carried us away captive
required of us a song; and they that
wasted us required of us mirth, saying,
Sing us one of the songs of Zion.
The worship of God alone is not complete in itself.
Where we worship Him is also important.
The sight of these abandoned harps is where
these captives were aroused to the impact of just
how far-reaching this destruction was. It was the
"vulgarity", of the enemy's request, that opened
their eyes to the impossibility of playing for God
outside of His holy city.
The "required of us mirth" is an old way of
translating the call to perform some joyful songs.
You can hardly blame the captors. They too would
be tired of the long military campaign. They were
almost home and thought they would enjoy some
intriguing music of foreign charm. After all,
hadn't these prisoners brought along their musical
instruments? They must intend on playing
them, so play! It was that simple request that hit
the grieving hearts. They saw the complete inappropriateness
of singing God's songs of worship
outside of God's dwelling. They saw that as long
as they were in the devil's territory, they could not
carry on as if the place didn't matter.
4 How shall we sing the Lord's song in a
5 If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right
hand forget her cunning.
6 If I do not remember thee, let my tongue
cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer
not Jerusalem above my chief joy.
Their dawning shock verbalized itself in these
lines. Verse 4 answered back to the soldiers. The
next two verses turned the sight, and heart, to
Jerusalem. These verses called for a curse upon
their playing and their singing skills. It bound
them under a curse, if they forgot the whole reason
they performed their songs.
Here, we need to consider why any particular
city should be so important. After all, most of the
world has never even been to Jerusalem. We live
our lives content in our cities. What is so special
about Jerusalem that no substitute could do?
What could possibly be so important the compromise
of some new center couldn't be established?
For most readers, we just can't relate, so we
loose the whole gravity bound up in this Psalm.
Until we understand the "WHY?", we will not
be able to grasp the horror of the substitute ourselves.
In fact, that very substitution is practiced
weekly across this nation by Christians today.
They don't see the horror and are quite pleased
with their substitute centers. In fact, they are sure
these substitute centers are God's new work.
Look at a couple verses that shine here:
Lord, I have loved the habitation of thy house,
and the place where thine honour dwelleth.
One thing have I desired of the Lord, that will I
seek after; that I may dwell in the house of the Lord
all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the
Lord, and to inquire in his temple. Psalm 27:4
The irreplaceable importance of Zion was the
fact that God's temple was there, and there only.
God's temple is God's house. The place where
God's honor dwells, is where God has said He
will abide. David, in Psalm 27, expressed the "one
thing desired". The request from one king presented
before THE KING.
If you were to go before God to be granted just
one request, what would that be? After contemplation
upon what you would request, what do
you think should be your request? David shows
us in 27:4. Such a request could not really be appreciated
by us today, because our hearts are content
in this world. David was a man who crossed
over this line. His heart transcended and entered
into the presence of God. He beheld His glory in
His habitation. This is the crux of the matter.
Where do we fail in this sight today? Consider
that God's temple is in us individually as Christians
in one sense (16 Know ye not that ye are the
temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth
in you? 1 Corinthians 3:16), but it is also in us
corporately as members of the body of Christ (19
Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners,
but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of
the household of God; 20 And are built upon the
foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus
Christ himself being the chief corner stone; 21
In whom all the building fitly framed together
groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: 22 In
whom ye also are builded together for an habitation
of God through the Spirit. Ephesians 2:19-
22; also see Ephesians 4:4,15,16)
God's temple, in the corporate body of the
Church, is substituted today in denomination after
denomination. Christ will dwell in our midst
when we gather in His name. If we gather under
the denomination's name, we fail to do that. In
Psalm 137, the temple of God, that the Psalmist's
heart ached for as his chief joy, is missing from our
midst. He refused to sing the praises of joy in the
substitute place. We, on the other hand, are quite
happy to accommodate the demands of the enemy
and sing anywhere. Who cares whether it is God's
promised habitation? God has said He will dwell
in the midst of the assemblage of His body. We see
this isn't a popular ground to assemble upon so
settle for gathering on some sectarian ground. We
don't care if it is God's promised temple dwelling
site. We don't care if it is founded in the only place
and way He said it could be founded. We do not
echo the grieving cry of the writer of Psalm 137.
His words are alien to our ears.
To some, the words I have said seem agreeable.
If you have the eyes to see, you must make
a choice. What good does hearing and perceiving
the truth of a matter do if you do not obey! You
may have to abandon your close "church" fellowship
to stand alone, but if you don't, how can you
live with your conscience before God? Compromise
is the name of the game folks! The Christians
in America are more than willing to play to
make the soldiers of the enemy glad. The soldiers
say, "Pull out the harp!", and we say, "Which
number of the hymnal would you like to hear?".
We say, "It doesn't matter upon what ground we
stand, Jerusalem or Babylon, its the fact we can
sing that matters." The Psalmist put it quite differently.
He called for a curse upon himself if he
should compromise for that position! When will
we do the same?
7 Remember, O LORD, the children of
Edom in the day of Jerusalem; who said,
Raze it, raze it, even to the foundation
8 O daughter of Babylon, who art to be destroyed;
happy shall he be, that rewardeth
thee as thou hast served us.
9 Happy shall he be, that taketh and
dasheth thy little ones against the stones.
If we could sing the first part of this Psalm, we
would most certainly abandon these last three verses.
Oh, to our greatest folly. When will we learn?
The Edomites were the brethren of Israel. They
were the descendants of Esau, Jacob's brother.
They are recalled first. This brethren neighbor of
Israel was eager to see God's habitation destroyed.
The relatives of our flesh. The brethren of our own
country, who delight to see God's church torn to
the ground, are not to be looked upon as, "Come
here, let me give you a hug." Whatever ties we
may have with anyone who desires to see God's
House destroyed, should be rightfully counted
as vile. The affections that would seem natural,
through the fleshly connections, will be forgotten
when we see that one hates the House of God. If
we love God, we will be jealous for His Church,
His promised habitation! We will be enraged at
anyone, group or organization, that endeavors to
set up its own collective temple in substitute of
God's ordained House of Worship.
The final two verses take us to the enemy who
is not our close kin. This enemy is Satan's very
stronghold. The place where the enemy wanted
the same old songs of worship to continue.
This Babylon is the place where mankind originally
sought to unify, in abhorrence of the true
God. In this unity, that the world lusts for, they
will be quite glad to accommodate the worshippers
of Yahweh. All they require is that they sing
their songs by the waters suppling the life force
SUCH A COMPROMISE SHOULD
TERRIFY A TRUE BELIEVER!
WILL WE SING IN SUCH A PLACE!
These last verses are so heart-rending! Now
why do you think God would want such a passage
to be included in the inspired collection of scripture?
Do you think it was negligence that left it
there? Think again folks. This is an incredible lesson
we need to pay attention to.
There are two sides that need to be considered
in verses 8 and 9. The first will take us back to
Israel in Egypt. They had suffered great oppression
and cried to God. God raised up a deliverer
in Moses. Any enraged leader in Israel might have
attempted to take it upon himself to lead Israel
from under Egyptian oppression. Such would not
have been God's deliverance. The salvation had
to wait for God's "anointed" man of the hour. It
had to be accomplished by the man called of God,
such as was Moses. In these verses, we can see
a looking toward that same deliverance that God
would have to provide. In point of fact, it was not
the Jews who actually rendered such brutality, it
was the Media Persians who were called of God
for this purpose. We find this in Isaiah's prophecy
of Cyrus (See Isaiah 45:1-8 - Read and tremble!).
The second point of consideration, is a looking
back at the brutality these Jews suffered at the
hands of Babylonian soldiers. The focus of destruction
here is on the children. Babylon, spiritually
the stronghold of Satan, had apparently
committed this horrendous slaughter. When
Satan gets into our midst, the result will be his
destruction of the newborn Christians, just as
Babylon perpetrated against the Jews. Through
Satan's success in this, the church is doomed.
There won't be a next generation to replace the
servants of Yahweh. Satan's destruction is merciless
and brutal. We simply cannot afford to forget
his brutality. We must remember, so we will take
the necessary precautions in faithfully following
God now, to save the future children of God.
This Psalm holds such a powerful, soul-wrenching
message. We are intended to look upon it and
remember. It doesn't have to be our destiny. Their
whole problem started earlier, when they did
not see with the clarity they saw at the river. Before
Jerusalem was overthrown, they could have
changed its ultimate course if they had valued the
abiding presence of God in their midst. Being a
holy people, consecrated to His service. We must
start with that corrected desire of heart. We must
treasure God's presence in His corporate temple
of believers now. If we don't deal with our apathy
in this now, we will be singing our own version of
Psalm 137 from personal experience.
The answer: Pray for God to grant you the right
heart in this matter. Pray for Him to give you the
33 But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and
his righteousness; and all these things shall be
added unto you. Matthew 6:33
(The things added referred to the basic needs
of life, not the sufferings covered in Psalm 137.)
Now look at the picture on this article and ponder,
"Does God's house of abode grip my heart
with the conviction that nothing else will do?"
I cry for the Lord's house, or am I more than glad
to accommodate my worship?"
"Do I bow at the feet
of God's Son, the Lord Jesus Christ?"
Free to Copy under Creative Commons BY-NC-ND3.0 License by Darrell Farkas
All quotations are from the King James Version of the Bible