Imagine for a few moments that you are peacefully living in your home, your own community, when suddenly a foreign army descends and takes you and your whole city captive. You are lead away under threats of persecution and death and then taken back to that foreign land as a slave. Never again will you go home because your captivity will last for seventy years.
How would you feel?
Would you love the captors?
Would you want to graciously comply with their demands or even their requests?
Would there be any days where you were filled with joy if you were a slave?
That is the scenario that we are reading about in Psalm 137.
Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, sent his army and they sacked Jerusalem. They raided homes and destroyed the Israelites’ beloved Temple. The Babylonians captured the inhabitants and took many of them back to Babylon as slaves. It was terrible for the Jewish people. They had lived in freedom but then were taken into slavery.
In today’s passage the Jews were asked to play songs of joy on their harps.
Songs of joy?
How could they, when their hearts were breaking? “By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. There on the poplars we hung our harps, for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, ‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion!’ How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land?”
This is such a sad psalm. Slavery is vile. The children of Israel were devastated by it. They were broken and grief stricken. The Babylonian captors tormented them, mocking their songs of Zion. How could they sing when they were enslaved?
Yes, slavery is vile, but physical slavery is not the worst kind.
Being enslaved by satan is.
Every one of us is born in sin. We are sinners from our very conception. But there is a way for us to experience freedom from that slavery. Know Christ. He sets the captive free.
Dear Jesus, thank You so much for giving us freedom. It is only because of You that we can sing songs of real joy.