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Psalm 137 - Remembering Better Times
by Gary Sims
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The Psalms
Psalm 137 - Remembering Better Times

Key Verses:
  • 1: "By the rivers of Babylon - there we sat down and there we wept when we remembered Zion." - Jerusalem has been destroyed and those Israelites that were not killed have been taken captive and forced to walk hundreds of miles in a death march towards Babylon.

  • 4: "How could we sing the LORD's song in a foreign land?" - Their captors had derided them into singing the praise songs that had once brought them so much joy. With a broken heart the psalmist asks how one could possibly sing in the midst of so much sorrow.

  • 6: "Let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth, if I do not remember you, if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy." - Remembering the good times, remembering God's blessings, is the key to getting through the difficult times.

  • 8: "O daughter Babylon, you devastator! Happy shall they be who pay you back what you have done to us!" - The desire for revenge churns in the heart of the psalmist.
Points to Contemplate:
  • Have you ever found yourself far from where you wanted to be? Perhaps you were in a distant place, far from loved ones during a holiday or family event? Maybe you are overseas in Afghanistan, Iraq, or some other "hot spot" to where you have been sent to serve your country? Then, again, perhaps your "distancing" isn't a place at all but a state of mind or health, instead. Maybe you simply find yourself immersed in difficult times and you long to return to a time of peace and joy that seems so long ago. If you find yourself in these situations, does this psalm stir your heart? Do you weep when you remember what once was but now seems so far away? Do you wonder if joy will ever return and if songs will ever again cross your lips? Do you seek revenge towards those who may have helped to create your circumstance?

  • Do you remember? When sorrow threatens to overwhelm you do you think of the good times that you once had? Do you ponder when loved ones were all around and joy filled everyone's heart? When the skies are dark and threatening from the storms of life, can you gain warmth from the memory of loved ones and their smiles? The Israelites that remained following the Babylonian invasion had nothing but memories left. Do you see how remembering can help carry you through difficult situations and can bring you back into the warmth and love of God that, seemingly, has disappeared?

  • Do you sing? When your pain has overwhelmed your life, when your loneliness has brought deep despair, or when you have simply lost all hope, can you sing? The psalmist asks how is it possible to sing when things are so bad. Have you wondered these same thoughts at times? Have you experienced the healing power of song? This song we read today is not a song of joy. Instead, it is a song that reveals pain, anger, and frustration. Do you see how singing a song filled with the emotions you are feeling, regardless of what they are, can be the beginning of a healing process? Do you see where this psalm might then lead the singer to a song that remembers the past and then, perhaps to a song of thanksgiving for those memories? Will you allow a song to heal your heart and bring you closer to God?
Promise of the Gospel:

It is doubtful that Psalm 137 is on anyone's top-ten list of favorite psalms. Its pain is revealing and its language is coarse. It is filled with raw emotions and revenge. Who would be happy at the idea of dashing little ones against a rock? However, this psalm does serve an important purpose. Life is not always a rose garden. We do not always feel like singing. There are times when hate and revenge are the only emotions we can find that make sense. Despair, pain, and agony are real emotions that we all encounter. When we find ourselves in the pit of sorrow and hopelessness, thoughts of joy and happiness feel as foreign and far off as the most remote country in the world. It seems and feels that there is no road back. Our memories, though filled with love, seem distant and surreal. When this type of darkness threatens our lives, there is only one place to turn for relief - God. When we do, the psalmist shows us that it is okay to turn to God and let loose with everything we feel. We can tell Him of our pain. We can show Him our anger. We can be frustrated and vengeful. The promise this psalm reveals is that the more we call out to God and seek His answers, the closer we will come to His love. In all things no matter how painful, sing to God.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Barbara Thompson Young 29 Sep 2004
I can identify with this article. I have made my list of past victories, and by the grace of God, I've chosen to learn how to sing in the dark. Both have strengthened my faith and given me courage to keep the faith.


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