How can we sing …?

So today I read Psalm 137, which is a song of mourning from captivity in Babylon. In the NIV, it goes like this.

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?
If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
may my right hand forever forget its skill.
May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth
if I do not remember you,
if I do not consider Jerusalem
my highest joy.

Remember, O LORD, what the Edomites did
on the day Jerusalem fell.
“Tear it down,” they cried,
“tear it down to its foundations!”

O Daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction,
happy is he who repays you
for what you have done to us —
he who seizes your infants
and dashes them against the rocks.

Here’s what struck me. “How can we sing the songs of the LORD while in a foreign land?” Is that sentiment right or wrong?

On the one hand, Paul says “Rejoice in the LORD always; again I will say, Rejoice.” (Php 4:4 ESV) Even when you find yourself in a foreign land, separated from all you know, and you feel like you’re separated even from God. God is still good. Rejoice.

On the other hand – can you really blame these people? If there’s anything worth lamenting, isn’t this? It’s not wrong to mourn. It’s not wrong to acknowledge our humanity, and as humans we despair.

Maybe, though, it’s significant that Paul says to rejoice in the Lord. Don’t rejoice in your circumstances, because maybe they’re not so great and even if they are – don’t expect them to stay that way. But you know what does stay? What never changes or fades or clouds over?

And for that I rejoice.

How about you guys? Find yourself rejoicing in Him and not your life? How has that changed you?


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