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Sunday, April 9, 2017 pm                                                                Psalms Index

STUDIES IN PSALMS
How Shall We Sing the LORD’S Song?
Psalm 137

     As we continue our study of the psalms, tonight we notice one of the latter songs – one written while in Babylonian captivity.  This captivity took place because of Judah’s idolatry and sinful rejection of God and His standards.  It was foretold by prophets and when it occurred it took place over the course of 20 years in 3 phases (form 606-586 BC).  In each phase, some were carried away to Babylon.  Some of the nobles and notables such as Daniel, Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, as well as Ezra were taken early on.  Ezra prophesied in Babylon by the River Chebar (Ezek. 1:1), and Daniel prophesied from the palaces of Babylon, while Jeremiah remained in Jerusalem chronicling its fall. 

     This psalm was apparently written at some time in Babylon as captives reminisce about Jerusalem.  It begins with laments for the city (vs. 1-6) and concludes with imprecations against Jerusalem’s enemies – specifically Edom and Babylon (vs. 7-9).

 I.                     Consequences (vs. 1-3)

a.       Weeping in Babylon remembering Zion – picture Judeans now in Babylon, they have heard of the devastation of Jerusalem and perhaps the destruction of their temple.  They may remember the warnings of the prophets, they may have been seeing the continued moral and spiritual decline, but they did nothing at the time.  They TOOK FOR GRANTED their security in Him. NOW it is all gone!  They begin to remember the good they enjoyed in the land.  But now it is too late, and they are in captivity subject to ungodly, Gentile nations who are mocking them. 
Or perhaps they were the righteous remnant who simply realize the tragedy that has led to this point. 

b.       May we NEVER reach such a state in this land.

                                                   i.      Sadly, many neglect their salvation or spiritual growth. (Hebrews 2:3).    They let their guard down or become lazy in nurturing their faith.  Then they face spiritual disaster and recovering seems impossible, or there is damage done that is irreparable. 

                                                 ii.      Churches sometimes become complacent or oblivious to the troubles around them or even within.  They ignore dangers.  Then suddenly something happens and great devastation occurs – maybe a church divides over personalities or error that has crept in and taken hold of the majority (we are warned of wolves rising from among us and not sparing the flock – Acts 20:28-30), or they have closed their doors because they have died from neglect. 
I cannot help but think of Sardis in Revelation 3:1-3 (the “dead church”) or Laodicea in Revelation 3:15-17 (the lukewarm church) or even Ephesus in Revelation 2:1-5).  I wonder if in these churches there was this complacent attitude?

                                                iii.      Whatever the cause, such matters bring about sadness.  And for the righteous and those concerned about spiritual matters, there is weeping and grieving when we look back. 

                                                iv.      One reason for such grief is examination (e.g. sometimes companies conduct exit interviews to find out why).  We assess the situation and see our failures and mistakes.  We realize what we SHOULD have done and have regrets.   This contributes to our weeping, especially when we see the indictment and we are complicit. 

                                                  v.      Friends, whether or not this will happen often depends upon how seriously we take the task of defending and preserving the body of our Lord, AND ourselves spiritually.  Much of the damage could be prevented if we were simply grounded as we ought to be (Hebrews 5:12-6:1), alert (1 Peter 5:8, cf. Acts 20:28—30 again) and we deal with the leaven BEFORE it leavens the whole lump (cf. 1 Corinthians 5:6-7). 

c.        Vs. 2-3 seems to imply their captors were taunting them calling for them to sing songs of Zion – not to learn, but to be entertained. 

                                                   i.      The enemy will rejoice at our failures and devastation. 

                                                 ii.      Sometimes they have instituted the disasters and because we have failed to prepare to resist them, they have easily breached our walls and done their damage. 

                                                iii.      Sometimes weak brethren just simply WON’T stand up for their faith and their Lord AND His church!

                                                iv.      Regardless, such matters hurt and humble us – more like humiliate us. 

d.       NOTE: Remembering is associated with the past.  Sometimes it is good to remember the past – IF you learn from it.  Paul remembered many things (1 Timothy 1:12-15, 1 Corinthians 15:9).
BUT, when it comes to remembering, let us not dwell on it (i.e. “the good old days”, etc.) or be overcome by our memories to where we do not move forward (some think of the failed present and give up).
Note also that often when we reminisce in this way, we conveniently forget some factors (i.e. those “good old days” had their troubles and disadvantages to what we have now).  Think of the foolishness of the Israelites in the wilderness where over and over they recalled how “good they had it” when in Egypt (cf. Exodus 14:12-13, Numbers 14:1-4, etc.)
Ecclesiastes 7:10, Do not say, “Why were the former days better than these?” For you do not inquire wisely concerning this.
Learn from the past, but don’t dwell on it!

 II.                   How shall we sing in a foreign land? (vs. 4-6)

a.       How shall we sing the LORD’s song in a foreign land?  (4)

                                                   i.      When we have lost what was precious to us, how can we sing praises to the Lord?   Think of the group of 15 songs known as the psalms of ascent (120-135) that were believed to be sung as pilgrims journeyed toward Jerusalem for feastly observances.   Now the temple is gone and they are captive in a foreign land.  There were at least 2 problems they had to consider:

1.       Remember, it was ONLY in Jerusalem where they could properly worship God with their sacrifices and feasts.  Now that freedom was removed from them!  Lawfully, it was not possible to worship God according to the Law of Moses.    Now that was gone. NOW they were where they could no longer do that. 

2.       This was also a sign that God was not with them!  Their captivity was a punishment form God. 

3.       BUT also see the depth of despair that leads one to be unable to joyfully sing praises.  They realize it is gone!   Something they cherished, or at least they OUGHT TO have cherished is now in rubble. 

                                                 ii.      When we take our faith or the faith of others for granted, or the church, and then lose it, when it is gone, often that is when we appreciate what we had.    Think of the sadness when you contemplate that you could have done something about it and did nothing and now you face or see spiritual devastation.  Think also of deep mourning over the loss of brethren – perhaps those reclaimed by Satan.  Such things ought to be cause of mourning, and not indifference. 
And in those times, we don’t feel like rejoicing. There are times when rejoicing is not the appropriate response (cf. Romans 12:15, James 5:13, etc.) – our grief at the victory of the ungodly ought to cause a deep sadness within us. 

b.       Vs. 5-6 – a self-proclaimed curse – if I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its skill.  IF I do not remember you, let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth, if I do not exalt Jerusalem above my chief joy.

                                                   i.      One of the tragedies of past failures is how they cannot be reclaimed.  There are often no second chances when you have blown an opportunity. 

                                                 ii.      BUT, you can repent of that AND resolve that it will happen no more.    The wording here is strong resolve, to the point of asking the LORD to defeat us if we don’t follow Him! 
How many of us follow Him withy that resolve?  How many of us would genuinely pray such a prayer to Him?  Consider Acts 8:22, 2 Corinthians 7:10-11

c.        NOTE: Do we take our faith and our love for the Lord’s church this serious?  We must continually be sober (alert) and thinking about these things.  So that when problems begin to appear we are ready to respond before the damage takes place.  We need to love the Lord and all that belongs to Him so much that we are willing to be held accountable by God because of our failures. 
Do we think like David in Psalm 84:10, For a day in Your courts is better than a thousand. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God Than dwell in the tents of wickedness.
Psalm 26:2-3, Examine me, O Lord, and prove me; Try my mind and my heart. For Your lovingkindness is before my eyes, And I have walked in Your truth.

 III.                 Imprecations

a.       An imprecatory psalm is a calling of a curse.  In this case, the psalmist calls upon God to punish and inflict those responsible for the destruction of Jerusalem (and perhaps Israel).  Two are mentioned: 

b.       Edom – Edom was descriptive of the descendants of Esau.  While Israel was in Canaan they were their Eastern neighbors.   Usually they were not good relatives.  In fact, more than once we find they rejoiced at the fall of Judah and Jerusalem.  See Obadiah 10-14 – a prophecy against Edom. (Also Ezekiel 25:12-14, etc.)

c.        Babylon – was the destroyer of Jerusalem.  While it occurred by the hand of God, they were still an ungodly and cruel nation, for which God held them accountable. 

d.       Remember with these types of psalms – we ought to leave such judgment in God’s hands.  Yes, they seem harsh and seem to imply an ungodly (and in our days, an unchristian) attitude.  But is it?  If you love God and His ways, and you have seen the blasphemy, the damage inflicted by Satan and their hatred for truth and God’s ways, is it possible WITH LOVE to request of God that He deal with these ungodly souls according to HIS will?
It is not out of the question, in some circumstances to desire the crushing defeat of the ungodly, as you put it in God’s hands to deal with our enemies as they deserve. 
Consider Galatians 1:8-9 – let them be accursed, 5:12 – I could wish that they would slip or cut themselves off; 2 Timothy 4:14 – according to Alexander the coppersmith, Paul desires that the Lord repay him according to his works.

e.       However, remember: In scripture, we are to love our neighbors even as ourselves (Matthew 22:39).  We are also to love our enemies – Matthew 5:44-46.  But this love should not lead to compromise God’s word or our love toward Him.   
Simply stated, put it in God’s hands - note Romans 12:19-21.  Let HIM deal with it!

May we NEVER reach the point, where we weep for our Lord’s ways as this psalmist did!