The sadness of the exiles
1: By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion. 2: We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. 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. 4: How shall we sing the LORD's song in a strange land? 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. 7: Remember, O LORD, the children of Edom in the day of Jerusalem; who said, Rase it, rase it, even to the foundation thereof. 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.
A Psalm of David
A Prayer of thanksgiving
1: I will praise thee with my whole heart: before the gods will I sing praise unto thee. 2: I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name. 3: In the day when I cried thou answeredst me, and strengthenedst me with strength in my soul. 4: All the kings of the earth shall praise thee, O LORD, when they hear the words of thy mouth. 5: Yea, they shall sing in the ways of the LORD: for great is the glory of the LORD. 6: Though the LORD be high, yet hath he respect unto the lowly: but the proud he knoweth afar off. 7: Though I walk in the midst of trouble, thou wilt revive me: thou shalt stretch forth thine hand against the wrath of mine enemies, and thy right hand shall save me. 8: The LORD will perfect that which concerneth me: thy mercy, O LORD, endureth for ever: forsake not the works of thine own hands.
Today we are reading Psalms 137 & 138. Psalm 137 is a Psalm which describes the sadness and weeping of being captive in Babylon. There is no name attached to this psalm but is probably was composed by Hezekiah. This psalm probably commemorates the captivity of the people of Judah who were taken away during the siege of Jerusalem but the psalmist is now back in Jerusalem and remembers those sad days. (There is no need to make this Psalm refer to the post-exilic times.) The captives of Judah are those taken away by Shalmaneser and Sargon who took 27,280 from Samaria. 1Chron 5v6. The Psalmist says, we remember when we sat by the river of Babylon and wept our hearts out whenever we remembered Zion. He looks back saying we hanged our harps on the willows in the middle of the river because our captors required us to sing and to be jolly. So we hung our harps high up from the floods, but so that we would not be required to play, when they asked us to entertain then with songs of Zion. We replied, how can we sing the LORD’s song in a strange land? Then the psalmist says, if I forget you Jerusalem then let my right hand forget how to play the harp and if I do not remember Jerusalem then let my tongue refuse to sing. Jerusalem is my greatest joy now. Remember those of Edom who wanted to raise Jerusalem to the ground. Then he speaks to the mothers of Babylon saying you will be destroyed one day and happy will be the man who rewards you for your atrocities. He will happily destroy your little children. This horrendous language was uttered under law and has no relation to Christianity. Psalm 138 is a hymn of David selected by Hezekiah to follow the previous Psalm.
We see the relation of these Psalms in this diagram
A. Psalm 120 – 134 Deliverance from Sennacherib (15 Psalms of the Degrees)
B. Psalm 135 – 136 Praise two Psalms linked by a similar structure
A. Psalm 137 Deliverance of the captives of Sennacherib
B. Psalm 138 Praise
A. Psalm 139 Deliverance from an evil heart
B. Psalm 140 Praise and Prayer
So the Psalmist David has three thoughts addressed to the Lord in praise which are divided by two thoughts regarding the Lord.
A. To Jehovah – Praise v1-4
B. Of Jehovah v5-6
A. To Jehovah v7
B. Of Jehovah v8
A. To Jehovah v8
David says I will bring praise to the LORD with my whole heart. Even in the presence the Lords judges I will sing praise to you, O Lord. I will prostrate myself towards the holy temple and give praise to the name of the Lord because of his loving kindness and faithfulness. Because you have made you promises greater than your name. In the day that I cried to you, you answered me giving me strength in my soul. I will speak to all the kings of the earth making them praise you. They will join me to sing in obedience to the LORD because great is the glory of the LORD. David says, though the LORD is very high, yet he has respect to the very lowly. But the proud he removes far away from his presence. David says that though I walk right through the middle of trouble yet you will revive me and you will stretch out your hand against the anger of my enemies. And by your right hand you will deliver me. The Lord will bring to fruition all his promises to me. And the mercy of the Lord will endure forever toward me. He will not forsake the things that he has done.
- How would you describe the sadness of the first psalm?
- Why did they hang their harps?
- How does the psalmist in the second Psalm look forward to better days?