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By the Waters of Babylon

A Word for Today | Psalm 137

The people of God have at times suffered under the most appalling circumstances. An example is the Jewish people in their long exile in Babylon. Psalm 137:4 records the spiritual depression of these exiles, asking, “How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?” The question of whether we can sing amidst afflictions is an important one. According to Jesus, the real test of our faith occurs not when the sun is warmly shining but when the hot and painful rays of tribulation afflict our souls (Mt. 13:21).

As the faith of the Jewish people in exile began to waver, the Lord spoke to renew his promise of salvation. First, He insisted that nothing could ever cause Him to forget His beloved people: “If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its skill” (Ps. 137:5). Only if the Lord should lose His potency would His people ever find themselves forsaken. This, of course, will never happen! He added: “Let my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth, if I do not remember you” (Ps. 137:6). In other words, the Lord’s Word would have to fail for His people to be forsaken. Yet, Jesus promised, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” (Mt. 24:35).

In 1605, a French Christian named Vincent de Paul was seized by Barbary Pirates during a voyage and was sold into slavery. The man who bought him was a lapsed Christian who owned a farm many miles inland. There, Vincent de Paul labored far from any reasonable hope of rescue. Yet his faith in Christ was known to his captors. One day, his master’s Turkish wife asked him to sing one of the songs of his faith. De Paul responded by singing the plaintive words of Psalm 137: “By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion.” The song so touched the woman’s heart, and then her husband’s, that conversations began that led to the man restoring his faith in Jesus. The faith of an afflicted slave had awakened his master’s slumbering conscience, so that both men were set free.[1]

God has promised that he can never forget His beloved people – His right hand would wither and His Word would fail before that happened. Jesus promised, “I will never leave you nor forsake you” (Heb. 13:5). If your heart is cast down during our present health emergency, perhaps you should turn to the book of Psalms. There, you will find words to fit whatever state of faith you find yourself in. And if you act on those words, God will use you in remarkable ways, setting you and many others free from sorrow and unbelief.

In Christ’s Love,

Pastor Phillips

[1] Roland E. Prothero, The Psalms in Human Life (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1904), 29-30.

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