Singing the Lord’s Song in a Foreign Land
Written by Pastor Jim Law
We are 34 days away from a monumental election in the United States, and one that will set the trajectory for this country for decades to come. With great velocity, we have witnessed in the last decade the advancement of a progressive agenda in America that has been astonishing.
Recently, I was attending a symphony concert with a number of friends and one of the wives went to the woman’s restroom only to have a man enter the restroom before her. She decided to hold it. What would have once been a call for law enforcement has become a brazen leap into the insane. It was Erwin Lutzer who noted, “We cannot list here all of the advances of the gay (LGBT) agenda , except to say that virtually everything they have wanted has come to pass.”
Racial tensions are another internal problem our country is facing that seems to be outdoing the chaos of the 1960’s, and this comes at a time when we should be coming together in light of the global permeation of radical Islamic terrorism with many other dangers besides. We are a fragmented nation that doesn’t know which way to go.
As I consider the spiritual climate of our country, we cannot forsake the Law of God so flagrantly and expect to thrive or survive. The reality is we have taken in too much water spiritually and morally as a nation, and with great hubris have sent the God of Scripture a clear message, “We reject you!”
Nevertheless, for believers in Jesus Christ, we have been called to shine the light of Christ into the darkness with the Gospel. We are to be salt in a world that is conditioned to rot. In processing what it means to be a Christian at this time in our nation’s history, I’ve been helped and encouraged by Psalm 137. This psalm was written in the pain of captivity. Judah had been taken into a Babylonian captivity because they had forsaken the Law of God and rebelled against the One who had redeemed them.
Israel was warned consistently throughout their history to return to their covenant keeping God. But the truth of the matter is that Israel never knew anything but a broken covenant. And their captivity was a judgment from the God who does not stutter.
Psalm 137 is the anguished cry of a displaced man who remembers the joys of Jerusalem. Derek Kidner describes this psalm as one in which “every line of it is alive with pain…”
1By the waters of Babylon,
there we sat down and wept,
when we remembered Zion.
2On the willows there
we hung up our lyres.
3For there our captors
required of us songs,
and our tormentors, mirth, saying,
“Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
4 How shall we sing the Lord’s song
in a foreign land?
5 If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
let my right hand forget its skill!
6 Let my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth,
if I do not remember you,
if I do not set Jerusalem
above my highest joy!
~ Psalm 137:1-6
In Babylon, this gifted musician hung his harp on a willow tree, and in essence said, “I’m done. This situation stinks, and I will no more sing to the Lord.” Adding to the misery, their captors were demanding that he and the other musicians sing one of the songs of Jerusalem.
In the grief of his situation, the psalmist asks, “How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?” That is the question for every believer on this life’s journey, and it is where we should focus our daily thoughts and energy. From this Psalm, I receive several encouraging directives:
We Are to Sing the Lord’s Song in Faith
While it stunk by the canals of Babylon, we sense in this psalmist’s musings that he reminds himself of who is in charge, and his faith activates a resolve to honor the Lord as long as he draws breath. He will use His gifts for God’s glory, yes, even in Babylon. His resolve is seen in his response in what he asks for, namely to forget his musical skill and for his tongue to stick to the roof of his mouth if he neglects so great a calling.
Figuratively, the believer in Jesus Christ is in exile. This world is akin to Babylon and is not our home. We are here on assignment to make known the joys of our God and King as far as the curse is found. We are owned by a King of what is now an invisible Kingdom, but will one day be established under His righteous reign. A reign without rival.
We Are to Sing the Lord’s Song with Joy
How often we are called to be joyful in our walk with Christ!
“These things I have spoken to you, that my joy may be in you, and htat your joy may be full.” ~ Jesus in John 15:11
“Count it all joy… when you meet trials of various kinds.” ~James 1:2
“Rejoice always…” ~I Thessalonians 5:16
“Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice.” ~Philippians 4:4
We serve a God who gives hope to His people even when we think all is lost. In such times, we are to sing His song with joy because we are more than overcomers through Him who loves us.
We are to Sing the Lord’s Song with Resolve and Perseverance
Some years ago I heard an exposition from Psalm 137 which emphasized the importance of persevering through difficult times in life and ministry.
*Look up– Remember who is on the Throne. Regardless of who is leading in Babylon or Rome or the White House, remember the heart of the king is in the hand of the Lord.
*Show up- Be where you are supposed to be, doing what you are supposed to be doing. As believers in Jesus Christ, we are called to “be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” (I Corinthians 15:58)
*Grow up- When circumstances change and pressure is exerted, it should force me to purifying thoughts on what is most important in my life. It should cause me to take a long look at my short life and walk by faith in the God who has pledged never to leave me or forsake me.
This is a time for God’s people to sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land, and may we sing with all of our might pointing others to One who said, “For this purpose I was born and for this purpose I have come into the world—to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth listens to my voice.” (John 18:37)