By the Waters of Babylon

Gordon VanWylen

READ : Psalm 137:1-9

This unique psalm comes from the time when the Jewish people were in captivity in Babylon. Seeking to humiliate them, their captors demanded that they sing some of their songs of joy. But they hung their harps on poplar trees, sat down and wept, and asked, “How can we sing the songs of the Lord in a foreign land?”

This is a very natural question. For the Jewish people, whose worship was closely linked to their land and Jerusalem, it seemed impossible to sing the Lord’s songs in a foreign land. But with the coming of Christ, Pentecost and the founding of the church came a definitive change; our worship is not tied to a specific place or country. As Jesus told to the Samaritan woman, the time has come when we worship not at a given place, but in spirit and truth (John 4:21-24). By its very nature the church must often sing its songs of faith in a culture that is hostile, as Paul did in prison (Acts 16:25). To do so with love and grace is a powerful dimension of our witness.

The Jewish people had suffered greatly. Their outbursts against the people of Edom and Babylon are un- derstandable. In such situations our calling to be gracious agents of reconciliation is both noble and difficult.


Loving God, we live in societies that are often hostile to your love and grace. Fill us with your wisdom. Enable us to be gracious witnesses and effective agents of reconciliation. Amen.