By the waters of Babylon,
there we sat down and wept,
when we remembered Zion.
On the willows there
we hung up our lyres.
For there our captors
required of us songs,
and our tormentors, mirth, saying,
“Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
Psalm 137 1-3
I wrote about a song called Even If the other day. This morning I’m reading through my Bible and land on this psalm. This mirrors that song in many ways. We Christians are far from home, for we Christians are a nomadic, homeless religion. Unlike the Jews, we have no land until the Lord returns. And so often, we find outselves where, as Psalm 69 says, “[m]ore in number than the hairs of my head are those who hate me without cause.”
How shall we sing the Lord’s song
in a foreign land?
If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
let my right hand forget its skill!
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 4-6
I would rather lob my right hand off than sing at their altars.
But also let the reverse of verse 5 be true. Let my right hand never forget its skill, as I, Lord, never lose sight of your coming Glory and the Kingdom.
When we are held to the flame, when we are in the midst of our enemies, when their mocking voices demand that we kowtow to them and deny our God, it can be hard to raise our voices. But don’t hang up your lyre, oh Christian. If they demand that you worship their gods, if they demand that you forget your own:
Awake, O harp and lyre!
I will awake the dawn!
I will give thanks to you, O Lord, among the peoples;
I will sing praises to you among the nations.
Wake the dawn. Don’t worship at their altars. Your God is not one of many, but the Only. The Name above all. Shout that.
Now pardon me— or don’t, as no pardon is required— as I go riff on I’ll Fly Away on my mandolin. Time to wake the dawn.