We sat down and cried by the rivers of Babylon when we remembered Zion. 2 There upon the trees we put our harps. 3 For those who held us there made us sing. And those who made it hard for us asked for joy. They said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion.”
4 How can we sing the song of the Lord in a strange land?
SINGING THE LORD'S SONG
How do we sing the songs of the Lord in a strange and unwelcome land? That was what the People of God asked when they had been exiled to Babylon. Their Worship Center (Temple) had been reduced to rubble; they were no longer in their own God-given land. Their old way of life seemed gone forever. Have you ever felt like that? Do You feel like that right in this moment?
And to add to their misery, their abductors mocked them by insisting they sing their old familiar songs. We know from the book of Daniel that he and others like him managed to maintain their faith even in the midst of a strange surroundings. God remained God, worship remained worship even though the old way of life was only a memory.
We also know that the People of God learned a few important lessons in their exile. Their harsh and heartbreaking experience of defeat prompted a return to the ways of God—at least for a time. There is an old saying I read recently that went something like this, “don’t let a disaster go to waste by not learning something from it.”
As you read this today, I wonder how many of us are experiencing the feelings of Exile? In our talk on Sunday you may recall I said that to be an exile is to experience the devastating reality of being driven out of a secure place of belonging. If that is you today please read what I am about to say slowly so it sinks in. We can still sing the songs of the Lord even in exile, in disaster. Places change, situations change, but our God does not. Our songs may change, but the one to whom we sing has not changed. Our service of God and his love for us does not demand a certain locality or a certain set of circumstances, helpful though these may be.
Here are some Bible reminders for us of our unchanging God.
17 Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.
In the beginning you laid the foundations of the earth,
and the heavens are the work of your hands.
26 They will perish, but you remain;
they will all wear out like a garment.
Like clothing you will change them
and they will be discarded.
27 But you remain the same,
and your years will never end.
8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.
6 “I the Lord do not change. So you, the descendants of Jacob, are not destroyed.
19 God is not human, that he should lie, not a human being, that he should change his mind. Does he speak and then not act? Does he promise and not fulfill?
Exile was not enjoyable for God’s People, their losses where overwhelming. We know something about that in our lives too. However, they could not just leave those harps in the poplar trees. Remember this Exile from Jerusalem was not exile from the care of God. Separation from their culture was not separation from the presence of God. The destruction of the temple did not destroy their place in the purposes of God.
Exile was not the end of the story, but only one chapter in it.