Today: [Psalm 137-138] Coming Out of Your Personal Captivity. The two psalms we read today give you a promise of coming out of captivity and into the fulfilled destiny of the promise of God in your life. In Psalm 137 the people are lamenting by the waters of the Euphrates river where they were held captive in Babylon. It was a mournful thing – just as the captivities you might face in your own personal life. But the following chapter assures us through the testimony of David that though your life might be marred with suffering and difficulty God’s plan is to bring you out and bless you beyond all reckoning.
[Psa 137:1-9 KJV] 1 By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion. 2 We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. 3 For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us [required of us] mirth, [saying], Sing us [one] of the songs of Zion. 4 How shall we sing the LORD’S song in a strange land? 5 If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget [her cunning]. 6 If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy. 7 Remember, O LORD, the children of Edom in the day of Jerusalem; who said, Rase [it], rase [it, even] to the foundation thereof. 8 O daughter of Babylon, who art to be destroyed; happy [shall he be], that rewardeth thee as thou hast served us. 9 Happy [shall he be], that taketh and dasheth thy little ones against the stones.
Psalm 137 was written after the southern kingdom was taken into captivity into Babylon. Jewish sources claim it was written prophetically by king David before the captivity but there is no indication of that in the text. Others suggest that Jeremiah wrote this psalm but Jeremiah was never carried away into Babylon but rather was exiled into Egypt. There were many prophecies by both Isaiah and Jeremiah that predicted the Babylonian captivity years before it took place but it seem that this psalm was most certainly written by an unknown authority in the midst of the captivity that it references.
There were several major rivers in ancient Babylon. There was the Chebar, Ulai, Tigris and the Euphrates. In the capital city of Babylon however, there was only the Euphrates and the river spoken of that the captives sat down on its banks to lament was most certainly that river. Having been taken captive to Babylon the Jewish captives were known in other extra-biblical histories to be employed as forced labor to work shipyard docks on the banks of the Euphrates unloading freight, etc. No doubt there were times of rest along its banks from the labors of their slavery where the writer was inspired by the lamentations of the people for a return to Jerusalem.
The verse refers to the harps of the Levites being hung upon the willows. There is a reference in history to ancient Babylon being referred to as the valley of the willows. The Levites no doubt preserved some of their musical instruments in the captivity and carried them with them. However they found no inspiration to sing the song of the Lord in a strange land even when compelled by their captors for entertainment purposes.
This chapter speaks to us of a people in a backslidden condition. Let us remember that the southern kingdom went into captivity because of idolatry, pagan practices and gross sin that carried on for generations. They sinned in haste and repented at leisure and now are reaping the consequences of the choices they made in luxury – now suffering the privates of captivity. Ask yourself this question – was there ever a time in your life that you drifted in your walk with God? Have you suffering heaviness of heart remember a time perhaps in your youth of simple joy and childlike faith that once your heart grew cold – escaped you? There is not a sincere Christian believer who being honest and transparent cannot related to these suffering wretches on the banks of the Euphrates being tormented by their captors.
My father many times over the years might witness a once noble saint reduced to shame and degradation. He would remark with sadness “isn’t sin fun…” Proverbs 14:12 tells us that there is a way that seems right to a man but the end thereof is destruction. Paul remarked about the empty rewards of sin and dissipation in the book of Romans:
[Rom 6:20-21 KJV] 20 For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness. 21 What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things [is] death.
When we struggle with things we are held captive to we tend to compartmentalize our lives so as not to face the reality of our bondage to a habit or secret sin. Sooner or later all such things come out to the harsh light of day and we mourn and feel remorseful without any sense of joy or fulfillment. Know that God knows the path that you take. The time came that these mournful captives were delivered from the chains of bondage. Likewise in your own life sin may pour its bitter dregs in your life in such a way that you don’t know how to get loose from its hold, but captivity doesn’t last forever. Look to God. Listen to His voice. Respond to the tugging of the Holy Spirit even in those areas that you have previously been hard hearted. Change will come. Enabling grace will come to lead you out of your personal captivity.
[Psa 138:1-8 KJV] 1 [[[A Psalm] of David.]] I will praise thee with my whole heart: before the gods will I sing praise unto thee. 2 I will worship toward thy holy temple, and praise thy name for thy lovingkindness and for thy truth: for thou hast magnified thy word above all thy name. 3 In the day when I cried thou answeredst me, [and] strengthenedst me [with] strength in my soul. 4 All the kings of the earth shall praise thee, O LORD, when they hear the words of thy mouth. 5 Yea, they shall sing in the ways of the LORD: for great [is] the glory of the LORD. 6 Though the LORD [be] high, yet hath he respect unto the lowly: but the proud he knoweth afar off. 7 Though I walk in the midst of trouble, thou wilt revive me: thou shalt stretch forth thine hand against the wrath of mine enemies, and thy right hand shall save me. 8 The LORD will perfect [that which] concerneth me: thy mercy, O LORD, [endureth] for ever: forsake not the works of thine own hands.
This psalm is attributed with a certain credibility to king David as the author. It is believed to have been written by David after he ascended to the unified throne of the combined tribes of Israel. He expresses thanks to God who promised that his hand would bear rule and it has now in fact come to pass. Are there promises that God has made you in His word or by the prophets? David went through many experiences leading up to his kingship but in the midst of much set back the day came that the promise of God was made sure in his life. You are no exception.
I personally know what it is to see every promise that God ever made to me come to pass. I have experienced walking off the prophetic map of my life because there was no promise of the Father that had not been fulfilled. I had to go back to God to find new instructions because His faithful promises were no longer promise but manifest substance. This is not a unique experience. You do not have to quantify your spiritual life by some esoteric value attached to your suffering. God will see to it that you experience life and life more abundantly. As you continue to hope you will see those hopes become manifest substance as you like David, continue pursuing after Him come what may. This is the great lesson of David’s life and no doubt a primary reason why God chose to include the psalms in the canon of scripture.
These sentiments of childlike faith and devotion are not popular in today’s pseudo-sophisticated religious culture. Teachers and writers concoct elaborate doctrinal schemes to suggest lofty values of spiritual suffering to justify why things never seem to get any better for their readers or listeners. Let us never forget the words of even the bibles most heart sick prophet:
[Jer 29:9-11 KJV] 9 For they prophesy falsely unto you in my name: I have not sent them, saith the LORD. 10 For thus saith the LORD, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place. 11 For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, saith the LORD, thoughts of peace, and not of evil, to give you an expected end.
This is the word of the Lord to a people who would spend an entire generation in captivity. It is God’s word to you in the circumstance you find yourself in. God places no premium upon suffering. He will deliver you. He has no other end in mind. As John wrote as well – he would that you might prosper and being in health even as your soul prospers.
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