“By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. 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. How shall we sing the LORD's song in a strange land?” (Psalm 137:1-4).
In a lifetime of changing circumstances, situations and conditions, we will sometimes look back on days gone by with sad and wistful remembrance. Israel, led away into captivity by God’s chastening hand, experienced this brokenness of heart, even to the degree of a despairing unbelief that robbed them of “the Lord’s song.” They “sat down” by the rivers of Babylon, stilled their harps in the trees, and mourned over a past that would not return. “How shall we sing?”
Let us make the question personal. How shall we sing the Lord’s song when comfortable and familiar venues become memories? More importantly, is it even possible to so trust the Lord that He gives to us songs in “a strange land?” The Biblical answer, affirmed again and again in the pages of God’s Word, is an emphatic “Yes!” The Lord Jesus Christ is that present, that able, that willing, and that loving to so fill our hearts in the midst of loss that believers must expect “songs in the night” to issue forth from places in which it seems that the melodies and harmonies of praise could never arise (Job 35:10).
How shall we sing? The answer lies in the understanding that our dedication, devotion and determination is not the issue. Were the Lord’s song based on human resiliency, even the most godly among us would never voice the first note. God Himself is the issue, that is, do we know Him to be so faithful and able that we can have expectation to sing in the strange land? “My expectation is from Him” declared the Psalmist (Psalm 62:5). Regardless of scenarios of loss we can imagine, or scenarios of loss that have already happened, we must believe that the Spirit of God composes the most beautiful songs of God on tear-stained pages and stanzas.
“Why Do They Sing?”
“Why do they sing, these men who’ve lost everything?
How can they smile, when their hearts
Must be so broken?
Whence comes the song, in a life that must seem so wrong?
Why do they sing, oh why?
Well, I think I see the source of their melody,
And I think I hear
the Voice in their rhapsody.
It tells of a hope for those lost so long ago,
Why do they sing, oh why?
I think I know: Jesus, Jesus, oh Jesus.
Jesus, Jesus, oh Jesus”
(From a song we composed about the men
with whom we do services at our local Rescue Mission)
“And the multitude rose up together against them: and the magistrates rent off their clothes, and commanded to beat them. And when they had laid many stripes upon them, they cast them into prison, charging the jailor to keep them safely: who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks. And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them.”