Psalm 137 and Despair and Rage

Destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC.

Destruction of Jerusalem in 586 BC.

The psalms are raw in their emotions. When there is sorrow and anguish, we see it. When there is joy and happiness, we see it. And in Psalm 137 we see despair and rage:

Alongside Babylon’s streams,
    there we sat down,
    crying because we remembered Zion.
We hung our lyres up
    in the trees there
    because that’s where our captors asked us to sing;
    our tormentors requested songs of joy:
    “Sing us a song about Zion!” they said.
But how could we possibly sing
    the Lord’s song on foreign soil?

Jerusalem! If I forget you,
    let my strong hand wither!
Let my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth
    if I don’t remember you,
    if I don’t make Jerusalem my greatest joy.

Lord, remember what the Edomites did
        on Jerusalem’s dark day:
    “Rip it down, rip it down!
    All the way to its foundations!” they yelled.
Daughter Babylon, you destroyer,
    a blessing on the one who pays you back
    the very deed you did to us!
    A blessing on the one who seizes your children
    and smashes them against the rock!

Does this mean that the Bible advocates killing the children of enemies? Absolutely not. What this means is that the biblical writers have faithfully recorded what people actually felt and actually prayed at the time of Jerusalem’s destruction and the captivity in Babylon in 586 BC.

Our faith is not a sanitized faith. We have it in the midst of real-life struggles, tragedies, triumphs, and joys. And God is big enough to handle whatever we feel. Of course feelings like these, if they lead to actions like these, would be sin. Yet that does not negate the fact that sometimes we feel despair and rage.

If you are in a place of despair and rage in your life right now, follow the psalmist’s lead and cry out to God. But remember, the entire Bible is not contained within this one psalm. Neither should our prayers of anguish and anger and despair be left alone. If this is where you are in life right now, know that there is a reason Psalm 137 is surrounded by other psalms of praise and joy. God delivers, blesses, and vindicates us. Our part in this is to cry out to God and believe he will act. Read Psalms 136 and 138 and see the answers to Psalm 137.

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