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Singing Psalm 137 you ask to call to mind

Singing Psalm 137 you ask to call to mind loss and love

“Sing us a song!”

Sounds nice around a campfire near a lake.

This was no request. It followed cruelty and was demanded without consent.

There was no campfire by the beach. The fire was in the throne room of the king of Judah who fed it with scrolls containing the word of God from the prophet, Jeremiah.

It is in singing psalms like Psalm 137 that we are moved to imitate the Lord Jesus when he “offered up prayers and supplications with loud cries and tears to him who was able to save him from death and was heard because of his reverence.” He was heard after he waited and trusted as he endured the loud cries of the crowd demanding that he be crucified, “and their voices prevailed.”

Babylon, a people with no heart for God, was a tool God used to discipline his people for turning to false gods who cannot save rather than relying on Him, the only true God. They were to submit to Babylon in exile and repent.

That they did not points to their desperate need for a savior, the one who would trust in God.

God, the son, Jesus, came to live for a while among us and brought his eternal, perfect love for his father into your midst. He did this to teach his people to love the triune God with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength. This is the greatest law.

Babylon showed God’s people the evil that follows when hearts turn away from the Lord. They delighted in ruthlessly destroying Jerusalem aka Zion, and in gruesome triumph, they practiced the barbarous custom of conquering armies in those times, to destroy the helpless infants of God’s people. They then mocked those in exile demanding them to sing joyful songs of their city.

God’s people sat by the river of Babylon and cried to him to call to mind their loss because they knew he cared and that they mattered to him.

You can appeal for God to call to mind his steadfast love in times when you suffer deep and enduring loss. He knows. He has lost more than anyone ever has. All that he made had to be wiped out and remade over and over until the new covenant in Christ when the law of love would be written on the hearts of his people. “Behold, what I have built I am breaking down, and what I have planted I am plucking up—that is, the whole land.”

Singing Psalm 137 you ask to call to mind loneliness and home

God’s people call to mind their home where they could freely worship him. They recall how they longed to be there again considering it their highest joy.

Their brother, Edom, who ought to have helped them, was heartlessly in cahoots with Babylon. They surrendered Israelites fleeing captivity to the Babylonians and plundered Jerusalem once it was destroyed.

Awaiting restoration, you are now in the wilderness, in exile, and will, at times, be alarmed at harm that comes from those you thought would help you. At other times, you are distressed that you are the one who causes harm. In spite of these distressing facts, God is making his home with you starting here and now, continuing through death into the new world.

Even through tears of sorrow when people hurt you or when you have hurt another, you ask the Lord to help you call to mind his presence, to never forget your home is with him. It is your highest joy. You can borrow his self-sufficiency as you depend on him to stand against the devil’s deceptive schemes.

Satan‘s number one agenda from the beginning has been to cause doubt in God’s goodness and care for us. Being under God‘s power, there is no way he could cast doubt on that. So he goes for his love, twisting it, making it out to be as if it were self-serving.

Ironically, Satan portrays himself as one who is only trying to illuminate and do good, whereas he truly is self-serving. It makes him happy to delude and draw people away from God because he hates him. It was not enough to receive his grace and mercies while being under him. No, he strove to usurp God and rebelled against his authority. Passed down to us from the first Adam’s seed, rebellion is what we tend toward, and this is what Jesus, the second Adam, came to rescue us from.

That Hideous Strength does an incredible job portraying through the NICE organization the inworking of this deception and the outplaying of it.

Written in the time of World War II, That Hideous Strength by CS Lewis is the story of an organization ironically called NICE whose aim is to “rehabilitate“ society. They remove people from their homes, calling themselves their “real” family and home. They destroy anyone who will not give their full allegiance to the organization and murder those who seek to leave it.

Only in their total destruction is there any hope for mankind to live. If any organization would be considered analogous to Babylon, NICE would be it.

Polar opposite to the Lord Jesus and his kingdom, the only principle these hold to is self-advancement until everyone self-advances to the point of destroying everyone else. God simply uses their own principle against them to eventually bring about their destruction. Anyone entangled in NICE or Babylon will be lonely. They call to mind home and long for it. Jesus came not to seek good things for himself, not to be served, but to serve — to give his life as a ransom for many. Those in his kingdom follow his countercultural example looking to see what they can give rather than what they can get. He is the home you long for.

Singing Psalm 137 you ask to call to mind retribution and restoration

Singing Psalm 137, God’s people ask him to call to mind his promise that was prophesied by both Isaiah and Jeremiah – that Babylon would be wiped out and never rebuilt. Babylon would be repaid for their barbarity (Isaiah 13:16).

God looks at your heart, knows your heart, is greater than your heart, changes your heart, and responds to you according to your heart.

Hamon experiences divine retribution when is hanged on the gallows that he had built for Mordecai, Esther’s cousin.

In contrast, the Ninevites repented of their atrocities toward Israel and God, in his mercy, did not destroy them.

But Babylon was unwilling to turn from evil and would at last drink God’s cup of wrath.

It is out of love for their enemies to ask that God would discontinue their generations repaying them as they had done to Israel, no longer allowing them to perpetuate their crimes against humanity nor to continue hardening and hurting themselves in so doing.

God’s promises to bless his people are sure. Those who would curse them would be made to stop. His desire for enemies to repent is loving. But if they won’t, his restraining them from evil is loving too. The imprecation, pleading for God to stop them from continuing to hurt others and themselves, is borne out of love.

You ask him to vindicate your pleas to stop evil actions by calling those who would do harm to turn to the Lord and sing his praises. If they won’t, you ask God to call to mind the specific harm you and others are enduring at their hand and that he would stop their hand. You ask him for a pure heart for yourself and others that good thoughts, feelings, words, and actions would flow from it that your own hand need not be stopped.

What can you call to mind that would help knit your heart to God’s as you sing Psalm 137, that you might draw near to him emotionally, tethered to his love in the midst of intense suffering?

You might call to mind a mother whose child was abused by a man who has children might in her grief and shock imagine that the same would be done to his children, that someone heartless like him would be happy to abuse his child the way he abused hers and laughed about it to her face. She might sing Psalm 137 with loud cries as she lays her heart bare before the Lord.

When she brings that thought to the Lord, and he calls to mind thoughts of restoration, she turns and fights her vengeful thoughts that come naturally alongside the hateful seeds planted and reinforced by the evil one.

The Lord will bring her to call to mind that vengeance is his. Her outlook changes. She finds herself asking for the man’s repentance and for the Lord to lead his children to himself and prays for their good. The enemy, Satan, and the spiritual forces of evil, are screaming in response as their plan to plant a deep root of hate is foiled.

You can lay open to the Lord your grief and shock and pour out your heart to him, however vengeful, and trust that he will bring you through it to love. He wants to hear from you at every point. There is never any thought or feeling you have that you cannot bring before the Lord and look to him to redeem it.

You might call to mind a mother whose child was in the midst of a prolonged murderous rampage who might, out of love for her child, pray for her child’s safety. She soon realizes the loving thing to do would be to pray for her child to be stopped. If he won’t come to his senses and stop on his own accord, she asks for her child’s hands to fail or even for death if that is the only way his uncontrolled violence and murder of others would stop.

This prayer is out of love and care for the lives of others and for her child, that lives would not be lost at his hand and that he not be continually hardened and hurt by perpetuating his own violence. You pray to take up your cross and die daily in Christ and would much prefer your child die to himself in Jesus and live, that God would slay and hide him in Jesus that he would be born again of his seed to live in him.

You can sing “Glory be to Jesus” freely in response to or under any condition or circumstance as you suffer and wait:

“Glory be to Jesus,

Who in bitter pains

Poured for me the life-blood

From His sacred veins.

“Grace and life eternal

In that Blood I find;

Blest be His compassion,

Infinitely kind.

“Blest through endless ages

Be the precious stream,

Which from endless torments

Did the world redeem.

“Abel’s blood for vengeance

Pleaded to the skies;

But the blood of Jesus

For our pardon cries.

“It the conscience sprinkles,

Frees our guilty hearts;

Satan in confusion

Terror-struck departs.

“Oft as earth exulting

Wafts its praise on high,

Angel-hosts rejoicing

Make their glad reply.

“Lift ye then your voices;

Swell the mighty flood;

Louder still and louder

Praise the precious blood.”

Singing Psalm 137 you praise God for his willingness to listen to your desperate pleas, to give you a heart for him in the midst of deep sorrow, and to protect you and all his people in Jesus for generations to come no matter what comes to pass this side of eternity. You praise him that imprecations will no longer be needed once Satan and his work, though already destroyed by Jesus’ death on the cross, are completely ended in time.

You praise him for the hope that evil and those who are bent on it will be no more. You praise him for his mercy and justice in Jesus who perfectly fulfilled what his father required and who perfectly met your greatest need: Jesus became sin for you who now love him so that in him you might become the righteousness of God.

You can cry out to him knowing that he hears you as the prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective. Jesus connects you to your powerful and effective God. You and/or your family might still be reeling from your own past selfishness that negatively affected others or from the past selfishness of others that have negatively affected you and/or your family. You ask God to call to mind his promises to defeat the enemy, Satan, and those controlled by him, and best of all, to bring about repentance in evildoers that God might relent and show mercy.

When singing Psalm 137, the end leaves you mid-story. Though God brought judgment to the Babylonian dynasty to end their terror, you wait for him knowing he will be with you and move to help you to hope for mercy that triumphs over judgment even in the darkest worst of times.

You call to mind the triune God’s heart of love as he keeps both his end and our end of the divine covenant, a bond in blood. God, the father, saved his adopted children through substitutionary discipline, the bloody death of his son, God, the son, the Lord Jesus on the cross. God, the Holy Spirit, lives in you who are his, promising with his own life that he will never leave you.

When you pray, “Lord, come quickly” for Jesus to return, it’s both a prayer of blessing and of cursing. It will be the greatest day of blessing when he comes to save his people who responded to his call to friendship and are no longer enemies of God. It will be the saddest day for those who would not respond to his call of friendship, persisting as enemies of God and therefore accursed.

Singing Psalm 137, your heart seeks the triune God’s face trusting his hands are not tied, and you call to mind that his arm is not too short to save. As you mourn losses, weaknesses, loneliness, and need for retribution, call to mind God’s love, strength, home with you, and desire for restoration.

Jesus had a fire waiting on the beach to make breakfast for his wayward disciples making an occasion to restore them after they had abandoned him and/or all out denied him while warming by the fire.

“Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.”

The discipline that began with Babylon endured for 70 years. It wouldn’t be completed until Christ.

You call to mind how the Lord, who in his power that is made perfect in weakness, who in his perfect love that drives out fear, who promises to do more than all you could ask or imagine, rewards those who seek him. When he fully reverses evil and restores all things in the new world, you look forward to seeing babies from Israel, Judah, and Babylon whole and renewed. It would be just like the Lord to set them playing happily on the green grass by the river of life near the very stones that cry out his praises, upon which they were dashed – or something so much better beyond what you or anyone can imagine.

I am grateful for the following resources from Trevor Laurence and Jean Jones and have drawn from them in writing this article: Violent Prayers of Love – Catechesis Institute , Prayer in the Ruins – Cateclesia Institute ,

“In Babylon we thought of Zion;

Sitting beside the streams, we wept.” ~ Psalm 137:1

“God hears no more than the heart speaks; and if the heart be dumb, God will certainly be deaf.” ~ Thomas Brooks

October 2-7, 2022


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