Psalm 137’s Haunting Violence

This post was originally given as a prayer at Westview Christian Fellowship

Lament over the Destruction of Jerusalem

  • 1 By the rivers of Babylon—
  •    there we sat down and there we wept
  •    when we remembered Zion.
  • 2 On the willows[a] there
  •    we hung up our harps.
  • 3 For there our captors
  •    asked us for songs,
  • and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying,
  •    “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
  • 4 How could we sing the Lord’s song
  •    in a foreign land?
  • 5 If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
  •    let my right hand wither!
  • 6 Let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth,
  •    if I do not remember you,
  • if I do not set Jerusalem
  •    above my highest joy.
  • 7 Remember, O Lord, against the Edomites
  •    the day of Jerusalem’s fall,
  • how they said, “Tear it down! Tear it down!
  •    Down to its foundations!”
  • 8 O daughter Babylon, you devastator![b]
  •    Happy shall they be who pay you back
  •    what you have done to us!
  • 9 Happy shall they be who take your little ones
  •    and dash them against the rock!

~Psalm 137

It’s difficult to accept the fact that the Bible describes revenge in such brutal detail as found in Psalm 137. There are other Psalms that ask us to direct our anger in ways that promote peace rather than perpetuate violence but not Psalms 137. Psalm 137 doesn’t temper an author’s fierce anger towards injustice and desire for revenge. It’s important to hear and remember the extent of the anger expressed here because it was apocalyptic verses like these that inspire Christ. He too is angry at the injustice he sees around him and condemns Israel in a similar way as Jeremiah (the prophet we think authored Psalm 137) condemns Babylon.

Psalm 137 is remembered for its violence but also because of the haunting tune set to its lyrics by Don McLean titled “Babylon” linked at the beginning of this post. If we let them, the song and its lyrics can haunt us in three healthy ways.

Continue reading

Advertisements

Tragedy in Ecclesiastes

This post was originally presented as a sermon at The Commons and published on their blog.

Tragedy in Ecclesiastes

Last week Jen and I took Leland to visit his great-grandmother, Audrey MacDonald, for the first time. My grandmother has struggled with alzheimers for the last few years. Due to her illness, she has been confined to a wheelchair and even mundane everyday activities have become a struggle, including simple things like saying hello and goodbye.  

Although she may or may not have remembered that Jen and I were expecting, it was clear that she knew and was proud of her first great-grandchild.  Unable to ask, and in need of some assistance, she was grateful for the opportunity to hold the little ten pounder. In fact, when asked if Leland was getting heavy, she spoke, informing us, in a rare moment of clarity, that he wasn’t too heavy at all.

In the midst of similar challenges, yet at opposite stages of life, it was beautiful to see grandma and grandson greet one another in their own unique way.

Continue reading