July 8, 2021
Have you ever reached such a point of despair you felt you couldn't even sing? Have you lost your voice of praise? God gave a land, a law, and a Lord to His ancient people Israel, but they defiled their land, denied their Lord, and defied His law. So, God allowed the Babylonians to conquer and carry them off to captivity in a strange land. They were God’s people; their greatest king had written most of their Book of Psalms, but they’d lost their song.
Psalm 137:1-6 describes how they felt:
By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down. Yes, we wept when we remembered Zion. We hung our harps upon the willows in the midst of it. For there, those who carried us away captive asked of us a song, and those who plundered us requested mirth, saying, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!” How shall we sing the Lord’S song in a foreign land? If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget its skill! If I do not remember you, let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth—if I do not exalt Jerusalem above my chief joy.
Jerusalem represents salvation, a city filled with saints and songs. Babylon represents the world system with its vanity, vexation, and vileness. From Jerusalem, the holy city, they were taken to the hellish city and lost their song. Have you lost yours? Many Christians today have. You’ve been taken captive by the world, the flesh, and the devil. Psalm 137 has a word for you.
Is there a song in your heart? Don’t give me the “correct” answer. Look inside. Do you have “joy unspeakable and full of glory”? Are you singing, making melody in your heart to the Lord? As we study this psalm, I want to lay four basic thoughts upon your heart.
So far from home in a foreign culture, they were weeping. One way you can tell you’re truly saved is this: is there heartache when you’re not in sweet fellowship with God? No truly saved person can be joyful when he’s been taken captive by the world. God loves you too much to let you have joy and worldliness at the same time.
We think the most miserable person is an unsaved person. Far more miserable is the saved person out of fellowship with God.
Understand what true joy is:
When joy and happiness get together, that’s wonderful, but when there is no happiness, thank God for the joy. It may not remove pain, but joy helps you bear it.
God loves you too much to let you live as a captive to the world, the flesh, and the devil and still have joy. In fact, God is the one who will engineer your sorrow.
Jeremiah the prophet had just that message to describe why the children of Israel were being carried into captivity:
Therefore, thus says the Lord of hosts: “Because you have not heard My words, behold, I will send and take all the families of the north,” says the Lord, “and Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, My servant, [he was a pagan king, yet God calls him “My servant”] and will bring them against this land…. (Jeremiah 25:8-9)
In other words, God says, “I’m going to bring pagan Babylonians against Israel and the nations round about, and will utterly destroy them….” He continues:
Moreover, I will take from them the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness…. And this whole land shall be a desolation, and an astonishment; and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. (Jeremiah 25:10-11)
God says, “Look, you wouldn’t hear My prophets, so I’m raising up this wicked king. He’s going to carry you away and put you in a strange land. You’ll have no mirth, no joy, no songs.”
Did God do this because He didn’t love them? No, because He did love them. He used Nebuchadnezzar to bring them to their senses.
When they remembered Zion, the holy land, Jerusalem, fellowship with God, where the holy temple was, they sat down by the rivers of Babylon and wept. (See Psalm 137:1.) Now all they had was a stinging memory.
Are you out of fellowship with God today and remember when He was so real to you, when worship was a thrill, when Jesus Christ was sweet and precious? But now all you have is a pale memory, and you feel hollow.
Their captors ridiculed them: “Sing one of those songs of Zion for us—Play your harps!” But their hearts were broken. “We hung our harps upon the willows in the midst of it” (Psalm 137:2).
Satan delights to see a child of God fail. Or when a believer walks away and returns to his old life. He loves scandal in the church. The world hates you and rejoices when you stumble because you love the Lord Jesus Christ. “Sing us your old Zion songs” the mockers say.
The Philistines laughed and mocked when they seized Samson and made him grind at the mill. Because Samson went his own way and was captured by the world, he gave the enemy an occasion to blaspheme God. God forbid you should ever be the source of unbelievers ridiculing our Lord and Savior. God forbid you should ever bring such blasphemy to Jesus Christ.
The Lord’s song is a song of deliverance. Psalm 32:7 says, “You are my hiding place; You shall preserve me from trouble; You shall surround me with songs of deliverance.”
So how could they “sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land” (Psalm 137:4)? You can’t if you’re captive to the world, the flesh, and the devil. But when God brings you up out of the pit, delivers you, and puts your feet on a rock, there’ll be a song in your heart. You can’t help but sing. (See Ephesians 5:19.)
Some people sit in church looking like they’ve been weaned on dill pickles. No joy, no happiness, no victory. They don’t even sing in the song service. Don’t let the devil steal your song.
Sorrow by itself can’t steal your song.
At the Last Supper, Jesus was facing dark Gethsemane and bloody Calvary. Yet before He left there, they sang a hymn. (See Matthew 26:30.) Facing the cross, Jesus was singing.
Suffering doesn’t have the power to steal your song.
Paul and Silas had their backs lacerated and were in stocks and bonds in the filth of the prison. Yet at midnight, other prisoners heard them singing. (See Acts 16:25.)
Some of you are going through a dark night. Some have an incurable disease that, without a miracle, will take you. Some have wayward children. Some are between jobs and it looks bleak because now you’ve passed the age where people might be looking for someone with your skills. None of that can steal your song. You see, joy does not depend upon what happens. We rejoice in the Lord.
Many of you know that Joyce and I lost a little baby. Our little Phillip, just two months old, precious, beautiful baby, died in his crib on Mothers’ Day. I’d just preached on the glories of a Christian home when little Phillip went to Heaven. Joyce and I had to drive from Fort Pierce, Florida, to West Palm Beach where our family was and the funeral would be. It’s about 60 miles. I can tell you this: for 60 miles, Joyce and I sang.
For 60 miles we sang those great songs we’d sung before, but they meant so much to us: “What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear.” “He promised never to leave me, never to leave me alone.” “My Jesus, I love thee, I know thou art mine.” Joy may not remove pain, but joy helps you bear it.
One thing can take away your song:
Many today who love God are captives of the world, the flesh, and the devil. Your sin can steal your song. King David, a mighty man of God, let sin get into his life, steal his song and seal his lips. He cried out, “Deliver me from the guilt of bloodshed, O God…and my tongue shall sing aloud of Your righteousness” (Psalm 51:14).
No matter what else you have, if you don’t have your song, you don’t have much. The children of Israel came home after captivity, and so can you. “He will abundantly pardon” (Isaiah 55:7). God promises:
For I will set My eyes on them for good, and I will bring them back to this land; I will build them and not pull them down, and I will plant them and not pluck them up. Then I will give them a heart to know Me, that I am the Lord; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God, for they shall return to Me with their whole heart (Jeremiah 24:6-7).
If you’ve wandered far away, God says, “Come home” today. Just come. Forsake your way, your ungodly thoughts, and return to the Lord. When you do, you’ll find your song again. All nature around you will sing (See Isaiah 55:12.), and you will sing also.
You’re foolish to stay with sad misery, stinging memory, and sarcastic mockery from the world. It’s time to be done with this, make a decision, and say, “I’m coming home to God with all my heart.” If you’ve been taken captive, God loves you too much to let you be living in the world and have joy at the same time. God may even enlist a Nebuchadnezzar to remind you of what you need to do.
You’ve wandered far away from God but now say, “I’m coming home. I’m done with the way I’ve been living. Jesus, today, I renew my heart in you. Give me back my song.”