By the rivers of Babylon —
There we sat down and there we wept
When we remembered Zion.
On the willows there
We hung up our harps.
For there our captors
Asked us for songs,
And our tormentors asked for
“Sing us one of the
Songs of Zion.”
How could we sing the Lord’s
In a foreign land?
After the Babylonians destroyed Jerusalem (587/6 BC) they carried the people off to Babylon where they would remain in exile for two generations. Psalm 137 describes the heartache of a people shattered and far from home. The Babylonians added to their agony by tormenting and taunting them to sing about the glory of their God and the splendor of the temple in Jerusalem.
And now for the rest of the story: Cyrus the Persian conquered Babylon and let all the captive nations go home. The exiles returned to Jerusalem and once more worshipped God in the temple there.
Today our lives feel strange; we have never lived through anything like this. Although we are spending more time in our homes than ever it feels like we have been exiled from the lives we have known and loved. We have no idea how things will turn out.
Thanks be to God we have every confidence that life will return to normal; it did for the exiles in Babylon, and it will for us. At present we cannot see how it will happen. Perhaps the lockdown has resulted in fewer infections. With fewer people it will be safer for others to be out and about. Scientists talk about herd immunity. Perhaps someone will develop a quick effective cure. At some point a vaccine will be widely available. There will be an end to all this.
What God has done is what God will do: free the people to live faithful, joy-filled lives. Rejoice and be glad, for better days are coming.