Summary: This shows how sin can rob one of his song...


Psalms 137:1-4 W. Max Alderman

INTRODUCTION: This is the record of the Jews in their Babylonian captivity. While back in Jerusalem they were free, but now they are in bondage. They once enjoyed the blessings of the land and the blessings of the Lord, but now they are enduring burdens. Their happiness has turned to bitterness and their freedom has turned to slavery. Why is this so? It is not because of their weakness, but instead it is because of their wickedness. The place called Babylon always leads to barrenness, bitterness and brokenness. Babylon is identified with confusion going all the way back to when Nimrod built the tower of Babel. The only people who were truly happy in Babylon were the Babylonians. The Jews were being chastened by the Lord for their wickedness as a nation. As they sat under the shade among the willows, next to the river, they could not help but reflect on the home that they had been taken from. For this reason they could not play their harps.


Israel And Judah Go Into Captivity

Because of Israel and Judah’s spiritual decline (2 Kings 17:7- 23), the Lord allowed them to be taken into captivity. The Assyrians took Israel captive, from which it seems that they never returned (2 Kings 17-18), and Judah was taken into captivity by the Babylonians (2 Kings 18-25).

Judah Returns From Captivity

After 70 years in captivity, Judah returned home in three stages. The first group was led home by Zerubbabel (Ezra 1- 6). The second group was led home by Ezra (Ezra 7-10). The third group was led back by Nehemiah (Nehemiah 1-13).

A. There Was Misery in Their Hearts

While in Babylonian captivity, the Jews could only reflect back to the reason that God permitted them to enter into captivity, and it was because of their spiritual decline. While the Jews were under the rule of the judges, there were at least 13 apostasies where the nation of Israel continued their sinning against God. God judged them severely during this time. They continued to sin even after they were given kings to rule over them. Many of their kings would turn to and worship other gods. With this knowledge of their sinning being fixed in their hearts, they could only be miserable. They certainly did not think that they had anything to sing about. Furthermore, the taunting by the Babylonians to get them to sing was only a mockery as they were reminded that there was a special place in the temple for their singing and because of sin, they had forfeited that place. Those who are out of the will of the Lord certainly lose their song. Have you lost yours?

B. There Was the Memory of Their Home

Later in Biblical history, we are told the parable of the lost son. There is every indication that the prodigal son soon reached a state of misery while feeding the swine. Once he came to himself, he said that he would arise and go to his father. He certainly must have been “homesick” and was determined to do something about it. These Jews who were far removed from their homes could only think about the place that they had called home. This brought the kind of sadness that caused them to hang their harps on the willows without a song.

To the backslidden church member, there is a great loss that comes to not being plugged into your church home. I can only imagine how awful it would be for me to be removed from my church family because of sin. I, also, can only imagine how it would be for me to be plugged into the church, but just going through the motions because of sin.

1. This Caused their Hearts to be Sad

Sin will make the heart sad. There is a wonderful joy that causes continual rejoicing when one is thinking upon the things of God. Philippians 4:4-9 teaches us this:

4 Rejoice in the Lord alway: and again I say, Rejoice.

5 Let your moderation be known unto all men. The Lord is at hand.

6 Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God.

7 And the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.

8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

9 Those things, which ye have both learned, and received, and heard, and seen in me, do: and the God of peace shall be with you.

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David Wilson

commented on May 2, 2010

I have viewed a number of sermons on Psalm 137 here on Sermoncentral and most of them missed the mark! This sermon recognized the key factor in the Jews refusal to sing to the Lord, they were not repentant. They were under God''s judgment and rather than seeking God they focused on how terrible their lot in life was. They wanted to blame the Babylonians for their cruelty and their distant kin, the Edomites for joining in and making things worse. They became bitter because they refused to repent and this Pastor saw the Scripture in its context. Thank you so much.

Kenneth Ifebueme

commented on Dec 5, 2018

Babylon is not the place of our assignment. It is not the place of our planting. Babylon represents the world of sin. It represents the place God does not want us to ever be. But our choices, often evil, drive us into Babylon. Sometimes it starts subtly. When Lot separated from Abraham, the Bible recorded that he pitched his tent toward Sodom. The next we heard of Lot, he was in Sodom. A little folly here and there, and we are in Babylon. What are we doing standing on the banks of the rivers of Babylon? The rivers were the lifeline of countries then. We have backslidden. And as is often times the case, our new 'friends' in the place and palace of sinful pleasure know our background. They know are supposed to be born again Christians. They are happy to have snared us. They twist the knife in our hearts. They taunt us like the Jews mocked Jesus on the cross: "if indeed you are the messiah come down and save yourself". They mock us to pray or to sing for them. This also happens to young Christian girls who out greed find themselves in compromising relationships. The men on the other side of the affair deliberately woo and court Christian girls who are supposedly better 'wife materials' than the worldly girls they have been messing up with. Now these Christian girls accept, backslide and find themselves by the rivers of Babylon. Their joy is gone. The men taunt the girls to behave like Christians. But, alas, the glory is departed, like the case of Samson. We left God on the other side of the divide. The summary is that Babylon is not our spiritual home. It is a strange land. We must consciously move beyond wallowing in recriminations, and seek God's face for restoration. Then we can joyfully sing the Lord's song in our Jerusalem: the place of our planting and assignment.

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