Summary: All hope was gone. They went from their precious promised land to the heathen land of Babylon (modern day Iraq). They had been warned repeatedly by God through His prophets, yet they had turned a deaf ear!
"By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion. 2We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. 3For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. 4How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?" [Psalms 137:1-4]
INTRO: Judah’s national history spans some 345 years from 931 BC to 586 BC. During this period there were a total of 20 kings which sat of Judah’s throne. Of these 20 kings, 8 were characterized as "doing that which was right in the sight of the Lord", and 12 were characterized as "doing that which was evil in the sight of the Lord".
The last 3 kings of Judah were Jehoiakim; Jehoiachin and Mattaniah. It was under Jehoiakim that Jeremiah the prophet warned the nation of God’s coming judgment. This warning was ignored, and Jehoiakim took the prophet’s writing and threw it in the fire! Not long after this act of supreme insubordination we find Babylon, under the direction of Nebuchadnezzar marching on and defeating Jerusalem. This happened in 604 BC. Jehoiakim was killed, and his son Jehoiachin took his place for only 3 months. It was during this time that Nebuchadnezzar took some 10,000 prisoners (including Daniel and Ezekiel) into Babylonian captivity.
Just a few short years later, Judah was utterly destroyed. Jerusalem was totally ruined; Solomon’s Temple, which had been the pride and glory of Israel for almost 400 years was reduced to ashes; and Mattaniah, last king of Judah was blinded and taken in chains to Babylon. The people of God would remain scattered for over 2,500
years. This same nation that had been miraculously delivered by God on numerous occasions was gone. No longer could they count on a Moses or a Samson or a David or a Gideon or a Shamgar to deliver them. They went from land owners to slaves. From free men to animals of burden. All hope was gone. They went from their precious promised land to the heathen land of Babylon (modern day Iraq). They had been warned repeatedly by God through His prophets, yet they had turned a deaf ear! Their nation’s history had begun by a miraculous delivery by God from the cruel hands of the Egyptian Pharaoh and now because of their disobedience, they are in captivity again. And our text says "By the rivers of Babylon ... we sat down, (and) we wept ...."
I believe Psalms 137 holds a very important lesson for us this morning. It has been on my heart this entire week. Those first 2 verses have been running through the corridors of my soul. I want you to see four aspects of the captivity in which God’s people found themselves.
• BITTERSWEET MEMORIES. [“.. we remembered Zion ...”]
It’s important you get the picture this morning. Here are God’s people. Those who had experienced His wondrous workings in their lives. People who were very familiar with the presence of God. Our text tells us "they remembered Zion."
Now, anyone who has spent time away from the friendly confines of the United States of America can understand to a small degree what was going through the minds of God’s people. You see, our text is simply telling us that they were reminiscing about their homeland. Yet this was not just a case of "homesickness". You see, their home was gone. All that they stood for was gone. And they remembered.
Have you ever wondered what they were remembering as they sat there by the rivers of Babylon. Perhaps they thought of the glory days of Israel. They had been often told of how the glory of God was manifested in the midst of their people. One such display of God’s presence is found at the dedication of the temple in 2 Chronicles 5:13-14:
"It came even to pass, as the trumpeters and singers were as one, to make one sound to be heard in praising and thanking the LORD; and when they lifted up their voice with the trumpets and cymbals and instruments of music, and praised the LORD, saying, For he is good; for his mercy endureth for ever: that then the house was filled with a cloud, even the house of the LORD; 14So that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud: for the glory of the LORD had filled the house of God."
Perhaps they were thinking of the great victories they had enjoyed in the past. They were God’s people. Their God alone was worthy of glory. As they sat there pondering the past maybe they thought of all the battles miraculously won at the hands of God. They had taken Jericho. They had conquered the Moabites, Edomites, Philistines and any other evil nation which would dare challenge the God of Israel. They were known throughout the world as champions. But now all they could do was remember.