S (Scripture): Psalm 137
1 By the rivers of Babylon—
there we sat down and there we wept
when we remembered Zion.
2 On the willows 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!”
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!
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!
O (Observation): Wow! The raw nature of some of these psalms can be downright appalling. Dashing babies against rocks? That’s some harsh stuff.
The captors (God’s people) were sent into what is known as the Babylonian exile. They had fallen from serving God to serving earthly gods and as a result ended up being overtaken by the Babylonian empire. Not only overtaken, but the practice at that time was to take natives of the land one conquered and bring them back as servants in your land. So, these Israelites are enslaved in Babylon for the time being.
In certain cases, singers / musicians would be called upon by their captors to sing and play music. On this day, we hear certain musicians and their desire to be rid of these enemies. So angry, they wish happiness to those wishing to do harm to or even kill the children of these captors.
A (Application): I’ve been ticked off before at folks, but not enough to want to kill their babies!
The struggle continues to this day, though, over how to respond to one’s enemies.
Peter Rollins has some wonderful insights in this area. When we think about people we consider our enemies, quite often we are so focused on dealing with that enemy that we forget that we have our own junk to deal with.
What junk did that musician in the psalm need to deal with? Perhaps he was part of the movement away from God. Maybe not. But as a nation, this concept still applies: we would rather deal with our enemies than ourselves.
Finding enemies allows us to hide from our own misgivings. Naming an enemy allows me to then project my junk on someone else. Weird how that works, right?
Now, I’m no psychologist, but this philosophy still holds true. I’d much rather pick someone I don’t like and blame them for lots of things. Instead, perhaps my pursuit should be an internal one, asking God and trusted friends about these feelings of hatred and wonder about areas of my life in which I need to repent. I assume I will have something to learn from that experience.
Having a discussion with someone with which you disagree may very well be the thing you need the most. In doing so, you may unearth things with which you are struggling with internally. And seeking God in those moments – in humble repentance – is the best thing you can do.
Smashing babies? You may feel that way…but let’s talk about it. Let’s figure out where that anger is coming from…and let us pray that God’s will be done.
(Let me make a caveat here: this devotion does not cover situations of sexual misconduct or abuse of any kind. Those situations are serious enough to warrant legal steps and reconciliation in those situations will likely involve legal and counseling professionals…please see that I’m talking more about general disagreements with folks when malfeasance is not involved.)
P (Prayer): Lord, you cause us to see ourselves in the face of our enemies. Help us to see that you are inviting us to reflect on our own shortcomings and that you remain with us in our times of exile. Amen.