‘By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion.
There on the poplars we hung our harps,
for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land?’
Israelites, forcibly taken captive to Babylon, sit down and weep.
They weep with broken hearts for the death of loved ones, for their lost homes, possessions, pride and national identity. They weep for their captivity, for their hope-less, bleak future.
Their captors say, ‘Sing us a song!’ Their instruments are hanging redundant. They can’t sing joyful songs to remind them of home. The song isn’t there.
They have broken hearts but not broken harps. They are hanging waiting in hope for a better day.
Louise knows that her husband George will soon die of cancer. Through many tears and unusual circumstances she has encountered God.
Wanting to pray she doesn’t know how to. She writes God a letter on her phone:
‘Whoever and whatever you are I want to say thank you. Thank you for coming into my life when I feel frightened, scared, lost and completely heartbroken. Thank you for giving me hope and happiness in what is undoubtedly my darkest hour…
I feel so angry that you are taking George from me. I feel so sad about having to live… without him… I feel so sad about all of the dreams you are so cruelly snatching from me. It is awful…
You have opened my eyes to a world of hope, love and compassion… I can feel it, I can hear it, I can sense it… It’s SO bonkers. It’s SO supernatural, that it does spark a flame of hope within me…’
‘By the Rivers of Babylon’ by Brent Dowe and Trevor McNaughton (1970). I remember the ‘Boney M’ recording in 1978. The sad words never fitted with the upbeat reggae presentation.
‘On the Willows’ from Godspell by Stephen Schwartz (1971) captures the mood of the psalm much better
‘Hope is coming’ by Louise Blyth (2020)
A true story beautifully told by Louise in her recently published book