Rivers Of Babylon

By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down
Yeah, we wept, when we remembered Zion

When I first heard this song, taken from Psalm 137, I couldn’t work out why a song about weeping was so jolly…

The Jews were captive exiles, away from their homes, weeping beside the Babylon rivers. King Nebuchadnezzar, ruled by fear and terror. These words express the desperation of an enslaved, oppressed people who remembered what life was like when they were free…

There the wicked
Carried us away in captivity
Requiring of us a song
Now how shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?

The Levites were famous for their singing in the Jerusalem Temple. The Babylonians want entertainment from their captives who have this great reputation. Psalm 137 explains: ‘…our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said: ‘Sing for us the songs of Zion.’’

Musing… Christian friends… myself… go to church. We’re ‘required’ to worship, to sing joy-full songs. Sometimes we can’t. Perhaps we remember past times when we were able to express our faith freely; now we can’t generate the joy required of us; we weep.

Let the words of our mouth and the meditation of our heart
Be acceptable in thy sight here tonight

For many years I couldn’t understand why the song moved from a Psalm of weeping and longing to the Psalm-prayer of faith and trust. It seemed out of place.

Musing… Perhaps those oppressed people in their suffering and sadness, made a deliberate choice… they would ‘sing the Lord’s song in a strange land.’ The God they believed in and worshiped was bigger than their personal situation.

Musing… When I don’t feel like worship, when there’s bad stuff in my head and heart, then this prayer is exactly the response I should be making… jolly or not!

‘Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my Rock and my Redeemer.’ Psalm 19:14

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