By the waters of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion. On the willows there we hung up our lyres. For there our captors required of us songs, and our tormentors, mirth, saying, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!” How shall we sing the Lord's song in a foreign land? – Psalm 137:1-4
Wednesday, March 18, 2015
By the Waters of Babylon
Psalm 46 speaks of that River which makes glad the City of God. Babylon is a counterfeit Jerusalem. In place of gladness, there is regret and weeping. In place of the temple and song and celebration, we are silent in solitude under the willows where our tears mingle with the muddy waters. The enemy mocked and profaned the holiness of God and the music that was offered in His praise. They wanted worship turned into entertainment and demanded that His people perform like trained beasts.
It seems to me that the world often asks the Christian to perform according to the values and understanding of the secular. Beethoven became deaf, but it is hard to imagine a man born deaf conducting an orchestra. What picture would be painted by a man born blind? Why are those who have eyes but cannot see trying to instruct those graced with new vision, those who are able to perceive that far country?
The world does not comprehend our joy, and it cannot comprehend our weeping and sorrow. It remains incapable of distinguishing humility and meekness from passivity and weakness. It cannot separate the sacred from the profane. Well are we told not cast our pearls before swine or give that which is holy to the dogs.
What drew me to this verse today is an emptiness and a feeling of distance from God that I have been experiencing lately. I am not surprised. I imagine that there will be these valleys, some darker and more desolate than others, for a long time yet. All that I know to do is keep going, pressing on, like I said yesterday. As strange as it may sound, there is a kind of joy in sorrow -- at the heart of it. I am not glad for the loss but for the sorrow itself -- like the pain of bruised and strained muscles or the itch of healing flesh and bone. The pain reassures me that what wounds me is real, solid, and eternal.