Psa 136 Image






What If You Could Not Sing the Songs of the Church?

Could you sing if a government killed most of the members of the church?

Psalm 137

Don Ruhl • Savage Street, Grants Pass, Oregon • October 14, In the year of our Lord Christ, 2018


  1. Babylon has already attacked Judah and Jerusalem.
    1. The Babylonians have carried away most of the survivors to Babylon.
    2. While there, some Babylonians,
      1. whether out of mockery or curiosity,
      2. ask the Jews to sing one of their songs.
  2. However, as the Jews sat in Babylon,
    1. they asked how they could sing one of the songs of Zion,
    2. one of the songs celebrating it,
      1. when their beloved city had been crushed in war.
      2. Listen as the psalmist longs for Jerusalem.


  1. Psalm 137.1–2 | Remembering the Past

    1 By the rivers of Babylon,
    There we sat down, yea, we wept
    When we remembered Zion.
    2 We hung our harps
    Upon the willows in the midst of it.

    1. As they sat by the rivers of their captors,
      1. they wept when they remembered their precious city.
      2. They wept because they were not there, yet,
        1. they knew why they were not there.
        2. The Lord had kept His promise
          1. that if they refused to repent of their sin,
          2. He would punish them in multiple ways, but
            1. if all those ways did not turn them,
            2. He would send a horrible army against them,
              1. to destroy their city and their temple and
              2. they would be captors again,
                1. as their forefathers were in Egypt.
                2. They broke their promise to obey the Lord and
                  1. He kept His promise to send them into captivity.
    2. Therefore, they had no heart for singing and for playing their harps.
      1. Would you?
      2. As Solomon said,

        20 Like one who takes away a garment in cold weather,
        And like vinegar on soda,
        Is one who sings songs to a heavy heart.
        (Proverbs 25.20)
      3. Ecclesiastes 3 also says there is

        4 A time to weep,
        And a time to laugh;
        A time to mourn,
        And a time to dance…
        (Ecclesiastes 3.4)
    3. Then the poet explained himself.
  2. Psalm 137.3–4 | How Can You Sing When You Are Sad?

    3 For there those who carried us away captive asked of us a song,
    And those who plundered us requested mirth,
    Saying, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
    4 How shall we sing the LORD’S song
    In a foreign land?

    1. What the Babylonians asked of the Jews is not all that surprising.
      1. In 1993, when 13 of us went to Murmansk, Russia,
      2. we all gathered one day at the home of a public school teacher.
        1. Just as many teachers were there as there were of us.
        2. Do you know what they did that shocked all of us?
          1. They asked us to sing America the Beautiful.
          2. Which we did gladly, because we were not captives there.
            1. By the way, if they had come here,
            2. what Russian song would we ask them to sing?
    2. What if we in the church had sinned against God without ceasing.
      1. Finally, He sent our enemies against us,
      2. right here while we are worshiping, and
        1. they killed 75% of us and
        2. the rest of us who survive they take to Afghanistan.
          1. While there the Taliban and Al Qaeda ask us to sing—
          2. the most popular song in the Churches of Christ,
            1. according to a recent poll—
            2. Our God, He Is Alive!
              1. Think of how spirited and bold and happy that song is.
              2. Would you be able to sing it?
    3. The psalmist built his whole Psalm on that request of the Babylonians.
      1. Surely you can understand the question of the Jews?
      2. If I have to sing, let it be a sad song, not a triumphant one.
    4. Then the psalmist spoke of just how much Jerusalem meant to him.
  3. Psalm 137.5–6 | Remember and Exalt Jerusalem

    5 If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
    Let my right hand forget its skill!
    6 If I do not remember you,
    Let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth—
    If I do not exalt Jerusalem
    Above my chief joy.

    1. Not wanting to sing a joyous song of Zion
      1. did not mean that they wanted to forget Jerusalem, Zion, but
      2. they remembered her so much it would break their hearts to sing.
    2. So the psalmist, speaking for all the Jews in captivity,
      1. made this vow
      2. that they would not forget Jerusalem.
    3. If they did forget their beloved city,
      1. they declared that their right hands should forget its skill, and
      2. that their tongues would cling to the roof of their mouths in extreme thirst.
    4. They wanted to exalt her above their highest joy.
      1. Nothing on earth meant more to them than Jerusalem.
      2. It was their life.
    5. Just as they wanted to remember Jerusalem,
      1. they wanted God to remember Edom, for
      2. they had enjoyed seeing the Babylonians destroy Jerusalem.
  4. Psalm 137.7 | Ask God

    7 Remember, O LORD, against the sons of Edom
    The day of Jerusalem,
    Who said, “Raze it, raze it,
    To its very foundation!”

    1. While the psalmist seems to acknowledge or at least accept
      1. their captivity for their sin,
      2. the psalmist did not accept what its brother, Edom, did.
        1. When Babylon attacked Judah and Jerusalem,
        2. the sons of Edom, hence the nation of Edom,
          1. encouraged Babylon to level Jerusalem to its foundation.
          2. Edom took advantage and did things they should not have done.
    2. However, was Edom without sin?
      1. He who is without sin, let him throw the first stone.
      2. Yet, Edom no longer exists because they sinned worse than Israel.
    3. Therefore, the Lord did hear the call of the psalmist to remember Edom.
      1. The Lord had Obadiah write his Book for the very reason revealed here,
      2. that Edom would reap as they had sown.

        10 “For violence against your brother Jacob,
        Shame shall cover you,
        And you shall be cut off forever.
        11 In the day that you stood on the other side—
        In the day that strangers carried captive his forces,
        When foreigners entered his gates
        And cast lots for Jerusalem—
        Even you were as one of them.
        12 But you should not have gazed on the day of your brother
        In the day of his captivity;
        Nor should you have rejoiced over the children of Judah
        In the day of their destruction;
        Nor should you have spoken proudly
        In the day of distress.
        13 You should not have entered the gate of My people
        In the day of their calamity.
        Indeed, you should not have gazed on their affliction
        In the day of their calamity,
        Nor laid hands on their substance
        In the day of their calamity.
        14 You should not have stood at the crossroads
        To cut off those among them who escaped;
        Nor should you have delivered up those among them who remained
        In the day of distress.
        15 For the day of the LORD upon all the nations is near;
        As you have done, it shall be done to you;
        Your reprisal shall return upon your own head.
        16 For as you drank on My holy mountain,
        So shall all the nations drink continually;
        Yes, they shall drink, and swallow,
        And they shall be as though they had never been.
        (Obadiah 10–16)
      3. The Lord also spoke through Amos:

        11 Thus says the LORD:
        “For three transgressions of Edom, and for four,
        I will not turn away its punishment,
        Because he pursued his brother with the sword,
        And cast off all pity;
        His anger tore perpetually,
        And he kept his wrath forever.”
        (Amos 1.11)
      4. And again through Isaiah:

        5 “For My sword shall be bathed in heaven;
        Indeed it shall come down on Edom,
        And on the people of My curse, for judgment.
        6 The sword of the LORD is filled with blood,
        It is made overflowing with fatness,
        With the blood of lambs and goats,
        With the fat of the kidneys of rams.
        For the LORD has a sacrifice in Bozrah,
        And a great slaughter in the land of Edom.
        7 The wild oxen shall come down with them,
        And the young bulls with the mighty bulls;
        Their land shall be soaked with blood,
        And their dust saturated with fatness.”
        (Isaiah 34.5–7)
    4. And so it happened to Edom.
      1. May every nation of the earth
      2. who fights against the church hear what the Scriptures declare!
  5. Psalm 137.8–9 | Reap As You Have Sown

    8 O daughter of Babylon, who are to be destroyed,
    Happy the one who repays you as you have served us!
    9 Happy the one who takes and dashes
    Your little ones against the rock!

    1. Babylon did what the Lord wanted them to do, but
      1. they went too far.
      2. Babylon was a worse sinner than Jerusalem.
        1. This is the point of the Book of Habakkuk.
    2. Babylon had not only terrorized Judah, but
      1. all the other nations around.
      2. Therefore, as the Lord said to Habakkuk,
        1. Babylon would pay for its sin.
        2. God would use the Medes and Persians to do it and
          1. later the Greeks would finish the destruction
          2. of the once great Babylon.
    3. And the ones who would destroy Babylon would do it gladly.
      1. They would be happy repaying Babylon
        1. for what they had done to Judah and the surrounding nations.
          1. They would be happy to take the babies in Babylon and
          2. dash them against the rock.
        2. That is what Babylon had done to Jerusalem’s children.
      2. Nations reap as they have sown.
    4. Jeremiah revealed the promise of the Lord,

      24 “And I will repay Babylon
      And all the inhabitants of Chaldea
      For all the evil they have done
      In Zion in your sight,” says the LORD.
      (Jeremiah 51.24)
    5. And again in Isaiah:

      15 Everyone who is found will be thrust through,
      And everyone who is captured will fall by the sword.
      16 Their children also will be dashed to pieces before their eyes;
      Their houses will be plundered
      And their wives ravished.
      (Isaiah 13.15–16)
    6. Again may the nations of the West hear what happened to Israel’s enemies.
      1. May the nations of the West not make the same mistake with the church.


  1. Here is what we need to get.
  2. Hebrews 12 shows what the Lord considers Zion or Jerusalem now.
    1. I had the Scripture reading earlier taken from Hebrews 12.12–17
    2. as a run up to what I want to read now:

      18 For you have not come to the mountain that may be touched and that burned with fire, and to blackness and darkness and tempest, 19 and the sound of a trumpet and the voice of words, so that those who heard it begged that the word should not be spoken to them anymore. 20 (For they could not endure what was commanded: “And if so much as a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned or shot with an arrow.” 21 And so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I am exceedingly afraid and trembling.”) 22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, 23 to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, 24 to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel (Hebrews 12.18–24).
  3. That being true,
    1. what shall happen to us if we forget the church?
    2. What shall happen to us if we do not exalt the church above our chief joy?
  4. As Jesus taught:

    33 “But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added to you” (Matthew 6.33).
  5. And what shall happen to those who try to silence the church?
  6. Exalt the church above your chief joy.
    1. The Lord will take care of your life from there.
    2. That means exalting Him as the Lord of heaven and earth, and
      1. as Lord of your entire life.
      2. Are you ready to confess the Lordship of Jesus today?
      3. Are you ready to show it?