Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Singing in a pagan land

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TODAY’S SPECIAL: Job 8-11; Psalm 137

“But how can we sing the songs of the LORD
While in a pagan land?” Psalm 137:4 NLT

This psalm is heavy with homesickness. What a poignant picture it paints of captives, urged by their captors to provide entertainment with their joyous songs of religious celebration, refusing to sing. Instead they hung their harps on the trees that lined the rivers and irrigation canals of Babylon.

The songs the Babylonians asked them to sing were for religious purposes, not entertainment. These reminders of Yahweh’s greatness and goodness were meant to be the the accompaniment on their happy journeys to the Jerusalem and part of the feasts. 

There might also have been undertones of of mockery and gloating in the Babylonian requests. Many of these songs praised Zion (Jerusalem) as an exalted, beautiful, glorious place. Jerusalem had, at this point, been conquered and no longer existed in its former beauty and glory.

And so this psalm asks the rhetorical question:
“How can we sing the songs of the LORD
While in a pagan land

The implied answer: we can’t!

This psalm resonates with me not only because I can relate to its feelings of homesickness, but also its spiritual alienation.

We modern disciples of Jesus also live in a pagan land where the dominant culture is against much of what we stand for (and drifting farther from its Judeo-Christian roots all the time). We too might ask: “How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a pagan land?”

I would submit, though, that that doesn’t need to silence us. For we can also live in the reality of who we are in Christ and embrace right now, the life of the Kingdom of Heaven (where pagan values are turned on their heads: the first are last, the last first, the poor are rich, we give to get, forgive seventy times seven, and deny ourselves, take up our crosses and follow Jesus, but know that this is not the end - John 14:1-3).

 And so we take down those harps, dust off those keyboards and guitars, and tune our voices because by faith we are exiles no more but pilgrims, passing through this life to our real home (1 Peter 2:11-12).

PRAYER: Dear Father, help me to live as a citizen of the Kingdom of God while I also live in my life as a pilgrim and stranger here on earth. Amen.

PSALM TO PRAY: Psalm 137

Unless otherwise noted all Scripture quotations are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Scriptures marked NLT are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved. 

Thanks for reading! This year we are using The Bible Project "Timeless Reading Plan" to read through the Bible in 2018. If you'd like to read along in your own Bible, you can download a pdf of the reading plan HERE.

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