In the contemporary society Christians are faced with the genuine question of how to live their lives and values in the marketplace, a place where the same values are challenged.
This was a similar concern to the exiles from the nation of Israel (after 586BC) when the temple was destroyed, the city of Jerusalem ruined and they had been taken away from the Promised Land to the land of Babylon.
While in a pagan country of Babylon, the people of God found it difficult to practice their faith because their identity which had been intertwined with the temple, Promised Land and the city of Jerusalem was now lost. In tears they remembered Zion and how their enemies rejoiced over their downfall.
Text: Psalms 137 (NIV)
1By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. 2 There on the poplars we hung our harps, 3 for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!” 4 How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land? 5 If I forget you, O Jerusalem, may my right hand forget [its skill]. 6 May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not consider Jerusalem my highest joy. 7 Remember, O Lord, what the Edomites did on the day Jerusalem fell.”Tear it down,” they cried, “tear it down to its foundations!” 8 O Daughter of Babylon, doomed to destruction, happy is he who repays you for what you have done to us 9 he who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.
Like the exiles, Christians today live in a world that is similarly an exile (Jn. 15:17; 17:14). This world is a strange land. Strange in the sense that our faith is questioned, our values ridiculed, and our way of life labeled absurd. But while in this world how can we sing the Lord’s song/how can we declare the Excellencies of God. Here are some few possible ways.
We can declare God’s Excellencies (in a strange land) with our:
- Skills, gifts and profession (V. 5) – God has gifted us with different skill, talents, professions, and gifts. He expects us to use it for the glorification of his name. The exiles, through their musical skill in singing and playing musical instruments, had an awesome opportunity to witness God’s goodness to their captors. But they “hung their harps” on the poplars.
Every believer has been blessed with talents and spiritual gift(s), to both edify the church and declare God’s praises among the nations. Gladly, these gifts, talents, profession and abilities puts us in diverse and unique contexts that we can turn into opportunities of displaying the excellencies of God in how we do things. Remember your profession is your pulpit and your place of work is your battlefield.
We can make our gifts, talents and careers tools for service and not idols of worship or means of selfish gains. For God has made it possible that what we do can also be done for the magnification of his name, (Col. 3:17).
- Lips– The exiles had a good opportunity to declare with their mouths the goodness and the glory of YHWH. Metaphorically, in the strange, my tongue should not “cling to the roof of my mouth” (v6). We declare what we uphold as noble, praiseworthy and lovely. Our identity as children of God comes with a responsibility to make Him known to the nations. Therefore having tasted of the goodness of the Lord, we ought invite others to come to the living waters where they can eat and drink without money and without cost (Isa. 55:1-2).
We definitely have a story to tell. The story of God’s unconditional love upon us; stories of how our lives have been changed by the gospel. We certainly have a story of God’s goodness ,upon our lives, written by God’s ink of faithfulness. We should not commit the sin of silence. Jeremiah confessed that God’s word in him burned like fire, (Jer. 20:9) that he couldn’t remain silent. Like David we need to constantly pray to God and say, “O, Lord, open my lips, and my mouth will declare your praise” (Ps. 51:15).
- Singing– I understand many of us, including me, are not gifted singers. But God calls each creature to sing praises to Him. There is something about singing that connects to every heart. Israel’s captors enjoyed the songs of Zion and so they demanded, “sing us one of the songs of Zion”.
Although the songs of Zion were meant to be sang to the Lord Almighty alone (and not men) and in Jerusalem, the exiles should have seized the opportunity to let their tormentors hear the theology/teachings of their songs. From time to time God will put a new song in your mouth, don’t hesitate to sing it out for the world know!
- Lives– We have an opportunity to make our lives a testament/demonstration that God is alive and actively involved in human story. The four young men in Daniel 1, who were part of the exiles, were determined to declare the faithfulness of God in how they live in a foreign land. Nebuchadnezzar could not even alter their life-values. What is the hope of humanity, that is blinded by Satan, if they cannot see God in us?Living for God wherever we are or wherever we go has been made possible by the indwelling power of Holy Spirit in us.
Our day-day lives present us with tremendous opportunities to demonstrate that God’s values are livable.
8 thoughts on “How can we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?”
Thank you for the great teachings. God bless you
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