‘How could we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?’ (Ps. 137:4)
The Jews cried these words while they were being deported to Babylon. They had just witnessed their army being defeated, their Temple being destroyed, and God’s city being sacked. On their long march to Babylon, they worried about whether they would be able to sing God’s praises as exiles in that foreign land.
I decided to use this scripture for a bible study at the jail during Thanksgiving week. I chose it because the men in that cell shared some things in common with those deported Jews. They were, in effect, exiled from home, their families, and freedom.
After reading Psalm 137, I gave the context and background. I then asked them what these words could be saying to them.
One guy said, “Even though I’m here because I did wrong, and even though I miss my family and home, I still thank God. I’m alive. I’m loved. I’ve got a place to go when I leave. And besides all that, GOD IS GOD!”
The Jews were exiled to Babylon. The prisoners were exiled from their regular lives. And they aren’t the only ones who experience exile.
Some people are exiled from home, even with a house to live in. Some are exiled from love, even while living with someone else. Some are exiled from meaningful work, even when they are gainfully employed. Some are exiled from their faith and don’t know how to find it again.
Which means that the question the Jews asked—How can we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land? —is one that many people have.
After that one man had said he could still sing the Lord’s praises, even from jail, the other men poured out a torrent of thanksgivings.
Walking back to my office that day, I had this thought: If those guys can generate all that praise and gratitude from a prison cell, how come I’m not singing the Lord’s praises with even more fervor and frequency?
I encourage us to remember that singing the Lord’s song isn’t dependent on where we are, but where God is—right with us. Because all lands belong to the Lord, there’s no foreign land. Because we belong to the Lord, there’s finally no exile because when we’re with the Lord we’re home.
- When have you ever felt exiled in your own life? A long way from home and safety? A time when you wondered if you could still sing the Lord’s praises?
- Are you in any way exiled now? Exiled from hope or meaning or love or purpose? If so, what were the circumstances that led you to be there?
- The Jews discovered that they could indeed sing the Lord’s praises even as exiles in a foreign land. What would it take for you to know and claim the same?