Psalm 137 is among the saddest and most difficult of Psalms. It is written around 580 BC; Jerusalem has been sacked by the Babylonians; the Hebrew people have been deported from their land, and are enslaved in Babylon. This Psalm captures both the heartbreak of captivity and loss, and the hope that the Babylonians will experience the same suffering they have inflicted upon others – a hope expressed in the most chilling of images.
God, in the words and deeds of Jesus, reminds us that there is a light of hope in our deepest darkness, and that true freedom comes not with revenge, but with forgiveness.
By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion.
There on the poplars
we hung our harps,
for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
How can we sing the songs of the Lord
while in a foreign land?
If I forget you, Jerusalem,
may my right hand forget its skill.
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.
Remember, Lord, what the Edomites did
on the day Jerusalem fell.
“Tear it down,” they cried,
“tear it down to its foundations!”
Daughter Babylon, doomed to destruction, happy is the one who repays you according to what you have done to us.
Happy is the one who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.
There are times when our difficulties overwhelm us, When it seems as though there is only sadness and struggle ahead, when anger and resentment fill our hearts.
Remind us, Lord, that in you, our hope is never gone.
That your steadfast love endures forever.
That songs will again fill our hearts.
Fill us with the release of forgiveness, And draw us ever closer to you, we pray.