The Wild Places Bible Guide – 17
April 2, 2019
Tuesday, April 2
Psalm 137 (CEB)
137 Alongside Babylon’s streams,
there we sat down,
crying because we remembered Zion.
2 We hung our lyres up
in the trees there
3 because that’s where our captors asked us to sing;
our tormentors requested songs of joy:
“Sing us a song about Zion!” they said.
4 But how could we possibly sing
the Lord’s song on foreign soil?
5 Jerusalem! If I forget you,
let my strong hand wither!
6 Let my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth
if I don’t remember you,
if I don’t make Jerusalem my greatest joy.
7 Lord, remember what the Edomites did
on Jerusalem’s dark day:
“Rip it down, rip it down!
All the way to its foundations!” they yelled.
8 Daughter Babylon, you destroyer,
a blessing on the one who pays you back
the very deed you did to us!
9 A blessing on the one who seizes your children
and smashes them against the rock!
Points of Interest
- The psalm takes us from the burning ashes of Jerusalem to captivity in Babylon. We’re invited to picture the branches on which the stringed instruments hang, un-played, while the exiles weep by the riverside.
- The captors’ request for Zion-songs reminds me of the USA’s complicated, ugly history with minstrel shows and blackface, and white appropriation of African and Black-created music. Violence and oppression is bad enough; to pile exploitation and mockery atop it is utterly enraging.
- But the psalmist finds strength, even if it is strength that in its lust for vengeance makes us uncomfortable. I’m reminded of two different things, one about the Bible and the other about human nature.
Bible scholar Pete Enns reminds us that God lets God’s children tell the story. The Bible can reveal God to us, but it also serves to reveal ourselves to us. The psalms are a model of whole-hearted, gut-engaged prayer more than they are a series of moral lessons or teachings about the nature of God. There’s no prayer they censor – even prayers of rage and vengeance.
- Secondly, as a therapist once told me, angry is often better than sad. Anger isn’t the greatest landing place, but as a stage of reaction to wild places, it keeps our dignity and our agency intact, and leaves us with options of what to do with our anger – act or wait, engage or walk away, reconcile or cut ties. The point is that we still have choices. Watch out for adults who are upset when they don’t precisely get their way. There’s always emotional unhealth or abuse of power or both behind that.
A Direction for Prayer
Pray for any friends and family who have suffered harm, that they would have the freedom to feel and express their anger, knowing God sees and hears.
Spiritual Exercise of the Week
Words of Doubt or Lament – Too often we don’t express to God our questions, our doubt, and our anger. This week, though, we still remember the wild places of exile – loss, grief, disappointment, out of control seasons, anxiety born of change. Whatever challenges you’re facing, speak out loud to God, or write in your own mini-psalm, your questions, doubt, or anger. When you’ve said or written what you have for today, sit in silence for a moment, and see if you sense or feel anything from God.