Singing Songs in a Foreign Land

We finished dinner last night, read the last half of Romans 1, and then had a brief discussion about the state of the world we live in. Dark! And then, as we prayed, we asked that we might be light . . . and be bold to remain as light, anticipating that, more and more, in the name of tolerance and inclusiveness, our “religious views” will be less and less tolerated. Surely we live in a foreign land.

By the waters of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion. On the willows there we hung up our lyres. For there our captors required of us songs, and our tormentors, mirth, saying, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!” How shall we sing the LORD’s song in a foreign land?    (Psalm 137:1-4 ESV)

The question arrested me as I read it this morning . . . “How shall we sing the LORD’s song in a foreign land?” But isn’t that precisely what we’re called to do?

In Psalm 137, the songwriter kind of acts as a foreign correspondent . . . “reporting on location in Babylon.” And we see those who would look longingly towards Jerusalem, seeking not to forget Zion. Though, that is what had led to their downfall in the first place. They had grown complacent with the things of their holy God . . . they had desired more and more to be like the nations around them . . . eventually conceding to their values . . . and setting their hearts towards seeking their gods. Their foreign land experience was simply a physical indicator of where their hearts had already been for generations. The physical barrenness around them a reflection of the spiritual desert within.

And so, like the prodigal eating husks in the muck, they sat and wept by the waters of Babylon, and they looked longingly towards Zion. And as their captors mocked them with requests for some of those “good old tunes from the good old days,” you sense their longing for home, their desire to see again the glory of God, as they mused, “How shall we sing the LORD’s song in a foreign land?”

And while I might relate to their “foreign landed-ness” . . . that really is where the comparison stops. Unlike those bound in Babylon, far from being held captive by the enemy, the people of God today are those who have been set free. We are those who have been rescued out of Babylon. Rescued not because we deserved it or were any better than anybody else, but rescued through God’s unmerited favor. The Father having sent the Son to conquer sin and death and set captives free. The Spirit having wooed us to the Savior, giving us ears to hear and eyes to see. And by faith, we believed . . . and were set free. And, though we wait to be taken to a city not built with hands, whose designer and builder is God, for now we have been left to live in a foreign land so that, through us, more may be rescued.

We may be in a foreign land, but we live in the context of a coming kingdom. And so, as we sit by the waters of this world longing to be home, how shall we sing the LORD’s song? With gusto! At the top of our lungs! With hope and anticipation wrought through the risen life of Christ. With joy and confidence fueled by the indwelling presence of God’s Spirit. That’s how!

We sing the songs of light amidst a world of darkness. We sing the songs of the redeemed . . . exalting the Redeemer . . . and informing those in need of like redemption. We sing the songs of glory! Not the glory of ourselves which is turning to dust . . . not the glory of this world which really knows nothing of glory at all . . . but songs of the glory of God . . . that glory come down in His Son . . . that glory which we will, one day soon, behold face to face!

If anyone should be singing songs in a foreign land, it should be God’s people.

O’ that God would keep us from embracing the world and falling into a captivity which we need not know. But that we would be ever mindful that this world is not our home . . . and keep singing songs of Zion in this foreign land.

By His grace . . . all for His glory!

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