In 1970, Brent Dowe and Trevor McNaughton of the group The Melodians wrote a song called “The Rivers of Babylon”. The lyrics of this famous song were adapted from our focus text this week, Psalm 137. It was only eight years later (1978) that this song was popularized by the German based disco band Boney M. This song was so popular that it sold more than 1.9 million copies in the United Kingdom alone! Needless to say, the song was awarded a platinum disk and is to this day one of the all time, top ten best selling singles in the UK.
Today, millions of people around the world still know the lyrics and would sing along to the catchy tune when it plays on the radio. Little do they realise that the lyrics are taken form one of the most emotionally laden pieces of scripture we will find anywhere in the Bible. The writer of this Psalm is so aggressive that he ends the lament with these devastating words: “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 (babies) and dashes them against the rocks.” Goodness!! This must be two of the most disturbing verses in the Bible. I’ve heard of many Bible readers who were amazed to see such texts in the Bible. Surely it cannot be right.
Some context helps us to understand. This Psalm reveals the sufferings and sentiments of someone who had a firsthand experience of the grievous days of the conquest and destruction of Jerusalem in the year 586 B.C. The writer clearly shared the burden of Babylonian captivity and has now returned to his homeland. He is a witness to the city of Jerusalem that still lies in ruins and vents with passionate intensity the feeling in his heart. He is so furious with the Babylonians who ruined their holy city, that he bestows this devastating wish upon them.
At times I see Christian people who believe that it is important to act like everything is okay when it is not. Somewhere we got the idea that being a good Christian means that we must smile a lot, always be really nice, that we never go through really difficult times and if we do we must pretend that we are fine and okay with everything. But the truth is, everybody sits next to their own “River of Babylon” at times. Something that makes you feel so hopeless that you “can’t sing the Lord’s song” anymore. It could be financial pressure, living with HIV, a failed marriage, troubled family relationships etc. In times like that, instead of pretending that everything is fine, why not try pouring out your heart to God and just be honest with him just as the Psalmist did here. You can tell him anything. Even if you are as outraged as the writer of this Psalm! You will be surprised at the load off your shoulders when you just open your heart to God.
To think about: What would it be like if I really opened my heart up to God, even just this once?
Written By:Wynand du Preez, Reverend, Parkkruin Family Church