Jump Start # 2552
Psalms 137:1 “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down and wept.”
Our verse today begins very sadly. I thought it was fitting for the times we are having. I haven’t been to the stores in a while. I’ve heard all the horror stories, so I went. A Monday morning, usually not too crowd. Not this day. It was packed. And what I had heard I saw. Very little meat, long, long shelves where toilet paper and paper towers once were lined, empty. Laundry detergent gone. Long lines at the checkout. Weary store employees. People wearing masks. And, for most of us, we’d wish things just got back to normal. We wonder how long it will take to get to normal. And, we begin to wonder, if the new normal will look a lot differently than what we were used to.
The passage for today is one of the last Psalms. The book of Psalms covers a huge segment of Biblical history. There was one written by Moses. Then, centuries later, David wrote several. Now, we come to the time period of the Babylonian captivity, in the 500 B.C. range. The people of God were in exile. Babylon came as the prophets warned. The walls came down. The temple was robbed and burned. Many were killed. Many were carted off to Babylon. For seventy years, the people of God would be in captivity.
While the exiles were in Babylon, their hearts remained in Jerusalem. As our verse begins, they sat down and wept. The next verse says that they hung their harps up. The Babylonians wanted to hear some of their songs, but Judah just couldn’t. They couldn’t sing while in a foreign land. They never wanted to forget Jerusalem, but they just didn’t have the heart to sing.
Getting out of our routine, redefining what is normal can do that, even to us today. Many of us worshipped in our homes Sunday. We weren’t sick. There was no snow on the ground. But because of caution and love for our neighbors, and doing our part in trying to stop the spread of this virus, we worshipped at home. It was different. Now, the concern is, how much longer do we have to do this? Will this be the new norm for the next few weeks?
From this, some thoughts:
First, it sure makes us realize what a blessing worshipping together is. Singing in our homes is just not the same as being with each other. There is a joy and a benefit of gathering together. God understands this. Fellowship is a powerful instrument to our encouragement. We need each other. It sure makes us miss each other.
Second, life is constantly changing. People must adjust. What is norm, changes. Take a family of mom, dad and the kids. When the last child moves out for good, the norm changes. Empty nesters. When my youngest got ready to move out for good, he sat down and asked me if I was going to be ok. He said, “You’ve had kids in the house for a long time.” I told him, my greatest fear was that the truth was about to be known. Always when my wife would ask me about who left a dirty dish out, or who did this, I could say, “It was one of the boys. “ It was. Now she will know which boy it was. It was me. I ran into a person just today who looked so sad. Her husband died a few months ago. She was having to deal with a new norm in her life. Things would not go back to the way they used to be.
For some congregations, in the time of adjustments and changes, they may find a new norm that works better for them with scheduling and teaching. We may want things to return to how they once were, but the truth is, they may not.
Third, our thoughts for ancient Judah is that they should have prayed, sang and worshipped God in Babylon. They missed an opportunity to show their captors what true worship and the true God is like. Feeling sad. Feeling disappointed. Feeling discouraged. Wishing things were different never excuses us from honoring God. God was still with them. God hadn’t changed. The world around us is changing. Life changes. People change. But God doesn’t. Maybe singing some of their old hymns would have lifted their spirits. Maybe it would have dried their eyes. Maybe it would have put some hope back in their lives. Maybe it will do the same for us.
Sometimes the last thing we feel like doing is often the best thing that we can do. Don’t feel like going to worship, usually is the best thing you can do. Don’t feel like opening up the Bible today, usually is the best thing that you can do. Don’t feel like helping someone out, can be the best thing you do.
Fourth, the one place that won’t change is Heaven. There are no external elements to bring change. There is no internal trouble that would lead to change. Heaven is eternal and unchangeable, like the God who dwells there. Heaven takes on the characteristics of God. Pure. Holy. Righteous. Clean. Beautiful. Wonderful. And, unchanging.
What’s the next few days and weeks going to look like? It will be different. We may not like the changes. The changes may last a while. But, the changes do not have to change us. By the rivers of Babylon, you and I can sing. We must sing. We shall sing. It’s the right thing to do. It will lift our spirits, honor our God and remind us of what is really important in life.
Hang in there…and keep singing.