How Not To Act in Exile
How Not To Act In Exile
Psa. 137:2 On the willows there
we hung up our harps.
Psa. 137:3 For there our captors
asked us for songs,
and our tormentors asked for mirth, saying,
“Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
The children of Israel were living in exile and as they journeyed their captors asked them to sing their songs of Zion. There was no joy in their hearts and they had no desire to perform for those who had taken them into captivity. In public protest they took their harps and hung them on the willow trees. The harps were not hidden away under bushes but hung up for all to see. The had lost their songs. Their joy was gone. But sadly, as they refused to sing for their captors, so they refused to sing to God.
Just yesterday my friend, Kathy Mowry mentioned this scripture as she spoke about the church in exile. I had written a blog post on this this last fall but now I wanted to go back and think about these verses again. We are living in a time in which people are describing the place of the church as being in exile. If this is true, then there are things which we need to learn from the Israelites, both good and bad.
There are those who would say that the church is under attack and that we need to be on defense. But defense is what the Israelites did, and I would argue that we are to be focused on offense. In the midst of cultural change, it is God who remains the same and who should be the focus of all we do. This is not the time to just give up in frustration. It's not a time to stop praising the Lord or to stop going to church. If we do, we will be reacting just as the Israelites, hanging up our harps in protest and hoping someone notices that we're not using them.
The major problem for the Israelites was that they saw playing their harps as performing for their captors. However, their music should never have become a performance for anyone, but should have always been a way of worship before God. In hanging up their harps they were really demonstrating what was happening in their hearts. They made their captivity and the despair they felt all about them and not about God. They were sad to no longer be in Zion. They were sad to be held by the captives. They were miserable!
As my friend Kathy said yesterday, we have found ourselves in "Oz." Nothing looks like "Kansas" anymore. The church finds herself in exile and hungering to go home.
But the exile for the Israelites had been of their own doing.
Had they always been playing their harps and singing to worship God, they would have remained faithful to him. This exile was really to save them as a people. It became a wake-up call to their infidelity. The best thing they could have done was to keep on praising and worshipping God.
The Israelites were to have been an evangelistic people. By hanging up their harps they gave in to their despair. Had they sung, they may have led some of their captors into worshipping God. Their act of hanging up their harps, while couched in the language of despair, actually was selfish. It reflected their personal frustration and also withheld the beauty of the worship of God from those whom it may have transformed.
If we find ourselves in exile, let's grab our harps and keep on singing praises to our God. Our focus should always be on him and never on ourselves or even the circumstances that surround us. God is to be praised. He is lifted to be lifted up and we can serve as an evangelistic voice in a foreign land, and the exile may again become the cure for God's people.
Lord, please help me to sing out my song for you! Amen.