1 Kings 20:1‐21:29; Acts 12:24‐13:15; Psalm 137:1‐9; Proverbs 17:16
Songs of Joy from the Depths
The wonderful thing about the Psalms is their earthiness. Many psalms find us praising God at the footstool of His throne. Yet sometimes we are not there. Sometimes we have to relate to God when we are in the depths, the dark night of the soul.
To the Israelite, Babylon was the Devil’s hell itself. There came a point in Israel’s history when Babylon destroyed Jerusalem to the foundation stones. Israel was utterly destroyed. The cries of the Babylonians rang out, “Tear it down! Down to its foundation!” (v.7, NRSV).
The people were victims of the most horrible atrocities beyond even the scope of Nazi Germany. This psalm is sung in a Babylonian concentration camp. The captors were tormenting, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!” (v.3). We really have no ability to comprehend the total and complete humiliation they experienced. It was living hell. The psalmist cries in desperation, “How could we sing the Lord’s song while in a foreign land?” (v.4, NRSV). Was hope lost?
Yet somewhere in that darkness the psalmist finds a ray of hope. He curses his own weakness and lack of trust. “If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand wither! Let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth, if I do not set Jerusalem above my highest joy” (v.5-6, NRSV).
Some day you may find yourself in a dark night of the soul. In the midst of the mockeries and scorn, desperately hold on to the hope of heaven. Think about what it will be like at home in the heavenly realms with the Lord. The thought of heaven should always be able to bring a glimmer of hope in the blackest night.
Prayer: Lord, I often wonder how I can cry out to you in song when I am in the midst of my distress. May you grant me a vision of what it will be like to be at home in your Kingdom. Fill me with the joy of your salvation.
The Rev. Charlie Holt
The Church of St. John the Divine