SWEET REMEMBRANCE OF CAPTIVITY
Now we have another wonderful Psalm, Psalm 137, one which we should never forget. This is a Psalm regarding the remembrance of the experience of desolation, the remembrance of the experience of captivity. What I am about to say may sound strange to you, but please try to understand me. We must believe that our Lord is really sovereign. Since He is sovereign, if He had never allowed us to be captured, we could never be captured. Though we had attempted to be led into captivity, unless He had allowed it, it could not have been accomplished. He is sovereign, and all His people were brought into captivity. So many of us have had the same experience as the Psalmist in Psalm 137. But we can even praise the Lord that we have been captured! In eternity, when we recall how we failed the Lord so miserably, how we were captured, and how the Lord eventually brought us back, the remembrance will be sweet. Do you not agree with me? When the captives of old returned, when they were enjoying the Lord together in His house, they reminisced concerning their time in captivity: “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion” (v. 1). This kind of remembrance is so sweet. Though the Lord allowed us to be captured, it was for our ultimate enjoyment. Many times when I have spoken concerning my experience in Christianity, I have bowed and worshipped the Lord and told Him, “Lord, without that experience I could never have realized how sweet your house is.” If we have never fallen and been brought back, we have never tasted the sweetness of the Lord’s mercy in restoring us. Even that kind of failure and captivity is sovereignly a part of the Lord’s own economy. Just recall all your experiences throughout the past two years, and you will taste something of this sweetness.
Let us read this Psalm. It shows how much Zion and Jerusalem were to the captives. I am much inferior to the Psalmist; I could not utter anything better than he did—it is really poetic. “By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.” Zion was in the remembrance of the captives. When they remembered Zion, the tears flowed. There they were at some other rivers; they were not drinking at the river of the house of God, the river which makes glad the city of God. They were sitting by the rivers of captivity, and when they remembered Zion, they wept. “We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof” (v. 2). We went on strike. We shut our mouths. This was prison; this was not the place for us to worship. How meaningful! To sing praises to the Lord requires a certain place. How can we sing praises to the Lord in Babylon? We cannot play our harps in Babylon. The only thing we can do in Babylon is weep. How significant! “For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and our tormentors required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion” (v. 3). To sing one of the songs of Zion in Babylon would be a real shame to the Lord. So the saints said, “How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?” (v. 4). It is really good! I could never utter anything better than this.
Verses 5 and 6: “If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her skill. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth; if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy.” The Psalmist was saying, “If I would not strike, let my tongue and my hands strike. If I would not hang up my harp, let my tongue and my right hand be hung up. Jerusalem is not only my chief joy, but better than my chief joy. It is something which is better than the best.”
Psalm 137 is the sweet remembrance of the sorrowful experience of captivity. When we are in eternity, we will never forget all those experiences of Babylon.
Verse 7: “Remember, O Lord, against the children of Edom, the day of Jerusalem; who said, Rase it, rase it, even to the foundation thereof.” This is poetry, but according to the present situation, the principle is exactly the same. You simply do not know how much some of the so-called Christians (I do not say the unbelievers) hate the church life today. They hate the recovery of the local church. If the church in Los Angeles would close today, so many would clap their hands. Their desire is expressed in the words, “Rase it, rase it, even to the foundations thereof! Get rid of the whole thing.”
Verse 8: “O daughter of Babylon, who art to be destroyed; happy shall he be, that rendereth unto thee as thou hast meted out to us.” In the book of Revelation we read of the rejoicing that occurs when Babylon is fallen: “And he cried mightily with a strong voice, saying, Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen” (Rev. 18:2). “And again they said, Hallelujah. And her smoke rose up for ever and ever” (Rev. 19:3). “Happy shall he be, that rendereth unto thee as thou hast meted out to us.” This is the vengeance of God. Time will vindicate His word. The enemy of Jerusalem is to be punished and Babylon is to be destroyed. Babylon will fall, but Jerusalem will stand forever. Regardless of how much the haters say of Jerusalem, “Rase it, rase it,” we and God are saying, “Build it! Build it!” Eventually Babylon will be rased, and Jerusalem will be built twelve thousand furlongs high. Jerusalem will stand forever. Hallelujah, praise the Lord!
(Christ and the Church Revealed and Typified in the Psalms, Chapter 22, by Witness Lee)