SOME SONGS THE JEWS SANG wouldn’t go over especially well in a worship service today.
Let’s consider one, for the Bible Question of the Week.
Jews sang a song – and it’s in the Bible – asking God to bless anyone who would smash their enemies’ babies against the rocks. How does that track with Jesus’ “love your enemies”?
So for an answer to that tough question, let me pull from 100 Tough Questions About God and the Bible:
Let’s say a foreign country invaded, overran, and conquered the United States. They killed most Americans. To kill babies, they saved their ammo. They grabbed the babies by the ankles and smashed their heads onto the concrete.
They bombed Washington DC and most other major cities into the Stone Age.
Then they deported American survivors to refugee camps in their homeland. And then they asked the Grammy-winning musicians among the refugees to entertain everyone with American music—“The Star Spangled Banner” to begin with.
If we said our prayers that first night in the refugee camp, what would we pray?
Psalm 137 is that kind of prayer.
It’s a lament. It’s an angry, gut-twisting, teeth-grinding demand for payback—an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, and a smashed baby skull for a smashed baby skull.
Babylonian invaders from what is now Iraq had wiped the Jewish nation off the political map. They leveled Jerusalem and other major cities. They bashed in the heads of Jewish babies. They deported Jewish survivors to Iraq. And then they had the audacity to ask the refuges to “Sing a song from Zion for us!” (Psalm 137:3).
Zion was Jerusalem, a holy city the Babylonians had leveled—destroying even the world’s only Jewish temple.
The book of Psalms is a collection of Jewish songs and prayers that cover just about every emotion people feel when they talk to God.
Sometimes when we talk to God, we’re thankful—and we tell him so. But sometimes we’re confused, worried, mad at the world or mad at God—and we tell him so.
Psalm 137 is a song sung blue.
It’s not a theology we’re to study and apply to our life. Scholars agree on that.
The prayer comes from a poignant moment in the life of someone who has lost almost everything. This is someone we’re to empathize with—to recognize the brokenness and the need for a degree of healing that only God could provide.
This cry of pain is the person’s first call to God.
Excerpt from 100 Tough Questions About God and the Bible, pages 195-196, Bethany House Publishers
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