Each morning I offer a short devotion to the men under my care in the dorm. This is the spot where I share them with you, and keep a record of them for myself on the off chance I ever need them again.
By the waters of Babylon,
there we sat down and wept,
when we remembered Zion.
2 On the willows there
we hung up our lyres.
3 For there our captors
required of us songs,
and our tormentors, mirth, saying,
“Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
4 How shall we sing the Lord‘s song
in a foreign land?
5 If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
let my right hand forget its skill!
6 Let my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth,
if I do not remember you,
if I do not set Jerusalem
above my highest joy!
This powerful Psalm was written while the people of God were exiled in the nation of Babylon. This was the judgement God had promised his people would come to pass if they refused to repent. Israel had ignored the warnings of the prophets, and so here they were. Their homes had been burned to the ground, their families separated, anything of value they owned had been taken. They were foreign captives in a strange land with no rights, and no hope that they could see of ever going home and rebuilding their lives.
Perhaps your feeling similarly hopeless right now, like everything has come crashing down around you. You’ve been living in “exile” for so long that you’ve given up all home of restoration.
Interestingly, the Bible says that all of us are in exile, followers of Christ even more so than others. The fact is that none of us belong in a fallen, broken, corrupt world. We were made to have a perfect relationship with God, one another, and the good world God had made. Sin has distorted all that, and we can barely live in harmony within ourselves, never mind with God or one another. We were made for wholeness, but we live in brokenness. We live in exile and we long for home.
Some of us go looking for wholeness in the wrong places, trying to get a taste of the Eden we lost. We look to relationships, food, money, alcohol… desperately grasping for the life we were made for. The reality is, though, that these things cannot truly get us home. They can only temporarily distract us. And though they promise hope, in the end they can only offer us more destruction. We have forgotten the songs of Jerusalem; we now sing only songs of the Fall.
Perhaps it is time we remember Jerusalem. Perhaps it is time we admit to ourselves and to God that the longing in our heart is for our heavenly home, and it is only there we can find the wholeness we crave… the Bible calls this shalom. The good news is that Jesus came to bring us home, to lead us back from exile, out of our bondage to sin and corruption and into a new life in His Kingdom (Colossians 1:13). It is Him that we long for, He is our peace (Ephesians 2:14). His body was split asunder like the red sea in the book of Exodus, that we might pass through his blood and be cleansed, washed, made new, made whole.
True, we only get glimpses of our true home in this life. If we are to make it to the new Jerusalem we must first follow Jesus through the scorched desert of this present age. That means we must first suffer before we find release; we must first die to our old way of life before we can truly live. But we have the sure hope that one day we will make it there. Sure as Christ rose from the dead, sure as the Scriptures are true; we are promise that “He who has begun a good work in us will bring it to completion at the day of redemption” (Philippians 1:6). He will come back for His Children; He will make all things right.