By the Waters of Babylon


By the waters of Babylon,
there we sat down and wept,
when we remembered Zion.
On the willows there
we hung up our lyres.
For there our captors
required of us songs,
and our tormentors, mirth, saying,
“Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”

How shall we sing the Lord‘s song
in a foreign land?
If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
let my right hand forget its skill!
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! Psalm 137:1-6 ESV

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to a place that he was to receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he went to live in the land of promise, as in a foreign land, living in tents with Isaac and Jacob, heirs with him of the same promise. For he was looking forward to the city that has foundations, whose designer and builder is God.

These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. Hebrews 11:8-10, 13-16 ESV


There’s a song about a young man from Nova Scotia who has been called off to war. He is very sad to leave his home, and all his friends, and his aged parents. He thinks about the sweetheart he has to leave behind, and the graves of his three brothers. He says that he has no rest as he is tossed on the dark sea, thinking about his homeland. The chorus of the song is:

Farewell to Nova Scotia, you seabound coast
Let your mountains dark and dreary be
For when I am far away on the brimy ocean tossed
Will you ever heave a sigh or a wish for me?

It can be very sad to be forced to be far away from home and to miss the people and the places you love. The psalm we read talks about the exiles from Jerusalem living in Babylon and weeping for their home. The Babylonians were demanding that they sing a song from their own country, and they didn’t want to, because it would make them feel heartbroken. Instead, they hung up their lyres on the willow trees by the water and cried. They didn’t want to forget Jerusalem or to let themselves be happy in a foreign land. Their temple had been destroyed, and God felt very far away from them.

God’s people felt as if they had lost the Lord when they lost Jerusalem and the temple. They couldn’t see beyond their earthly homeland to the homeland God has prepared for all his people everywhere. Many years before, Abraham had left his homeland to go to the promised land, but in faith he knew that the land the Lord had promised to his descendants was only a picture of the better country in heaven. Abraham saw this country by faith, and through Jesus we share the same faith and the same promise from God. Jesus came to be near his people and to open heaven to everyone in the world who believes in him. He died for us so that our sins could be forgiven, and he is with us every day. We know that, even though we are far from our heavenly home now, we will someday live there with our Lord forever.


Dear Jesus, thank you for being with us every day and for the promise of our heavenly home. Amen.