We do odd things when we get frustrated with something.
Like when I took typing in high school and just could not get the hang of it. One day, during a timed typing test, I got fed up, kind of screamed a bit, ripped the paper out of the machine (this was a typewriter people), crumpled the paper, and threw it on the floor.
I thought of my typing tantrum when I read Psalm 137.
The Israelites weep by the rivers of Babylon, as they’re in captivity and are homesick like crazy for Zion. And the stupid Babylonians demand them to play a little music.
“Our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, ‘Sing us one of the songs of Zion!’” (Psalm 137:3 NIV)
So the Israelites hang their harps on the trees, not gently I think. More tantrum-like? And they ask, “How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land?” (Psalm 137:4 NIV)
You can’t just take somebody captive and then tell them to sing songs of joy. That’s ridiculous.
Well, then I swing on over to Philippians 4:4 (NIV) where Paul tells the followers of Christ, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!”
And I know a whole bunch of people whose lives stink right now, really stink. These are people who feel like they’re foreigners in a strange land. Alone and unable to navigate life. And I sure see a whole lot of grabbing harps and pitching them into the nearest tree.
“How can we sing?”
A good question. How can we sing while in a strange land? When heaven is home and good and no tears, and nothing about life is like that for us right now?
Here’s the difference between the demand of the Babylonians and the command Paul makes: The Babylonians wanted to be entertained. They wanted music for themselves and didn’t care about their captives. God wants us to sing when life is hard, because singing reminds us of all of his goodness. The singing isn’t to make a tormentor happy. It’s a comforting lullaby of truth that brings God close.
Sing about me, God says. I love you. Sing and remember I have your best interest at heart, even though you can’t see it right now.
So could you get a ladder and fetch your harp? Brush the leaves off. Use some Goo Gone to remove the sap. Tune it.
Sing a song of joy on purpose, and be surprised when joy swells within you.