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Weekly Devotionals

Down by the River

By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion.

There on the poplars we hung our harps, for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”

How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land? – Psalm 137: 1-4

This psalm (which is also the inspiration for an awesome Reggae song), was written by the Israelites while in exile in Babylon. They had been defeated and taken from Jerusalem into Babylon and were longing for their home country. While the Babylonians tormented them, the Israelites felt as if they couldn’t even sing the songs of the Lord because they were in a foreign land and not in Israel.

The prophet Ezekiel was one of the Israelites taken into captivity into Babylon. We read in Ezekiel chapter 1 that, he too, was sitting by a river in exile, when he saw an incredible vision of the Lord coming to Babylon to appoint him as a prophet to Israel. Moreover, Ezekiel sees a vision that the glory of the Lord departed from the temple in Jerusalem, and joined the exiles in Babylon, to be a sanctuary for them.

“Therefore say: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Although I sent them far away among the nations and scattered them among the countries, yet for a little while I have been a sanctuary for them in the countries where they have gone.’ Ezekiel 11:16

Far from being abandoned, the presence of the Lord was with the exiles, by the rivers in Babylon. While their eyes were spiritually closed, Ezekiel’s were opened and saw the reality; God had not abandoned his people, but he chose to join them in exile. In fact, the exiles could sing the songs of the Lord there, because He was there with them.

Maybe you are sitting by a proverbial river in Babylon, feeling as if you are being tormented far from the presence of God. I want to encourage you to look through the eyes of faith to see and know that, in the midst of chaos, God descends closer to us to be our sanctuary. He is an ever-present help in our time of need, and God will never let you down, no matter what your physical eyes see.