O daughter of Babylon, who is destined for destruction! Happy is the one, that will pay you back as you have treated us!. Happy is the one who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rock. (Psalm 137:8-9)
The passage quoted here expresses the emotions of men, not the mind of God. This Psalm is the overflow of a heart glutted with frustration and grief. Here there is no peaceful union with God, but rather an agonized separation. God is absent -- so Psalmist cries out to Him from afar, wailing desperately for justice.
We try to excuse this passage by spiritualizing it – but we cannot deny that the writer was not spiritualizing! He was fervently praying for flesh-and-blood babies to be literally pounded to death, with gore and brains flying in all directions.
Does this passage really belong in the Bible, then? Most emphatically, YES. God shows His understanding of the flaws and twisted weaknesses of men, even as He Himself sits above them. God sympathizes and silently abides with us even as we throw tantrums and rail against Him, and against those He has created and used according to His purpose.
At the bottom, the Psalmist’s real complaint is not against the Babylonians, but against God Himself. For the Scripture makes abundantly clear that the Babylonians were simply a tool in God’s hand, to punish Judah for her waywardness.
When my children fight, I do not allow them to hit each other. I tell them that if they really need to hit someone, they can hit me instead. In the same way, the Lord allows us to defuse our furious anger by pouring it out on Him. On the cross Jesus made Himself a garbage can, the receptacle for our anger. He carries our rage away to the rubbish heap; while the Spirit of Lord transforms our destructive vindictiveness into peace, mercy, and gentleness.
The book of Psalms is not the only place in the Bible which speaks from a defective human point of view. The cynicism and world-weariness of Ecclesiastes is most definitely not representative of God’s thoughts. Rather, Ecclesiastes bears record that God does not give up on the cynic, but rather works through his experience to bring him back to a place of joy.
Many times during a painful trial, I have written down my feelings in a white heat. Then, after the ordeal passed and my feelings subsided, I destroyed my writing. This proves that I never reconciled myself to the experience, but only wished to suppress it. If I were reconciled to the experience, I would be able to recall freely all the feelings I went through -- but with a new perspective, because I could see the good fruit that came forth . The memory of the Babylonian captivity is preserved in the Bible, because its good purpose is now manifest. Later on the Jews saw that though it was painful, God used it for their good. Since it was for good, it should be remembered, not forgotten.
Part of the freedom that we have in Christ, is that the place of past pain is no longer off-limits. The door is no longer bolted shut. We can return, revisit, and relive the pain, but this time without bitterness:
“ ...then what Isaiah
said shall come true: 'Death is swallowed up in victory'.
Where is your sting, O death? Where is your victory, O grave? The
sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the
law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus
Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:54-57)
Prayer: Lord, thank You for being so patient when we throw tantrums. Thank You for taking the brunt of our fury upon Yourself, as You demonstrated at the Cross.
we offer ourselves to you we are far from spotless, far from perfect, but
still You accept us as a holy sacrifice. Let us not withhold anything
from You, our base feelings included. Thank you that when we offer to You
our petty human feelings of vindictiveness, You transform them by Your
Spirit. You change our flaming passion to smash our enemies' children
on the rocks into a burning desire to redeem them on the Rock who is Christ.
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