By the rivers of Babylon,
There we sat down, yea, we wept
When we remembered Zion.
We hung our harps
Upon the willows in the midst of it.
For there those who carried us away captive asked of us a song,
And those who plundered us requested 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!
If I do not remember you,
Let my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth—
If I do not exalt Jerusalem
Above my chief joy.
Remember, O LORD, against the sons of Edom
The day of Jerusalem,
Who said, “Raze it, raze it,
To its very foundation!”
O daughter of Babylon, who are to be destroyed,
Happy the one who repays you as you have served us!
Happy the one who takes and dashes
Your little ones against the rock!
I feel compelled to speak to that Psalm before we go on. I understand that in many ears Psalms like that are grating. They are called the “Imprecatory Psalms. You need to understand the history. When Babylon came to Judah and Jerusalem, the Edomites, who had borne a grudge with Israel since the time of Esau and Jacob (“Edom” is “Esau”)…the Edomites actually went to the Babylonians like hunting dogs to help track down the Judahites, whom they hated. That is the historical background.
Now the background here is that the Judahites in Babylon are asking Yahweh to vindicate them. The Scriptures say “Vengeance is Mine, saith Yahweh.” Indeed, they are asking Yahweh for vengeance. Let me put that in a current context.
We see attacks these days in a mall in Nairobi. We see attacks in places like churches in Pakistan. And our first prayer is that Yahweh would slay those who perpetrate these things with the death of baptism. Our first prayer is that Yahweh would bring them to faith in Christ, that they might die with Him the same way we have.
But a day is going to come when those martyrs (from places like Kenya and Pakistan) are going to be calling from under the throne…“Lord, how long?” For us to join with these latter-day martyrs in the Imprecatory Psalms is an appropriate thing. It is part of what God lays out for us. We keep in mind the fact that first and foremost we pray for conversion. But we also know the day is going to come when Yahweh in His justice is going to do what is right…and we pray for that as well.