Friday November 20: Psalm 137, 138, Acts 17:10-15

From Chris Dodds

Psalm 137: Remembrance is the central theme of this psalm. In verses 1-4 the psalmist painfully remembers his home in Zion. Exiled in a strange land, weeping has replaced the songs of joy and worship they used to sing. In the midst of this weeping, verses 5-6 speak of a commitment to remember Jerusalem and not to forget her. Jerusalem is the place of God’s promises and presence and here represents a faithful commitment to YHWH, even in exile.

We then read verses 7-9 and likely feel quite uncomfortable and perhaps even embarrassed that such words are even in the bible. Dashing babies against rocks is graphic, unbelievably violent, and this rightly shocks us. As we read it and wince however, we ought to keep in mind that this Psalm is written in the context of a conquered, humiliated, and displaced people. The world superpower has devastated their homeland, murdered their children, transplanted them to a foreign land, and mocked and scorned the traditions that sustained them. In such an extreme situation grief and anger are inevitable. Indeed, grief and outrage ought to be felt by the victims and also by us on their behalf. To not feel these things in the face of such monstrous violence is to become numb to, or perhaps even accepting of, the misuse of superpower. As a whole then, this psalm is a prayer of raw honesty and confession before the Lord.

An important thing to note is that in the final stanza the psalmist hands the vengeance over to God and does not take it into his own hands. Just as the psalmist remembers his old homeland in 1-4, and commits to remember the promises of God in verses 5-6, he now calls on God to also remember (v7) and act justly. It is the psalmist’s honesty in his grief and anguish, and then his handing of the issue of justice into the hands of God that offers a first step toward breaking the cycle of violence. It is an expression of trust that God is in control and that justice will prevail.  

 Psalm 138: This time next week we will be celebrating Thanksgiving with friends and family. The day may look different for all of us, but one thing we can all have in common is what we have to be thankful for. We can join the psalmist in thanksgiving for God’s constant love and truth. God is faithful to his name and promises above all else (vv1-2). He is exalted and all other Kings will one day give thanks and sing of his ways, yet as high as he is on his throne he takes note of the humble (vv5-6). He answers our calls (v3), preserves our life (v7, extends his hand to save (v7), and will fulfill his purposes for his people (v8). We see the fulfillment of these promises in King Jesus. Let’s join the psalmist in giving thanks to the God who does not abandon the work of his hands!

Acts 17:10-15: We live in an age where many things are presented to us as fact, and we’re told to be open-minded to consider them. The Jews of Berea are credited here as being open-minded, but as willing and eager as they were about what they had been taught they examined it against the scriptures to see if the message aligned. How contrary this is to our culture, where being open-minded is assumed to first mean a rejection of the scriptures.