Psalm 137

This note was originally published on Sunday 7 March 2021.

How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land?


Who are the people with whom or the place where you feel most at home? How do you handle it when you are away from them or that place?


Psalm 137


This is a psalm of and for dark times, written at a time when God’s people were in exile. They wept (v 1). They longed to be where they belonged; but their cruel captors demanded to hear the joyful songs of worship from Jerusalem’s Temple (v 3), which they themselves had burned to the ground – which was not the worst thing they had done.

It is no wonder that this psalm is full of bitterness and a desire for justice – and, let’s be honest, revenge (vs 8,9). But let’s be more honest: though most have not (thank God) experienced the trauma known by the writers of this psalm, perhaps we can recognise the visceral and violent desire for revenge. And let’s be even more honest: we too have hurt others, often as much as we have been hurt ourselves.

The truth is, we all have the same broken hearts as the Babylonian soldiers who committed such atrocities, the same broken hearts as the Israelites who in bitterness prayed for vengeance, the same broken hearts for which Jesus’ heart broke, on the cross, the same broken hearts he longs to heal.


Bitterness is not something you want to hold on to; it is destructive when it takes root. Ask God to help you see where there is bitterness in you, and – you may need to do this regularly – ask him to help you forgive.