My whoopings as a child were almost always for my smart mouth. I’ve always been a smart aleck. I try to use my powers for good and not for evil, but it is hard sometimes. After I became a Christian, I still had this “gift.” When I was in college, a lot of folks would want to show how holy they were by how many passages of scripture that they could quote, and I would be cornered – “Andy what is your favorite passage in the Bible?” My smart aleck would then kick in and I would say Psalm 139: 8-9: What is that passage? Here it is:
8 O daughter Babylon, you devastator!
Happy shall they be who pay you back
what you have done to us!
9 Happy shall they be who take your little ones
and dash them against the rock!
At that point, folks would slowly walk away from me, looking at me funny. Which was what I was going for. But, more and more in life, this has actually become of my favorite passages. But why? This passage is so strong, something you probably wouldn’t even expect in Scripture. Why do I love this?
Let’s do a little background. Many of the Psalms were written by David. But not 137. This Psalm was written while the Jewish people were in exile. Babylon had defeated the southern kingdom of Judah (the northern kingdom of Israel had already been defeated by Assyria). Babylon defeated Judah and took so many of the people into exile in Babylon. In fact, it was there in Babylon where the word Jew came from, it was in exile that Judah was shorted to “Jew.” It was in Babylon that Daniel and Ezekiel were written. This was a seminal moment for the people, but it was also the most painful moment for the people. Babylon when they defeated Judah, they took everything that gave the people meaning from them.
The people knew that God loved them. How? They had the land. They had the Temple. These were tangible proofs of God’s love for the people. Now Babylon has taken all of this from them. They destroyed the Temple. It was gone. They took them away from the land. It was gone. Everything that showed God’s love to them, everything that gave them meaning, Babylon took it from them.
Now, the people are in exile in Babylon. Psalm 137 tells the story of what happens. There they were in a forgiven land and they wept. And as they wept, the people of Babylon mocked them. Sing us one of your songs. So they took away EVERYTHING from them, now they mock them. And you know what happened? They explode. This Psalm is a Psalm of anger and rage. They are furious. They are mad. They are angry. And they lash out. They lash out in the harshest language you can imagine. It’s shocking. It’s hard to imagine.
And this is one of my favorite passages in all the Bible. Why? Because it gives us permission to be angry. Sometimes life just hurts. It is hard. We are abandoned. We are abused. We are mocked. Life is blown up. It doesn’t turn out the way that we want.
And we are angry. We are hurt. We lash out.
And you know what? It’s ok. God can handle it. And here’s the thing. God knows how we feel. Do you think that we can hide our anger from God? Do you think that we can hide our hurt from God? Of course not. He knows. He knows our anger and hurt and rage.
But He can’t help us with it until we give it to Him. He can’t help us with it until we acknowledge it.
We have to be honest. Sometimes we are angry and hurt. We have to be honest about it and admit it. Then, only then, can God help us.
One of the great sins of our modern faith is that we have made Christianity a faith that puts forth perfection. We have it all put together. Everything is perfect. We live an Instagram faith. But that’s not reality. Life is imperfect. Life is hard. Life hurts. And you know what? It’s ok. God is still good. And He will help us with that hurt.
If we give it to Him. I love this Psalm because it gives us permission to angry. It gives us permission to be honest. It gives us the ability to be healed from our hurt.
I love this Psalm. And I hope you will too.