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By Rivers of Babylon

The Bible Study Hour / James Boice
The Truth Network Radio
August 23, 2020 8:00 am

By Rivers of Babylon

The Bible Study Hour / James Boice

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August 23, 2020 8:00 am

Two cities would have a great effect on history: Babylon, the city of the world that would soon pass away, and Jerusalem, the city of God, whose glory would endure forever. Today, Dr. James Boice explores the two cities and the heartache of Gods people as they remembered their exile in Babylon.

Kingdom Pursuits
Robby Dilmore

If you've ever looked back on a particularly painful. In your life you'll have some idea how the Israelites felt as they reflected on their exile to a city alien to all they held dear city in which God was unknown.

Welcome to the Bible study our radio and Internet broadcast with Dr. James Boyce preparing you to think and act biblically sold 137 is a reflection on the time of exile particularly painful. When hope was almost gone. All seemed nearly lost but distress is not despair.

The people of God didn't destroy their harps, but hung them on trees by the river to be played again when hope had been restored. Join Dr. Boyce as he explores the Psalm which communicates a grief that had been unspeakable and shows us that even the worst of times you can put our trust in a sovereign God. The Bible is filled with contrasts that gladdens substance life.

There was teaching on one of these great contrast is between Babylon, which stands for world and its culture and Jerusalem, which stands for God's kingdom is contrast is both literal and figurative literal because there was a literal earthly Babylon destroyed a literal earthly Jerusalem happened in 586 BC, but also figurative because the Bible ordered again speaks of mystery Babylon. Revelation 1819, symbolizes all of the world's kingdoms and their passing blog right and heavenly Jerusalem ascribed Revelation 20 and 21, which has a glory that will in your forever because last theme is so important and so pervasive in Scripture we might have expected it to be prominent in the Psalms, especially those Psalms that were written after the fall of Jerusalem to Babylon deportation on the exile, and even the return of the people that are online, but that is not the case much striking to look for that word Babylon in the Psalms and find the word itself.

Babylon the reference to Lance sitting in kingdom only occurs twice in two different Psalms 1 is Psalm 87 is probably the best known because it's a song John Newton used as the basis for a great hymn which we sing frequently glorious things that they are spoken. Zion city of our God, the other Psalm is a song we come to now Psalm 137 this is a powerful, plaintive song. It's also hard Psalm to read and handle and for several reasons. It's hard because of its place in the Psalter may recall that when I began to speak about the collection of Psalms we have in the spinal portion of the book of Psalms. I said that these are chiefly Psalms of praise, and indeed they are.

I have been calling on the people of God.

Praise him in all circumstances, and they will do that. But here in Psalm 137 we come to a song that is speaking of a time and the place circumstances in which the praise of God was emotionally impossible. Moreover long with these plaintive words center there at the beginning of the first portion of the Psalm. There is also at the end of the solemn words that are harsh and angry as this almost bursts out against those who were responsible for the destruction of the city on leave and boasted then joy in the suffering of the people. When the city fell, so it's not an easy Psalm to handle it is moving. However, Gary Kidner wrote every line event is alive with pain whose intensity grows with each strove to the appalling climax that we can tell something of where it was written versus 1 to 3 indicate that the exile is in the past because the people are looking back to something that was true and is no longer true, and yet it's not very far in the past was not so hard to date. Psalms is a Psalm that was written not long after the return of the people from Babylon.

Now let's begin with the pathos because that's what that Psalms opening stanza contains here are the Jews who have returned from exile, but to remember a particularly painful moment when they were there in Babylon, they had had some time off apparently from their hard labor slaves which they were when they were first taken to the capital they had found their way to the rivers of Babylon, referring not to the Euphrates and the Tigris themselves but of the many canals and tributaries that connected them in water.

This great plain there. They were asked by their captors to sing one of the songs of Zion. Now we don't have to think that that was particularly set in a mocking tone like this lets you one of those Psalms about the land that you're never going to see again what they're saying we were asked to sing one of the songs of Zion.

But how could we do that Psalms of Zion are beautiful joyful things and singing itself is meant to list your heart and fill you with joy so you are born emotionally, as you say, but how could we do that in far off Babylon.

We sang songs of Zion. All that would do would be reminders of our beautiful mountainous homeland and here we are in these flat hot desolate planes even more than that to sing the songs of Zion foreign land would seem to be treason to our God. So they summon up in those beautifully poetic lines in verse four. How can we sing the songs available while in a foreign land unless set enough. You don't have to say anything to add to that, but there are a number of features here that we ought to look at because they do increase and intensify the pathos somewhat. First of all, there are the poem's + set enough in our English translation, but in the Hebrew language. There is a nine full repetition of a pronoun ending which is new sound. I say nine times in the first three verses leading up to the verse I just read and it has the effect is it's read in Hebrew, of what it would be like if we were saying over and over again in the English language, all 0000 versus actually have that sound that did intensify's the pathos and then there is that contrast with the Psalms of come before. We've already looked at some 135 and 136. Those are Psalms that celebrated the gift of God to his people of the land. Both of them did it again. It is a matter of fact, almost places in identical words like speak of God having struck down the firstborn of Egypt, having overthrown Zion, the king of the Amorites, and all the king of Bashan and then having given the land of these kings as an inheritance to Israel. Psalm 135 even in this by calling on all who fear God, to praise him from Zion.

Yet in Psalm 137 the people are no longer in Zion and canceling the songs and maybe also we auditors think about the songs of Zion themselves. They are among the most beautiful, touching poetic songs in the entire Psalter like Psalm 84.

For example someone we know best how lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord Almighty. My soul yearns even faints for the courts of the Lord, my heart and my flesh cry out with the living God better is one day in your course thousand elsewhere.

I would rather be doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of the wicked and co-painful it would be to sing song like that when you're a prisoner in Babylon that point we want to ask whether a Psalm like this has any meaning for us.

And of course it doesn't. We don't have to. Allegorizing, it to feel its bearing on our situation. We only need to think how hard it is to sing songs of praise to God.

In situations where the name of God is denied or where God and the gospel.

Ramon sometimes that's of the world sometimes is even in the church.

I have been in churches are so liberal in the gospel so basically denied that it seems a travesty to sit there and sing some of the campus.

Great Baptist preacher Charles Spurgeon must've experienced things like that because he wrote these lines, even busted true believers mourn when they see the church to spoiled and find themselves unable to help her bear anything better than this.

These are times the Babylon of air ravages the city of God in the hearts of the faithful are wounded as they seek truth fallen in the streets and unbelief rampant among the professed servants of the Lord. And yet, we got a so I don't way that distress is not despair. When we read the Psalm are all its pain.

Nevertheless, at the same time are aware of its faith or just use the imagery of the Psalm. It is true that although the exiles were unable to sing their songs in far off Babylon.

They did not take their parks and break them or throw them in the stream Psalm tells us instead is that they hung them on the poplars resume oblique saving number one they knew would surely be a better day and that's what we pick up in the next section, beginning with verse five.

It is faith that is determined never to forget Jerusalem you see it there if I forget you will Jerusalem they might right hand forget it still makes my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth.

If I do not remember you if I do not consider my highest joy this man's faith is still alive when the reference to the Psalm is right hand while for a right-handed person that would be a symbol for his greatest strength and skill and yet I think in this context, it probably means something else because the right hand presumably would be hand with which she would play the harp and the same way with the tongue the ton in this context would be used to sing songs of Zion. He's not playing that music and he's not singing those songs but anticipates the day when he will do it again and in the meantime faith that expresses itself in the Psalms of Zion is still alive. I want you to know is one other thing there. This is the stanza where the pronouns turn from the plural to the singular, and starts out plural arguing about us.

We are to experience but here we turns to I think that's a way of saying that suffering may be shared often is but a determination to remember God and walk in his ways is something that each of us has to do individually. So we have to say I must do it. You must do it for the Psalm is talking about when we begin to apply it to ourselves the future. Here is the psalmist sure are expecting to be delivered from this present evil state one day be able to sing the songs of Zion again in Jerusalem. Now it's hard to say what was in the heart of any individual Israelite in a far-off time. Some of them probably despaired.

Others had hoped, but it is significant is that the God did eventually bring the people back to their land.

As a matter of fact, the Psalm was composed by one who had been brought back to Jerusalem and it was someone for the first time all of pathos and pain.

Modern Babylon within the city of God. Non-Christians also endure bad times but we don't despair in our bad times, because we know that there temporary matter.

God is a good God, and powerful indeed sovereign.

One day, regardless of what pain we may have. Here he will bring us through which and if not here it will certainly bring us through it for that day when we will sit with the saints around the throne of his grace in heaven now we come to the last section that's hardest. In some ways. Some introduce it this way, the word remember occurs three times in the Psalm you find a first of all, in verse one, or the public says that he and the other captors remembered Zion even while they were in Babylon.

Then you find it again in verse six, where he pronounces a judgment against himself if he should fail to remember Zion then verse seven, we enter into the last section of this he calls on God to remember as he remembered and apply an appropriate judgment to those who destroyed the holy city problem with us of courses in this last section, because here you get in while those portions of Psalms, in which there seems to be a particularly unforgiving and gracious spirit. Just look at those last words old daughter the Bible and doomed to destruction. Happy is he who repays you for what you have done the stuff he who seizes your influence dashes them against the rocks of Christians have been taught to forgive their enemies. Of course, and we should do that here. Are these words in Scripture, spoken by one who just lines before speaking in such a powerful and plaintive way that we would say all this is certainly the word of God is not this the word of God to tend to be self-righteous at this point we ought not to be just listen to what Spurgeon wrote about this. He calls us up short a little bit on that kind of a judgment let those find fault with it. He says it would never seen their temple burned their city ruined their wives ravished and their children slain. They might not perhaps be so velvet child if they had suffered. After this fashion. One thing to talk of the bitter feeling which move captive Israelites in Babylon, and quite another thing to be captives ourselves under a strange and remorseless power which do not how to show mercy, but delighted in barbarity as to the defenseless. Psalm 137 is a fruit of the captivity in Babylon and often has furnished expression for sorrows which otherwise had been unalterable that helps a bit yet to explain it doesn't make it right. We look at these words and we say well how are we understandably suggest a number of things I talked about it before because there are other Psalms like this. I've had to deal with that they are but I just call your attention to a few important things. First of all the words are an appeal to God for justice, as all of the imprecatory Psalms that psalmist is not saying that is going to take judgment into his own hands is not saying God give me the opportunity to slaughter people would been angry and mean to my people doing that all he has calling God's attention to the injustice in saying God, you are the judge and justice should be done. Secondly, these judgments are only what God himself decrees and other places, particularly against Edom, which is mentioned there in verses seven and eight which I didn't even read and also against Babel and as far as Edom is concerned is all book of the Bible pronounces judgment against Edom and nothing else of the book of Obadiah granted is one of the shortest books in the Bible it has only one chapter, but it's very fierce in its denunciations. What this brother nation of Israel seems to of done the day of the fall of Jerusalem, the stand aloof and actually rejoice in it when they should've sorrowed at the suffering of their friends. Obadiah describes what they did. They quote stood aloof they rejoice. They seize their wealth that is profited by the others, misfortune, and they even handed over the survivors when they caught them. So Obadiah pronounces a judgment upon Edom in the name of God, and you find the same judgment and other passages of the Old Testament, judgments, and Isaiah, Jeremiah, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Joel and Amos in the same sentence. And as far as Babel in this concern. While there are extensive prophecies against Babel and in the Old Testament earthly Babylon yes, but above all that mystery Babylon that I mentioned as coming in again toward the very end of the Bible in Revelation, where you find the description of the fall of this great city and you find the merchants and the kings of the sea captains in the people of the yard all morning for the city, even an angel is there an angel joins and say with such violence, the great city of Babylon will be thrown down, never to be found again on the redeemed rejoice in it, saying hallelujah because justice has been done and then thirdly, we point out that this is what God has done God to destroy Edom in Babel and if you go to Edom today in petro find that it's mountain fortresses are nothing but ruins. Babel in the day find that it's a desolate waste as the Bible says God will give to each person according to what he is done. The Bible says, a man sows what he reaps these ancient cities so violence and they reaped it as well.

How does that leave us does it put us in some privileged position. We are not Edomites Babylonians.

Is it just automatically identify us with the people of God the way Jesus Christ taught us to think. Without such incident in the 13th chapter of Luke where the people came to Jesus with a moral dilemma on the been teaching them about God being sovereign was a bubbly loving care. They had had a great tragedy in their days had been a number of Galileans that come down to Jerusalem from the north.

They were offering sacrifices and while they were doing that for some reason we don't know why Herod soldiers fell upon the presumably when they were in the best possible relationship with God offering sacrifices.

In addition, there have been that tolerant sign on the fell over and when the failover killed a lot of people and they raise that with Jesus.

They were asking this kind of a question saying why did that happen happen because God somehow wasn't in control is a not sovereign or because he didn't care.

He is not loving or perhaps this is probably what they thought that God was somehow getting after these very bad people and allow them to get killed just that way you know what Jesus said. Jesus said do you think that these Galileans were worse sinners than all the other Galileans, because I suffer this way. I tell you know.

But unless you repent you will all likewise perish, or those 18 who died when the tower to siloing fell on them.

You think they were more guilty than all the others living in Jerusalem. I tell you no, but unless you repent you will all perish see Jesus point is that when we raise a moral question like that.

Why did God allow bad things happen to these good people were asking the wrong question because were not good people. None of us.

We have far more in common with the Edomites and the Babylonians and we do, even with the best of the citizens of Zion. So the question we should be asking is not why does God allow these good people to perish, but why hasn't God destroyed the this morning before I even woke up. Why am I not in hell this very instant, see if you're alive at this moment, and you have opportunity to hear the gospel preached, as it is being preached because of the goodness of Almighty God and say why does God do what he does unless you say thank God he does what he does because is a chance to hear the gospel that we might do what Jesus Christ the son of God who knew imperfectly tells us to do, repent of our sin and turn to him for salvation because that's the only place it can be found when that happens and we can sing songs of Zion because were part of that member you're listening to the Bible study hours featuring the teaching of Dr. James Boyce, arrogant, violent and wasteful. Just some of the words that describe the ancient city of Babylon, a mighty nation that was eventually brought down by the mighty hand of God.

If you'd like to learn more.

We'd like to offer you a free copy of a message entitled fall and fallen is Babylon the great, from the radio series every last word with Dr. Philip Rankin.

This free CD offer is our gift to you. Call us at 1-800-488-1888 we be honored to send you a copy of fallen, fallen is Babylon the great number again is 1-800-488-1888.

There are many people in the world today.

At the end of their rope who see no hope for the future. Dr. Boyce's messages offer hope in the unchangeable nature of God. For those who are searching. You can be part of this life-changing ministry by supporting the Bible study hours with your prayers and financial contributions you can make a gift by visiting our you can also call us directly at 1-800-488-1888, and our mailing address is 600 Eden Rd., Lancaster, PA 17601.

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How has the Bible study our impacted your life are you more confident in your personal ministry is Dr. Boyce's teaching inspired a fresh appreciation for God's word. Be sure to tell a friend then tell us our email address is contact at the Bible study our daughter will I Mark Daniels thank you for listening and Psalm 138 is a Psalm of thanks for a promise made in a blessing given a promise and a blessing that the throne of David would endure forever and that the Messiah would come from the line of David Julie Dr. James Boyce as he examines a Psalm that teaches us to praise God for his love and faithfulness. Keeping of his word. That's next time on Bible study hours preparing you to think and act biblically

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