By the Rivers of Babylon

There are times in our lives when we feel confined, frustrated and confused. When hope is far fetched. When peace is a memory and words are bitter. It’s in the midst of our sorrow that we remember Zion, the place we felt happiest; and we wonder why our experiences are now different. We begin the honest search for justification of our circumstances. With an exercise of the heart and mind, we draw on one of two conclusions. In our sight, we are righteous; our present situation is unjustified; or that we are unrighteous  and our present situation is justified.

Either of the conclusions will afford us some closure, but for freedom to prevail, we understand that action is required on our part. It’s with this sentiment that we draw on the one question – How may we give anything, when all we’ve had is taken from us, and our hope is lost in this strange land?

If we have ever been at the rivers of Babylon in captivity, then we have been in good company.

” About three in the afternoon Jesus cried out in a loud voice, “Eli, Eli,[a]lema sabachthani?” (which means “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?”) Matthew 27:46

“Then Job replied: “If only my anguish could be weighed and all my misery be placed on the scales! It would surely outweigh the sand of the seas— no wonder my words have been impetuous. The arrows of the Almighty are in me, my spirit drinks in their poison; God’s terrors are marshaled against me. ” Job 6:1-4

“Why is my pain unending and my wound grievous and incurable? Will you be to me like a deceptive brook, like a spring that fails?” Jeremiah 15:18

“But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Luke 23:40-41

“The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.” Luke 15: 21

“It’s all over! I am doomed, for I am a sinful man. I have filthy lips, and I live among a people with filthy lips. Yet I have seen the King, the LORD of Heaven’s Armies.” Isaiah 6:5

“By the rivers of Babylon we were seated, weeping at the memory of Zion, Hanging our instruments of music on the trees by the waterside. For there those who had taken us prisoners made request for a song; and those who had taken away all we had gave us orders to be glad, saying, Give us one of the songs of Zion. How may we give the Lord’s song in a strange land?” Psalm 137:1-4

Like these people, when we find ourselves in a terrifying position, our righteous or unrighteous justifications does not bring freedom but our response to the call to action does. The fact is, there wasn’t much of a difference between the prodigal son and Jeremiah by their rivers of Babylon regardless of how they each perceived themselves they were each in bondage and needed salvation.

Here are some thoughts on why bad things happen to good people in case you were wondering…

John explains – “If we claim we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and not living in the truth.” I John 1:8

Solomon finds – “Not a single person on earth is always good and never sins” Ecclesiastics 7:20

Paul teaches – “For everyone has sinned; we all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” Romans 3:23

What must we do to get saved?  – Remember the Lord is good, have faith and Give Praise to Him!

Sounds simple, but to praise the lord by the rivers of Babylon requires enormous faith, trust and hope in God to bring freedom. It’s the belief in the Lord Jesus Christ that ultimately gets us saved.

“But the other criminal rebuked him. “Don’t you fear God,” he said, “since you are under the same sentence? 41 We are punished justly, for we are getting what our deeds deserve. But this man has done nothing wrong.” Then he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom. ”Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.” Luke 23:40-41

“He then brought them out and asked, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” “They replied, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved—you and your household.” Acts 16:30-31

Believing takes faith and action to bring about salvation.  Salvation is a process of faith and actions.

James challenges –  What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith SAVE them?” James 2:14

In this life, we will all come to our rivers of Babylon in captivity. It’s is not how we got there that matters, but rather how to get out of there that ultimately matters. Our belief works our Salvation.

Let me illustrate on this premise. Meet Justin. He is a Christian and has faith in Jesus Christ to be his provider although he is destitute.  Justin acknowledges he needs Salvation  from this predicament.

Scenerio 1. – Justin searches his heart and finds, he is righteous before the lord and he really doesn’t deserves the situation he is in and wonders why God is letting him go through it.  Justin reviews his over-drawn bank account, he reads the demanding letters from his creditors and the the notices of eviction from his landlord for unpaid rent. Justin comes face to face with the reality of his situation, he panics and depresses into inactivity.

Scenerio 2 – Justin searches his heart and finds, he is unrighteous before the lord and he really deserves the situation he finds himself in. Justin reviews his over-drawn bank account, he reads the demanding letters from his creditors and the notices of eviction from his landlord for unpaid rent. Justin comes face to face with the reality of his situation, he panics and depresses into inactivity.

Scenerio 3 – Justin searches his heart and finds, he has lost his joy. He’s frustrated and confused. He realizes, he is in a strange and captive situation and wants freedom. Justin reviews his over-drawn bank account, he reads the demanding letters from his creditors and the notices of eviction from his landlord for unpaid rent. Justin comes face to face with the reality of his situation, then he remembers, his provider the Lord is good, and begins to praise and thank him for his provision. He’s reminded of the people around him and their journeys through the rivers of Babylon, he remembers the conversations they had about their salvation experience. He begins to experience peace as he hopes again. He reads and listens to scripture that describe further how Jesus Christ is a mighty provider and it stirs  up his faith. He reaches for the phone to call a friend. Justin’s salvation is near!

In scenarios 1 and 2, Justin needed salvation regardless of his perceived righteousness. When faith does not lead to action, it dies. Inactivity breeds idleness and doubts which is a haven for sinful activities. Sin frustrates the process of salvation making us remain in this cycle of a depressed mind.

James argues this best –  “You foolish man! Do you want proof that faith without good works is useless?  Our father Abraham offered his son Isaac on the altar. Wasn’t he considered to be right with God because of what he did?  So you see that what he believed and what he did were working together. What he did made his faith complete. That is what Scripture means where it says, “Abraham believed God. God accepted Abraham because he believed. So his faith made him right with God.”—(Genesis 15:6) And that’s not all. God called Abraham his friend.  So you see that a person is made right with God by what he does. It doesn’t happen only because of what he believes.”

“By the rivers of Babylon we were seated, weeping at the memory of Zion, Hanging our instruments of music on the trees by the waterside. For there those who had taken us prisoners made request for a song; and those who had taken away all we had gave us orders to be glad, saying, Give us one of the songs of Zion. How may we give the Lord’s song in a strange land?” Psalm 137:1-4

They were seated, silenced by sentiments and crippled with emotions, their eyes filled with tears on the memory of their friend. They had hanged their instrument of gladness on a tree.  For they had left everything they knew to follow him and everything had been taken from them. For the first time in a very long time, they found themselves lost in a strange land of emotions, despair and great fear. The great songs of freedom had eluded them as they looked hopeless at this instrument of gladness -Their friend, Jesus Christ – their, master, teacher, savior, joy and hope as he hang… dying on a tree.

Let me suggest that the song of the LORD is Jesus Christ. David got the revelation in Psalm 118:14 when he wrote – “The LORD is my Strength and my SONG; he has become my SALVATION” .  The bible describes him as the author and finisher of our faith.  Be encouraged brothers and sisters, he will put that new song in your mouth. He will save you so you may be a witness to his goodness and mercies; that others may also put their trust in him.  David’s wrote in Psalm 40:3. “He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD”

What’re you believing? Do you feel there’re things you’re not able to break away from? Do you feel as a captive? Have faith, break out and praise the Lord! Step out and know that the Lord is in control.

“Was not our father Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? You see that his faith and his actions were working together, and his faith was made complete by what he did. And the scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness,” and he was called God’s friend. You see that a person is considered righteous by what they do and not by faith alone.” James 2:21-26

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