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Song Sung Blue - Psalm 137:1-4
Singing the Songs of Zion
Song Sung Blue
Psalm 137:1-4
 
Do we have any Neil Diamond fans here today?  If so, you probably remember the 1972 hit song he wrote and recorded call "Song Sung Blue.  It was his second No. 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in the United States and spent twelve weeks in the Top 40.
 
The lyrics are very simple and frankly, as is the case with a lot of pop music, not very deep.  In fact, Diamond said the song contains a “very basic message, unadorned. I didn't even write a bridge to it. I never expected anyone to react to "Song Sung Blue" the way they did. I just like it, the message and the way a few words said so many things.”
 
Song sung blue
Everybody knows one
Song sung blue
Every garden grows one
 
Me and you are subject to the blues now and then
But when you take the blues and make a song
You sing them out again
Sing them out again
 
Song sung blue
Weeping like a willow
Song sung blue
Sleeping on my pillow
 
Funny thing, but you can sing it with a cry in your voice
And before you know it, get to feeling good
You simply got no choice
 
The truth is, we do have a choice.  And there are many people, God’s people included, who chose to spend their days singing the blues and they never get to feeling good. 
 
The ancient Israelites knew what it was to sing a song sung blue. In fact, many of the psalms are sung in a minor key.  In that regard, their testimony is vvery much like ours.  We all face the problems and difficulties of life and we are forced to react and respond to those experiences. 
 
So what I want to do over the next few weeks is take a look at some of the songs of Zion.  And from these ancient Jews and their songs, I want to attempt to draw some very up-to-date counsel on how to make it through those times without losing our song. 
 
I want to begin this morning by taking a look at the testimony of God’s people and where we find them when we come to the 137th Psalm.  Listen to what we read here
 
Psalm 137:1-4
 
Let me give you to background of this Psalm. God had been so good to His people Israel. He gave them a land. He gave them a law. And to top it off, God gave to them a Lord, Himself. So what did they do in regard to the gracious of God?  They defiled the land, they defied the law and they denied the Lord.
 
So in response to that God sent Nebuchadnezzar, a cruel pagan king, with his army to carry them away out of the land of Judah, out of Jerusalem, out of Zion to a place of bondage. They were carried to a strange land, a foreign country called Babylon. And there they became captives in Babylon.
 
And from that experience of Babylonian captivity, this Psalm was written. We don’t know who the composer is.  Some think it may have been Jeremiah.  But whoever it was is singing the blues. 
 
So what does this ancient song of Zion have to say to us today?  By the way, I think it always important to see what the Bible says, not just about history and those who were involved, and not just how it fits modern culture, but what does it say to me in a personal way. 
 
Well here we find a song sung blue about living in captivity.  See the circumstances may be different from there’s.  You may not have an evil king who is calling the shots in your life and you may not be displaced into a foreign culture and country, but there are many who have been taken captive by the world and by the flesh and by the devil.
 
Now those who are captive come in two different varieties.  Some are in captivity as a lost person.  And the solution to that captivity is to be delivered by the blood of Jesus Christ.  He and only He can free you from your sin. 
 
But it’s possible to live in captivity as a child of God.  That’s where we find the Jews and the primary lesson they teach is intended for Christians who are in captivity.
Now remember, when you were saved, you were born again. And when you were born again, you were born free. The declaration of the the New Testament is “If the Son shall make you free, you shall be free indeed.”
 
And every Christian is free born. We are born to live lives of freedom over self, sin, Satan and circumstances. We are to be living lives free from fear and free from bondage and free from the strangle hold of sin. Sin shall no longer have dominion over us, the Bible says.
 
You say, “Well nobody can be completely free.”
 
Then explain to me the Bible says, "Thanks be unto God who causes us always to triumph in Christ Jesus." He gives us the victory. We are more than conquers through Him that loved us. How sad it is when Christians who are meant to be free are taken into captivity and live in bondage to the world, the flesh and the devil.
 
Maybe it will help to understand what Babylon represents.  The very name “Babylon” means confusion. Babylon stands for the world with all of its twisted logic and warped morality. 
 
Zion, on the other hand, the city of God, represents His kingdom.  In fact, the very name Jerusalem means the city of peace. It is the city of Shalom.  Listen:  That’s where God wants you to live and dwell, in His eternal city of peace. 
 
Now watch this:  In the Bible you always find Jerusalem and Babylon in contrast. We who are saved, we who are living in liberty and freedom, are dwelling spiritually in Jerusalem.
Those who have been saved and are living in bondage are living in Babylon. Now with that as a background I want you to see and apply Psalm 137 to your heart today.
 
There are four basic things we find in this little text about what it means to live as a child of God in Babylon.  First we see their
 
1. Languishing Misery
 
verse 1a
 
That’s a sad picture isn’t it?  They were God's people. They were not meant to be in bondage. They were destined by God to be a conquering, ruling and reigning people who represented Him.  And you will never find anything more pitiful than a free man in captivity. 
 
A free born Christian who finds himself in bondage will always live in misery. We need to grab hold of the fact that when God saves us, He does not make it where you cannot sin any more. But He does arrange it where you cannot sin and enjoy it. 
 
And when you as a child of God are taken captive by the devil, taken captive by the flesh, taken captive by your carnal will, when that happens is your joy goes. You don't lose your salvation. David didn't say, "Lord restore unto me your salvation." He said, "Lord restore unto me the joy of your Salvation."
 
And you will never find a more pitiful picture than you find here in Psalm 137:1 as the people of God sit by the rivers of Babylon and cry as they remember their homeland.
So what got them to this place?  What caused them to be taken into captivity?  Well, it was God.  I know there are a lot of sophisticated and learned people who have a hard time believing God can use evil to accomplish His will, but I will show you in a moment that God did it and He did it because He loved them, but before I do that, let me share a little story I came across. 
 
The story is about a certain family including a man and his three sons named Sam, Jim and John.  They lived in a certain little town and were members of a church, but they were unfaithful.  No of them had been to church in years.  For years, the pastor and members had tried to get them to come, but with no success. 
 
Then one day when John was out in the pasture and was bitten by a rattlesnake. They called the doctor.  He worked with John for a while and then told the family, "I've done all I can do. It's in the hands of God. All I can say is you better get those who know how to pray to pray."
 
Well, John's father called the pastor. He said, "Pastor, we are in dire need. We need someone to pray for us. Gather the saints and pray for John." The pastor came to pray and here’s what he said:
 
"All wise and righteous father, we thank thee that in thy wisdom thou hast sent this rattlesnake to bite John in order to bring him to his senses. He's not been inside the church house for years and it is doubtful that in all that time he has felt the need of prayer. Now we trust this will be a valuable lesson to him and that it will lead him to genuine repentance. And now Father, wilt thou send another snake to bite Sam, and another to bite Jim? And a big one to bite the old man? We've been doing everything we knew for years to restore them, but to no avail. It seems that all of our combined efforts could not do what this snake has done. Thus we conclude that the only thing left that will do this family any good is more rattlesnakes. So
Lord, send us bigger and better rattlesnakes. We pray
in Jesus name, Amen."
 
Now before you think that's a little far-fetched, I want you to see how the people of God got in the mess they’re in.  The story is found in
 
Jeremiah 25:4-11
 
Did you hear that?  In so many words, God says, “My rattlesnake is Nebuchadnezzar.”
 
Listen:  God sent a pagan king to his own people to bring them into bondage because they had so disobeyed the Lord.  You say, “Well I don’t believe God does things like that.  Then go tell that to the Israelites sitting by the river crying!  See what they say about it!  And by the way, if I were you I’d go buy myself an anti-kit for rattlesnakes!
 
You better believe that when you allow yourself to turn away from the Lord your God, you are going to find yourself in a place of captivity and that place of captivity is going to be a place of misery.  The way of transgressors is hard! The most miserable man on earth is not a lost man, but a saved man in captivity. That’s why, in languishing misery, “there by the rivers of Babylon they sat down and wept".
 
Not only did they have a languishing misery, they had
 
 
2. A Lingering Memory
 
. Psalm 137:b
 
“When we remembered Zion.”  Now remember, Zion is Jerusalem. That is city of God. That is the place of the holy temple and worship. That is the place of glad aongs and forgiveness of sin. That was the place of where God manifested himself to them. That was the place where God was real. That was the place of freedom and liberty and deliverance and they remembered that.
 
There is an interesting verse of Scripture in
 
1 John 2:19
 
Now there are some who go “out from us” and they live in Babylon, but they don't weep. Someone says, “Well I know a church member who left and they’re just living like the devil and having a grand old time! 
 
That’s interesting, isn’t it?  Let me tell you why they don’t weep.  They went out from us but they were not of us.  To put it in the words of this Psalm, they have no memory and the reason they have no memory is there is nothing to remember. They never met the Lord. They never knew the Lord. They never were saved.
 
We have people whose names are on the role of this church who have gone back to the world, the sin, the flesh, and the devil and they don’t weep because they've never been saved.  I want to tell you something, friend. A child of God will never be happy in Babylon because he has a memory.
 
Do you have a time, a place, where Jesus Christ was real to you? A time when you knew Him in all of that fullness, all of that joy, all of the thrill? Do you have a time when Jesus Christ was so real to you it was almost as if you could reach out and touch Him?
 
Do you remember when the Holy Spirit of God melted your heart when you thought about Him? You couldn't pray but what they tears streaming down your face said it all.  Someone would sing “Amazing Grace” and you wanted to stand up and shout and say glory to God.
 
Do you remember when you couldn’t wait to get to church and be with your brothers and sisters in the Lord and study the Bible together and have the chance to give your offering so God could use it? 
 
And now your heart is cold and indifferent, but you remember. You know what it used to be like. If you’re living in Babylon today, you ought to thank God for that lingering memory that causes you to wonder where is the blessedness you when you first saw the Lord? Where is that soul refreshing view of Jesus and His word? Where is the peaceful sleep you once
Enjoyed? How sweet is the memory, but there is this aching void in your life the world cannot fill.
 
They sat down and wept when they remembered.
 
I see a third thing in this text and it is the 
 
3. Laughing Mockery
 
verses 2-3
 
 
Do you see what’s happening?  The enemies of God are mocking His people.  Babylon knew what who they were and what they were supposed to be.  They had seen it and experienced it and what a delight it must have been to now have the upper hand. 
 
You’re supposed to be happy and victorious and blessed and spiritual people. Sing us a song. Show us how happy you are. Sing us one of the songs of Zion."
 
I want to tell you the demons of hell mock any Christian who is not living for Jesus.  How the devil delights for a preacher or deacon or teacher or choir member, or anybody who names the name of God,  who once lived for the Lord, who flaunted their faith to be taken captive.
 
How they put us on display. How they ridicule. You see it is Christ in our hearts, Christ in our lives that makes the difference and brings them under conviction. How the world loves to homogenize Babylon and Zion.
 
 They love to bring us together and point out how our faith makes no difference.  They love to broadcast the fact that what we have is not real.  How the devil loves to laugh at the children of God and make fun of their hypocrisy.
 
When the prophet Nathan confronted David about his sin with Bathsheba, David asked for and received the forgiveness of God. But Nathan said, “David there are some things that cannot be undone. You have given the enemies of God a great opportunity to blaspheme.” 
 
 
Do you understand what that means?  There were people looking at David and what he’d done and making fun of God because of it. Could that be true of you?  Could people look at your claims to be a child of God and how you live and act and their response to that cause them to blaspheme God? 
 
If that’s what God is like, if that’s the kind of people faith in Him develops, then I’m better off without Him!  He’s a pitiful God if that’s the best He can do! 
 
Is that what people would say about God after looking you over? 
 
Nathan said, “You’ve given God’s enemies the opportunity to blaspheme His Holy Name and because of that you’re going to experience extreme misery.  You’re little baby is going to die.”
 
If you are cavalier about your rebellion against God the you ned to be reminded God will not be mocked.  Whatever a man sows, that will he also reap.    
 
Sing us a song of Babylon they said, as they laughed and mocked and ridiculed the Creator of Heaven and earth.  That’s what happens when Christians live in captivity. 
 
Languishing misery, lingering memory, laughing mockery and finally,
 
4. Lacking Melody
 
Verse 4
 
Do you know why they couldn’t sing?  They were in captivity.  They needed deliverance. 
 
See, every Christian has a song and it is a song of deliverance. Let me give you a wonderful verse to put in your margin. It is
 
Psalm 32:7
 
Songs of deliverance. The song comes when we are delivered, when we are set free. It is the song of the soul set free. That's the song of deliverance.
 
Do you know the first recorded song in all of the
Bible ever sung to God? It is found in Exodus chapter 15, and it is the song Moses sang when they came out of the land of bondage. Do you remember what it was that brought them out of bondage? 
 
It was the sacrifice of a lamb.  They passed through the blood on their doorposts and came out of Egyptian captivity.  Then they passed through the waters of the Red Sea as God delivered them from Pharaoh.
 
And when they looked back on all of that, they sang a song of deliverance. What a song it must have been as multiplied thousands of men and women sang in praise to God because he had set them free.
 
We need to remember that all the songs of the
Christian faith are songs of the freeborn. They are the songs of those who have been set free.  They are songs of deliverance.
 
And when you lose that deliverance is when you lose your song. There is only one thing that can take your song. Sorrow can't take your song. Suffering cannot take your song. On the night before he was crucified, Jesus went to the upper room with His disciples.
 
The Bible tells us after they observed that that memorial mea, with Gethsemane and Calvary just a few hours away, "They sung a hymn and went out."  Have you ever noticed that before?  Jesus went to Calvary singing. Listen: sorrow cannot take your song.
 
Paul and Silas get in thrown in prison in Philippi for preaching the gospel.  But the Bible says at midnight they sang praises to God. God sent an earthquake. I guess you could say their concert brought the house down! 
 
How could they sing in prison at midnight?  Isaiah tells us that God gives songs in the night. Some of you have been there.  When your heart is so full of pain and sorrow, but God gave you a song in the night!
 
Suffering cannot take your song, sorrow cannot take your song, adversity cannot take your song, pain cannot take your song. There is only one thing that can take your song, and that is sin.
 
And when you are in a strange land because of your sin and you have been taken captive by the world you’ll lose your song.  You’ll have no reason to sing.
 
It occurs to me that they had no choice where they were living, but they had a choice as to whether they would sing or not. 
 
Did you know that’s true of you also?  Some of you can do absolutely nothing about the circumstances you’re dealing with. But you’ve got a choice as to how you will respond to those circumstances.
 
 
 
See Neil Diamond may sell a lot of records, but his theology is backwards.  He said, “Sing and you’ve got no choice but to feel better.  But God’s Word says, “Repent and you’ll feel better and that will cause you to sing!”
 
"How shall we sing the Lord's Song in a strange land?"
 
Only when He gives us songs of deliverance and if you are not being delivered you don't have any reason to sing. It is when he sets us free that we have a song to sing.
 
I know a lot of folks who have evidently lost their song. Just look around when we sing on Sunday morning and you’ll see ‘em.  Some of you sit there and rather than singing, you got a face so long you could eat oatmeal out of a lead pipe.
 
"Let those refuse to sing who never knew
our God, but children of the heavenly king, but
children of the heavenly king shall sing their joys
abroad, shall their joys abroad."
 
As the people of God, we're to sing!  You say, "Well Brother Terry, I'm not musical." Well lots of folks aren’t musical.  I didn’t know that was a requirement!  Where did you read that?  I’ve never seen that verse!
 
The Bible says in Ephesians 5:19 that when we're filled with the Spirit, we are to be "singing and making melody in our hearts to the Lord." Isn't that right?
 
Listen you can make melody in your heart even if you can't make it in your mouth.
 
 
Did you notice these Jews hung their harps on the willows?" Did you know that every Christian has a harp? It is the harp of the heart. I’m not making that up!  In the Greek, this phrase “making melody in your heart” actually means to strum a harp.
 
My heart is my harp and with it I praise the Lord God and with it I sing to God. How sad it is when the devil steals our song!
 
How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land.  We will sing His song because He gives the song!
 
On October 1, 1935, a baby girl was born.  Her name was Julia Elizabeth Wells.  When she was 8 years old, she started to sing and her parents noticed she had a really good voice. So they got her some lessons, and since her parents were involved in show business, and they got her involved, and they began to sing together as a family. 
 
When this girl was 13 years old, she got to sing for the Royal Family in England, the youngest person to ever get to sing before the Royal Family. Her voice was so unique. She had a 4-octave voice. And it was so clear and had such a beautiful sound. She came to America when she was just a teenager and got her first job on Broadway when she was 19. Not long after that, she appeared in her first movie. Then, other movies came.  Maybe you’ve seen her in her most famous movie, “The Sound of Music”.
 
Her performance name is Julie Andrews. She spent the majority of her life singing and wowing audiences.  But in 1997, when she was in her early 60s, she developed non-cancerous nodules on her vocal chords and she had to have surgery. 
She was told it was a routine surgery, no big deal.  You'll be singing as good as new in six weeks.  Well, six weeks came and went.  And then six weeks turned into six months and six months turned into two years  and two years turned into forever because Julie Andrews never got over the surgery. Julie Andrews lost her voice. 
 
Now I will confess to you I don't know much about her and I don’t know anything about her spiritual life.  But I would venture to say when she lost her voice, she lost her song.  You don't sing like she sings for decades and decades and then just have that taken away and it not shatter your life. 
 
In fact, she was interviewed by Barbara Walters about 18 months after her surgery.  Barbara asked her, "What are you going to do, Julie, if you can never sing again?"  And she said, "I don't even want to answer that question.  I don't even want to think about that." 
 
When Walters pressed her with a “what if” question,, she said, "I'd be devastated. I don't even want to go there.  I'm going to live in denial.  I'm just going to say that's not going to happen."  But it did happen.  And in spite of four more surgeries, she never sang publicly again.    
 
But in the early 2000s, she pulled her harp off of the willow tree and returned to acting.  She was in "The Princess Diaries, Part 1 and Part 2.  And then, she was the voice of Queen Lillian in "Shrek, Part 3," and then, "Shrek Forever."  She was in "Despicable Me."  She was the narrator in "Enchanted."  She's written children’s books with her daughter and continues to be involved in the entertainment industry.
 
Now some would say, “What a sad story.  For a beautiful talent like hers to be taken away and for her to lose her voice is terrible. 
 
But I would suggest there is something even worse than losing you voice and that is losing your song.  And, tragically, there are multitudes of people in our world today, God’s children, who've lost their song.  They've lost their zest for living, their joy and their gladness in living.  Some tragedy has come into their life and that tragedy has stolen away their song, and they just feel like, "What's the use?  I just want to quit.  I just want to give up."  There's no more song.  There's no more joy.  There's no more gladness.
 
I invite you today into the presence of God.  He can deliver you from the captivity in which you find yourself and I pray today you’ll go home singing the song of deliverance!
 
Let’s pray.
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