“By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down, yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion. We hanged our harps upon the willows in the midst thereof. For there they that carried us away captive required of us a song; and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying, Sing us one of the songs of Zion. How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?”
Have you ever felt like a prisoner, even though you are told that you are free? Have you ever felt that you were living in a foreign land, even though you are at home?
These are feelings that many of you have had for some time, but they are now more intense and troubling than ever before.
The writer shares your lament. This is not the land I knew as a boy.
I remember when it seemed most people went to church. I remember when only certain necessary items were for sale on the Lord’s Day. I remember my elementary school teachers reading the Bible to us in the public school and praying in class. I remember when it was common to be patriotic. God and country — in that order — were worth fighting for. I remember being free. And I miss it all.
In our text, the people of God lamented their pitiful state. They were a conquered people and had lost their homeland to foreigners and found themselves in a strange land. Gone were the good old days, and they saw little prospect of them ever returning — and they were very sad.
We read a similar passage in the second chapter of the prophet Haggai. “Who is left among you that saw this house in her first glory? and how do ye see it now? is it not in your eyes in comparison of it as nothing?” Haggai 2:3
As I look at our beloved homeland and see how it has changed over the past several months, my heart is saddened as I remember the way it was, and see now what we have become. It is indeed as nothing in comparison. And not only that — we as a people are as nothing in comparison of what we once were.
There was a time when this could not have happened to us. But in our complacency, we have essentially lost whatever courage and fortitude we once had. The passion and zeal of our forefathers has given way to the donning of masks and staying in our homes, which have become nothing more than prisons. Our beloved homeland is no longer the land of the free and home of the brave, but is rather the land of the enslaved and the home of the fearful. And none dare do anything about it because we have been programmed to be compliant.
Can we ever get back that which we have lost? Will we ever enjoy freedom again? That depends upon us. “Behold, the Lord’s hand is not shortened, that it cannot save; neither his ear heavy, that it cannot hear: but your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.” Isaiah 59:1-2
Our hope is in God but the problem is, our sins — abandoning God’s Law, infanticide, pedophilia, same sex marriage, miscegenation, perversion of every kind, haughtiness, pridefulness — have separated between us and our God so that He will not hear us. Our God is gracious and longsuffering to be sure, but He is also just. We have sown the wind, and we are reaping the whirlwind.
The answer to our problems is found in what is perhaps the most important passage of Scripture for our day. It is, I believe, our only hope. “If my people, which are called by my name, shall humble themselves, and pray, and seek my face, and turn from their wicked ways; then will I hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin, and will heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14
People of God it is time we own our national sins and humble ourselves in the sight of God. It is time we pray according to His Will, not ours — “Thy Kingdom come, Thy Will be done!” It is time we seek our God and His holy Kingdom above all else. It is time we turn from our wicked ways and beg the Lord’s forgiveness. It is time we leave off haughtiness and cling only unto Him and the righteousness that is afforded the faithful who have placed their trust in the gracious work of Christ upon the cross.
If we will do this, He promises that He will hear us, and will forgive our many sins, and will heal our land. We need only obey.
Let us now, then, do as we have been instructed from God’s Word, and let us be swift to do so, for the time is short.