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There can be but little question concerning the date of this Psalm: speaking, as it doth at the opening of it, of Babylon, it seems very plainly to refer to the time of the Church's captivity there. In reading or singing this Psalm, it would be profitable to have the mind suitably affected, to take part with the Church's trouble.
Ezekiel, who was of the children of the captivity, gives us the largest account of the river Chebar, on the banks of which Zion's sons and daughters were placed in their captivity, Ezekiel 1:1-3 . The mournful situation of the Church at that time was such, that they sat down and wept in remembrance of Zion! Yes! ordinances, means of grace, and the enjoyment of sabbaths, would be painful subjects of recollection, if the Lord, for the sin of a land, were to remove the candlestick out of its place.
We may form some idea of a poor captive minstrel, hanging up his harp as useless, by the representation of the far more deplorable state of an enslaved soul, led away captive by the enemy, or fallen into a, state of deadness and indifferency to divine things. Creature enjoyments, nay, even ordinances, without Jesus, are lifeless and insipid. Where Jesus is not, there is no use for the harp; and where he is, there is melody in the soul without the harp.
God's people are still subject to insult; but it is impossible to feel warmth at all times in the Lord's service where scoffers are. Sometimes, indeed, a holy indignation, and a zeal for Jesus, give freedom and liberty to the soul; but a cold frigid atmosphere of hearers, will make a minister's spirit cold also.
I hope the Lord's Israel at all times feels somewhat of this same spirit. It is blessed to feel the love of Jesus in seasons when Jesus is opposed, and to have this testimony in the worst of times. Peter, though he had been led captive by Satan for the moment, could, and did appeal to Jesus, who knew his heart, that he still did love him, John 21:17 . Reader! what saith your heart to this question, Is Jesus precious? To them who believe he is so, 1 Peter 2:7 .
These words are both a prayer and a prophecy. Edom is the seed of Esau, and as such there was, and is, and ever will be, the same hatred subsisting. But the Church looketh forward to the hour, when Edom shall be ruined; Babylon must fall; Israel shall be delivered. And as these events were typical of the Gospel Church in after ages; so the Babylon spoken of in the New Testament shall be destroyed. Revelation 18:2-10 .
MY soul! canst thou behold the sorrows and miseries of Israel in their captivity, and not call to mind that more horrible vassalage and slavery in which sin and Satan bound thee for many a year? Did Israel weep by the waters of Babylon, and hang their harps upon the willows, under a sense of the bondage into which their rebellion and ingratitude had brought them; and canst thou forget the wormwood and the gall, when, in a state of unawakened nature, thou wast fast bound in the misery and iron of a captivity, from which none but the arm of Jehovah could have delivered thee? Apply this view of the Church's history to thine own state and circumstances, in what is past, in what is now, and in which thou mayest be blessed in the review of it hereafter. Think what thou once wast, when like the Church in Babylon, the strong man armed kept the house, and thou wast the servant and bondsman of sin. See by whose grace and mercy it is that thou art brought out. Remember who it is that hath said, I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction. And call to mind to whose grace and finished salvation it must alone be ascribed, that the hopes of being brought home to the heavenly Jerusalem now arise, in looking forward to all the blessings of redemption by the Lord Jesus Christ. Hail, thou holy, thou gracious, thou almighty Saviour! Blessed Jesus! when the seventy years of the desolation of thy church and people are accomplished; when the Lord, who hath in his own glorious person finished the transgression, made an end of sins, made reconciliation for and brought in an everlasting righteousness, shall finally and fully turn the captivity of his redeemed; then, Lord, thou wilt call all thy people home, and plant them in thy holy mountain, even in heaven itself, which thou hast taken possession of in their name: and then shall all the Edomites, and the haters of the Lord, be driven from thy presence, while thy people shall rejoice before thee in everlasting hallelujahs, and endless happiness.
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Hawker, Robert, D.D. "Commentary on Psalms 137". "Hawker's Poor Man's Commentary". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26