HOW CAN WE SING THE LORD’S SONG IN A STRANGE LAND?
The Book of Daniel
The 137th Psalm is an exile poem. It is a lament over Israel’s defeat as a nation and the people’s deportation 500 miles east to Babylon. There they were enslaved.
It is in this context that the poet wrote his psalm:
“By the waters of Babylon
we sat down and wept
when we remembered thee, Zion.”
Indeed, the psalmist asks a trenchant question,
“How can we sing the Lord’s songs in a strange land?”
The biblical answer is found the Old Testament book of Daniel. A young man, Daniel, was a Jew. His name means “God is my judge.”
But Daniel’s dreams became nightmares as he was torn from his frame and re-settled in a pagan culture. His haircut was changed. His clothing changed. So did his city, sights, and smells, his language, even his name. He was called Beltashazzar, meaning “protect the life of the king.” Add to this that he was mocked. “Sing to me the songs of Zion” (Psalm 137:3).
When Daniel’s captors tried to change his diet, he did not rebel. He simply offered a creative alternative, a test pitting his Jewish diet against a Babylonian menu. At the end of six weeks he was more healthy, so he was allowed to keep his diet. Over time Daniel gained a reputation as a faithful servant.
Ah, but the Babylonian king wasn’t through. He next tried to change Daniel’s God and his manner of worship. And a series of duels began between the one true God and the Babylonian kings who claimed they were themselves deities. It’s great drama. Read it for yourself. Daniel in the Lion’s Den, the Hebrew men in the fiery furnace.
Then one blessed night when an angel wrote on the king’s banqueting hall wall, the pretender was vanquished, his kingdom fallen, but God and his people still stood.
Here in the United States in the midst of globalism, secularism, materialism, and a mean-spirited “woke” fundamentalism, Christians are becoming exiles in a strange culture. Sexual mores are radically changed, Jesus is mocked, the church traded truth for delusion, history was distorted. And like Daniel, we are called to live in the immoral culture. And it is Daniel’s book that can help us find our way.
A noted Christian historian pointed out how the early church was intensely persecuted as they lived in an insane Roman culture of force and violence. But after two to three hundred years the faith of Jesus Christ had won the hearts of the empire.
How did they do it? By out living, out serving, out loving, out writing, out thinking, out suffering, and, yes, out dying the Romans. Their grit must be ours today as we enter the serious decline of the West and confront the anti-Christ hordes.