By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. There on the poplars we hung our harps, for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!” How can we sing the songs of the Lord while in a foreign land? (NIV)
We live in strange times, in a sort of foreign country, a place we would not expect or desire to be. Very much like those ancient Israelites who were exiled in Babylon. Cut off from their usual routines of life and worship. Severed from their long standing culture. Wondering what the future held for them. Questioning how God fitted in to this alien existence.
Their reluctance to sing their traditional songs highlights their distress. How can they praise and thank God given their circumstances? And can such songs even be imagined in a place and culture hostile to their God?
It is an instance of a very common dilemma we all face. God may have fitted neatly into our normal routines, our holy and even not so holy habits. Life went on and God was hopefully to be thanked for it. Then things changed. We enter a foreign land. What happens now with God? What songs do we sing, what worship do we offer?
The bedrock response is that whatever our life landscape might be like, our God is good and unchanging. His love, revealed fully in Jesus, is not in doubt. We cling to him, we go on thanking him as we discern “the rainbow through the rain”. We refuse to see him as a vengeful deity hurling pandemic thunderbolts our way.
We learn to sing a new song, to explore helpful habits, to discover newly open doors amidst all the closed doors. We trust that there are no “foreign lands” as far as God is concerned.