S-1028 2/06/08 1SMIL/3A. Hymns: (O)#359; (S)#135 ; (C) #126
Texts: Psalm 51:1-12; Psalm 137:1-6; Matthew 26:14-30
Theme: “There Is No Place Like Home” (Ps. 137:4)
Armour, SD. SOLI DEO GLORIA (1st sermon in series on “Singing the Songs of Zion”
Psalm 137:4 – “How can we sing the songs of the LORD while in a foreign land?”
HOME! The very word evokes feelings of love and laughter. Home brings to mind your childhood—mom and dad. Home allows you to dream about the days of sumptuous food mom had prepared; it is the place where you can take your shoes off and relax and sleep for a long time. Home is where the heart is. In the movie The Wizard of Oz, says it best, “there’s no place like home! Ask any military person what do they want most? And they will tell you “TO GO HOME!”
Home doesn’t mean much to you, unless you have moved away from home. I have moved from home a long time ago. But Last October I was privileged to go home again. I saw my sister before she went home for good to be with her Savior and Lord. I saw friends and loved ones; and it was a wonderful time.
But now Israel is a fading memory. I’m in SD in the heart of the winter. And it will not be long before the heat, humidity and wind return to the prairie. All that was familiar to me, Mount Carmel, Nazareth, and Jerusalem have been replaced by the wide open spaces, the Corn Palace and Mount Rushmore; permanently exiled in a foreign land. “There’s no place like home!”
For Israel in our text, Zion is a distant, fading memory. They’re stuck in Babylon, with its heathen gods and lustful living. Judah, Jerusalem and the Jordan have been replaced by being salves in Babylon. Israel now has no king, no temple, no royal city, no land, no liturgy, no sacrifice, no hope, no future and no HOME.
By the rivers of Babylon they sit and weep, reminiscing about the good ol’ days when they worshipped in the splendor of Solomon’s temple – when they worked and shopped in the city of David and saw the Mount of Olives from a distance; permanently exiled in a foreign land. O God – “there’s no place like … HOME!” But where is home? Home is not were we are, it is far, far away from here.
“There’s no place like Zion, there’s no place like home.” On the willows there we hung up our lyres. 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 Lord’s song in a foreign land? (Ps. 137:2-4).
It’s a sad song, and their captor’s rubbed their noses in it. “Sing us one of your songs of Zion, now.” Like the western bad-guy firing bullets at your feet saying, “Dance, dance.” “Welcome to the Hotel Babylonia, - you can check out any time you like but you can never leave.” That is a terrible feeling. That is the same feeling the People of Bethlehem are feeling today. They can drive all over the territory, but can’t leave the compound of the wall that separates the occupied territory from Israel’s proper.
Israel’s problem isn’t just one of location; it’s also one of the heart. They weren’t just far away from they Land; they were far away from God, the Father. God warned them what would happen if they began to worship other god’s at home. But Baal worship was too enticing. The pagan fertility gods were too sexy to resist. They wasted all that God had given them in the Promised Land. God sent someone to shut it all down. Jerusalem was destroyed in 586BC. As far as the Israelites were concerned it was the day the music died.
Some of us are far from home, but all of us are far from the Father. We have no one to blame but ourselves. Right now, right here, we are exiled in our own Babylon. It’s a Babylon we’ve made for ourselves. The god of culture is too enticing. What’s going on around us is just too sexy to resist. The god of this world is just so seductive and so
very deadly. When we live as we are told to live by the world our lives are left in tatters, our relationships are broken and bloody, our lives are empty. Satan whispers in our ear “Sing me one of the songs of Zion! Welcome to Hotel Satania – you can check out any time you like but you will never leave.” What’s worse we believe his lie. We think we have to live the way everyone else lives. We think we have to agree with their values. And we sacrifice our children, our friends, our neighbors and even ourselves on the altar. There is no song to sing.
How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land? (Ps. 137:4). There’s something very unique about Psalm 137. It’s not in your hymnal but 136 is. Open your hymnal on page 154. 137 follows 136 for a reason. Twenty-Six times Psalm 136 says the same thing. His mercy endureth forever. Over and over again it is sung. And although it is a good translation the word love doesn’t carry the weight of the language the Psalm was written in. The Hebrew word is hessed. It’s more than love. It’s a promise made by someone who doesn’t need to make it. It’s a promise to never break the promise. That’s why Psalm 136 repeats it over and over again, like driving a nail into a very hard wood. God’s mercy endures forever, He never breaks His promises, His hessed, His mercy and promise will last forever and ever and ever.
At first that might seem like an unrelated side track, but remember I said that 137 our psalm follows 136. The folks who cataloged these psalms and placed them in order wanted you to read 137 after you read 136. The songs of the Lord go on and on, in spite of how we feel about it.
God promised that the exiled of His people in Babylon wouldn’t last for ever, His mercy endures for ever. He would send someone to deliver them, His mercy endures forever. They would return to Zion, His mercy endures forever. A few short weeks ago, we celebrated God’s promised hessed. God Himself took on flesh and blood. Jesus described Himself in exile from His home, And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head.” (Mt. 8:20).
But Jesus was exiled not only from His Father’s home, but finally from the Father.
And about the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eli, Eli, lema sabachthani?” that is, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?” (Mt. 27:46) His mouth is dry, His lips are cracked, His voice is hoarse, He can barley speak, let alone sing. His captors torment Him, “sing us one of those songs of Zion, now! He saved others; let Him save Himself, if He’s the true king of Israel. Let Him come down from the cross and we’ll believe!” He wouldn’t do that. That was the day the music died.
But, the song goes on. Jesus was raised, physically, bodily, really, from the grave on the third day. Jesus says, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many rooms. If it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I Am you may be also” (Jh. 14:1-3) And
For we know that if the tent, which is our earthly home, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. (2 Cor. 5:1).
In the 1994 movie titled Forrest Gump, the simple but good-hearted Forrest falls in love with his childhood sweetheart. But she breaks his heart again and again by using him, taking him for granted, abandoning him, and repaying his loyalty with unfaithfulness. At the end of the movie, they meet up again after years of separation. She tells Forrest that she is sick and that the doctors can do nothing to help her. Forrest doesn’t hesitate, but immediately says, “You could come home with me, to my house, Jenny.”
That is what our loving Savior does for us, as He bids us to come and stay with Him in His HOME that He built by His own hands which were stretched on the cross of Calvary. And this home is NOT just any hotel. Our Zion is not the Ritz, it’s much better. The reservation is made and the price is paid in full. We have an eternal home in the Hotel
How can we sing the songs of Zion while in a foreign land – while still in this body of death – while still in the midst of a life that is marked by the words, “Ashes to ashes and dust to dust”?
John Newton, who composed the hymn “Amazing Grace,” also wrote a song of Zion that ends with these words. “Savior since of Zion’s city I through grace a member am. Let the world deride or pity, I will glory in your name. Fading are the world’s vain pleasures, all their boasted pomp and show. Solid joys and lasting treasures none but Zion’s children know” (TLH # 469.4).
We sing with John Newton and all of the baptized a grand symphony of celebration because we’re going HOME! HOME TO BE WITH OUR FATHER AND GOD FOREVER AND EVER AMEN.
Now the peace…