The worship of the People of God (2)
By the waters of Babylon,
there we sat down and wept,
when we remembered Zion.
On the willows there
we hung up our lyres.
For there our captors
required of us songs,
and our tormentors, mirth, saying,
“Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
How shall we sing the LORD’s song
in a foreign land?
(Psalm 137:1-4 ESV)
By the waters of Babylon, there we sat down, and we wept when we remembered Zion. Such a touching verse in scripture, it makes your heart ache to contemplate it. But what were they sad about? Well, they, the people of Israel, God’s Old Testament people, had been taken from their country, yes, their homes, yes, their city, yes, but what was it they were really weeping about? They wept, we are told, when they remembered Zion. And what was it specifically that they wept about when they remembered Zion? The praise and worship of the people of God. That’s what they were broken-hearted about. That they could not worship! The temple was in Jerusalem. Zion on earth, if you like. The copy of the holy place in Heaven. And when the people did not have access to the temple, they could not worship God the way they had been asked to.
And they cried out because of it, How can we sing the songs of the Lord in a foreign land? The answer was that they could not, in the same sense that they did in the temple in Jerusalem, in earthly Zion. They could not praise and worship as a people because they had been taken away from earthly Zion and from the temple, God’s house.
The parallels I am seeking to make, or you could say that the pattern I am seeking to draw your attention to, is fairly clear. As people worshipping in God’s house today (a spiritual house, Peter says, made up of living stones aligned to the Chief Cornerstone), as God’s people worshipping collectively, we have an even greater privilege than did the people of Israel. We have not come to a mountain that can be touched, as did the people of Israel. But we are coming to heavenly Zion, the original, the holy place of which the holies in the temple was just a copy, a representation; we ascend into the presence of God in spirit, and in the company of the majestic list of Hebrews 12, culminating in the Lord Jesus and God Almighty.
And how do we feel about it? Do we place the same value on our collective worship as God’s Old Testament people did – even though we are invited to partake in something even greater than they did? Should we not value it even more?
If you can’t worship with the people of God on a Sunday morning, how does it make you feel? We sat down and wept when we remembered Zion. That was the experience of the people of God in a past day when they were cut off from collective worship in the temple. Broken-heartedness because that collective worship was denied them.
And, as I say, our privilege is greater than theirs. How do you feel about it?