«Beside the rivers of Babylon, we sat and wept as we thought of Jerusalem. We put away our harps, hanging them on the branches of poplar trees» (Psalm 137:1, 2).
An article published in Current Biology, a scientific magazine, mentions a study that found out babies cry with a similar accent to their mother tongues, which they’ve heard in the womb. It’s a way to communicate or seek to bond with their mothers. Doctor Kathleen Wermke, a medical anthropologist and director of the research study, says that the melody of crying, and not babbling, is the true beginning of language development.
The group of exiles the verse is talking about was no longer necessarily made up of babies, but they kept in mind the melodies that had characterized them from birth. Those who had taken them captive asked them to sing some of their native songs (Psalm 137:3). But they had hung their harps and wondered how they would sing in a strange land. Jews considered it wasn’t right to sing to God in a heathen land that didn’t worship Him. It was an incoherence to them.
Just as we see Daniel doing when he opened his window in the direction of Jerusalem and prayed to the God he had always worshiped, they yearned for Jerusalem and cried. It had been their place of joy, feasts, celebrations and worship. They didn’t want to forget it no matter what.
«If I forget you, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget how to play the harp. May my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth if I fail to remember you, if I don’t make Jerusalem my greatest joy» (Psalm 137:5, 6).
How much do we yearn for our heavenly home? It’s true we’ve never been there, but every time we’re in the presence of God we can feel, like those captives felt and remembered, a bit of the joy of heaven.
Are we like those babies who, when «crying», when communicating with those around us, show where we come from, what our original accent and our true homeland is?
Today we have the opportunity to speak with God in mind. May our tongue not have to stick to the roof of our mouth because we’ve forgotten Him.
The point is not to despair and cry inconsolably, but we can long for Zion like those captives and yearn for the time when with our voices and other instruments we will praise Him together, in freedom, for all eternity.