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“By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. There on the poplars [trees] 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?” – Psalm 137:1-4 (NIV)

Psalm 137 has been made into song by gospel and pop musicians. As a kid, after listening to this song, I would ask myself where is this Babylon, where is this Zion, and who are these people who sat and wept? I now know that these were Israelites taken into captivity 2600 years ago by King Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon (a place in Iraq). The book of Ezekiel says they were by the River Chebar (Kebar) (Ezekiel 3:15).

River Chebar was not a good place – it was a place the Israelites could not easily escape from; it would flood during the rains, and they would farm it in the dryer months. Nebuchadnezzar took the Israelites from their beautiful homes and golden Temple in Jerusalem, and dumped them in an insect infested hole in Babylon. So the Israelites wept big tears; to make it worse the Babylonians mocked them – you use to sing and dance in Jerusalem, sing and dance here too, let’s watch!

At that time, it looked as if Israel was completely finished, or finished completely (ha-ha); all hope was lost. How come the nation of Israel still exist today? The continued survival of Israel despite their Biblical history of bad leaders and powerful enemies, shows how God is able to keep his promises in difficult circumstances. The Biblical history of Israel is a case study and a track record of God’s ability to achieve his purpose in the face of non-stop opposition.

In the next couple of weeks, we will look at Israel in Babylon through the writings of Ezekiel. The prophet says a lot of things that can be difficult to fully understand. I will focus on lessons from Ezekiel that are helpful to you and I. Ezekiel reveals God’s future plans for Israel even while they were weeping in Babylon.

We learn from Ezekiel that even when we pass through dark times, hard times, tough times, that is not the final chapter; may our study in Ezekiel, give us hope and strength in this journey called life, Amen!

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