Happy are those who seize your infants and dash them against the rocks.
This prayer comes to us white hot. Its raw wound forbids our tendency to give smooth answers in the face of cruelty. Imagine the scene that birthed this psalm. The Babylonian guards taunted Jewish slaves, saying, “Hey, sing us a song about how your God is the greatest!” Though the slaves refused to sing, they also refused to forget. They stayed angry about Babylon’s injustice.
Maybe you know a person who was victimized. Maybe you were abused or violated. And maybe someone mocked your outrage. Many of us were raised to think that there are not many real victims in our world. We suspect that most sufferers “asked for it” or “got what they had coming.” But the psalms do not tolerate keeping such a distance from human suffering. They make us grapple with evil’s reality, demanding that we hate injustice and oppression. They experience, and express, anger on behalf of the oppressed.
Psalm 137 may stun us. Can we be that honest with God? Hating evil is critical for a healthy spiritual life. In a miracle of the cross, Jesus teaches us to love our enemies. So we trust vengeance to him alone. But the psalms show there is no room for false piety or trying to appear respectable. We can be honest with God about what we are feeling. We can even bring our hatred to God and lay it at his feet.
Lord, please bring your kingdom, when we know you will bring oppressors to justice. Heal their victims, we pray, and give us strength in Jesus’ name. Amen
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