Looking through Psalm 137, Stanza 2: Worship that is Pleasing to God
We have considered our experience as God’s people in exile through stanza 1 of Psalm 137; now look at stanza 2, verses 5–6:
If I forget you, O Jerusalem,
let my right hand forget its skill!
Let my tongue stick to the roof of my mouth,
if I do not remember you,
if I do not set Jerusalem
above my highest joy!
Regardless of the situation in which we find ourselves, or perhaps better yet, because of the situation in which we find ourselves, we must worship. We must not forget the heavenly Jerusalem and all that it represents—it represents God’s instructions that he has given us for how he wants to be worshiped; it represents worship that is holy and distinct from pagan worship; it represents sweet communion with our God in his presence through the sacrifice of atonement that he has provided himself.
And so we must not forget—we must not cease to worship. If we forget what God has said about worship, if we forget his holy Temple and pure worship directed toward him alone following his guidance, then it would be better that we just not worship at all. If we dare forget Jerusalem and instead bring in the pagan world into our worship, then it would be better that our tongues stick to the roofs of our mouths so that we cannot sing. It would be better that our hands forget how to play.
But we must not forget. We must remember that we are citizens of Zion, the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem. We long for that city!
Jerusalem the golden, with milk and honey blest,
Beneath thy contemplation sink heart and voice oppressed.
I know not, O I know not, what joys await us there,
What radiancy of glory, what bliss beyond compare.
Jerusalem, my happy home,
name ever dear to me,
when shall my labours have an end,
thy joys when shall I see?
Glorious things of thee are spoken,
Zion, city of our God.
God, whose word cannot be broken,
formed thee for his own abode.
On the Rock of Ages founded,
what can shake thy sure repose?
With salvation’s walls surrounded,
thou may’st smile at all thy foes.
We long to be in the presence of God, in his city, in his temple, where we will no longer fear our foes. And, in fact, through faith when we worship, we do come to that city and join our voices with angels in festal gathering and the saints who have gone before us.
And one day, faith will be sight. And what we do now in faith we will experience physically. But for now, while we are here in this strange land, we mustn’t forget—we must worship God as he pleases, resisting religious syncretism, and longing for our happy home.
So what can we do? What can we do who are trying not to forget, who are trying to worship God in a way that pleases him in an environment that is hostile to this and when some of our own people are compromising?
About Scott Aniol
Scott Aniol is the founder and Executive Director of Religious Affections Ministries. He is director of doctoral worship studies at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where he teaches courses in ministry, worship, hymnology, aesthetics, culture, and philosophy. He is the author of Worship in Song: A Biblical Approach to Music and Worship, Sound Worship: A Guide to Making Musical Choices in a Noisy World, and By the Waters of Babylon: Worship in a Post-Christian Culture, and speaks around the country in churches and conferences. He is an elder in his church in Fort Worth, TX where he resides with his wife and four children. Views posted here are his own and not necessarily those of his employer.