ZION'S CAPTIVITY TURNED
By Steven Nixon
Psalm 126:1-3, “When the Lord turned again the captivity of Zion, we were like them that dream. Then was our mouth filled with laughter and our tongue with singing, then said they among the heathen, the Lord hath done great things for them. The Lord hath done great things for us: whereof we are glad.”
When the children of Israel were held captive in Babylon their harps were hung upon the willow trees. There were no songs to be sung, no worship to be made and no shout of praise unto God. They were imprisoned and in bondage. Psalm 137 refers to the rivers of Babylon where they sat and wept and remembered Zion. It says that they had hung their harps upon the willow and those that carried them away captive required of them a song. The captives wasted them and required mirth of them saying ‘sing us one of the songs of Zion.’ The children of Israel asked ‘How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a strange land?’
In Israel’s history we read of three great captivities, this one in Psalm 137 is the third of the captivities. It was led by the King of Babylon King Nebuchadnezzar, who invaded Judah and Jerusalem and slew all the men, both young and old in the house of God. They had no compassion on anyone. They took all the vessels and treasures of the House of God and burnt it and broke down the walls of Jerusalem and burnt the palaces with fire. Those that had escaped were those that had been carried away captive to Babylon. Here in Psalm 137 we find them weeping by the rivers for lost family, friends, homes, but most of all weeping when they remembered Zion, the house of God that was now burnt and the walls torn down and they themselves captive in a strange land. The land of Babylon was now a house of bondage to the children of Israel just as Egypt had been in their beginning.
When I think back to when I was in captivity. Captivity to the world, captivity to the flesh and captivity to sin, I can recall many a night weeping over the emptiness in my life, weeping to the trouble I had brought to my life and family and weeping because my life was in a mess. But Praise the Lord the Bible says ‘weeping may endure for a night but joy comes in the morning. That joy came when I asked Christ into my heart. Only He could snap the chains and fetters and set this captive free!
But listen, the Children of Israel wept when they remembered Zion. One commentator describes their tears as ‘deliberate tears’ (they sat down and wept). They were tears of consideration. Their affection for God’s house swallowed up concern for their own houses when they thought of that beautiful city in ruin and in ashes. They remembered the days spent going up to the house of God with joy and a shout of praise and now it lay in ruins and they were held captive. Do we friend weep when we remember what the Lord has done for us? Do we weep when we think that the creator of the Universe sent His only son, the spotless Lamb of God to die on a cruel cross that you and I may receive eternal life? Do we weep when we think of a time in our lives when there was a passion, zeal and fire in our hearts stronger than it is today, but now we find lethargy, apathy, tiredness and weariness and the well has become capped or you find you are going around the mountain, falling at the same hurdles and stumbling at the same place and instead of victory you find yourself held captive? Do we weep because we find our lives are having no impact on the world around us, we can read about revival, talk about revival but never seem to see that revival river flow? And lastly do we weep when we think of the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, His church, and the mess it is in, for the walls seem to be broken down, the gates burnt and His people powerless? The children of Israel wept, they wept friend when they remembered Zion.
I pray that our only thought and remembrance will be of God and the restoration of Gods power on a nation and His spirit to be poured out across this land.
Verse 3 of Psalm 137 says “For there they carried us away captive and required of us a song and they that wasted us required of us mirth saying “sing us one of the songs of Zion”. It wasn’t enough that the children of Israel were in captivity but the Babylonians mocked them and wasted them. It’s a bit like our world today, not only do law makers and governments want to bind and tie up the church of God, but there is a mocking and a wasting of Gods people today. One has only to go into the streets and hand out tracts, or take a stand for righteousness in the workplace or school, or even among your own family or among the so called people of God and you are laughed at, mocked, berated and even abused. You’re called a radical, a scaremonger and a preacher of doom and gloom. The word "wasted" in this verse means that they ‘laid us on heaps and tormented us’, or who causes them to howl under oppression or wrong. Friends we know who ultimately the tormentor is and he is busy about his business, trying to torment and destroy the people of God, with sickness, difficult situations and circumstances and accusations in the lives of believers. Listen we need to stand strong and live separated lives. Lives that don’t speak the language of the world, go to the worldly places or do the things that the world do, for we are a new creation, we were bought with a price and we are not our own. Christ is our master, He is our Lord, He is the one that we follow and obey. Christ has set us free from this world by His power and the blood of the Lamb. The devil hates a Christian like this and it rattles him, so he will go out of his way to destroy oppress and waste you. But listen he cannot harm those who are covered and sealed by the precious blood of Jesus.
Back in our passage the captors required mirth of the children of Israel and this word mirth means “Joy”. They mocked them by asking them to” sing us a song, cheer up be happy”. We have wounded, plundered and fettered you and taken you into captivity but cheer up and sing us one of your beautiful songs of Zion. It was mockery, ridicule and sneering at its very worst, but friend the good news for these captive people and the good news for the church corporately and individually is that things will turn. There was a turning point for the children of Israel and friend there is a day when things will turn for the church of the living God.
Psalm 126 is all about the restoration of the children of Israel from their Babylonian captors. This turning and releasing came totally out of the blue for those in captivity, they were not expecting it, they had no inclination of it, no prior notice, it just happened suddenly and quickly that at first they were in confusion and amazement not knowing what to make of it. So sudden and overwhelmed was their joy that they felt like men out of themselves, they were ecstatic, or in a trance. The captivity had been great and great was their deliverance, for the great God himself wrought it. It seemed too good to be true, they thought they were dreaming. Surely this could not be happening. This is a dream.
The commentator Barnes says “It seemed like a dream, we could hardly believe it was so, it was so marvellous, so good so full of joy that we could scarcely believe that it was real. We fear that it is a dream and it will all vanish away”. Friend, it was no dream, it was all so real. Just like Peter in the book of Acts when he was imprisoned and held by four quaternions of soldiers and the church began to pray without ceasing and the Lord heard and delivered him out of prison. Peter stood at the door of the place where the saints were praying, but when Rhoda answered it and saw Peter she ran and told the disciples who in turn said she was mad. They didn’t even believe their own prayers, but when Peter walked in they were all astonished. They were all filled with wonder and joy and amazement. For when the Lord turns the captivity, so suddenly, it may seem like a dream, but friend it will reality. I believe that when, not if, the Lord begins to move in our time it will be a very quick, sudden work. I believe we will be astounded at the workings and the hand of the Lord. I believe we will actually have to pinch ourselves thinking it all a dream. For listen church, when the Lord moves he will move on the left and on the right in such a way that we will know only the Lord could have done it. Suddenly and swiftly He will move. Think about the 120 in the upper room on the day of Pentecost. Acts 2 says they were all with one accord in one place and suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind and it filled the entire house. No one was excluded, all were filled. For suddenly the Spirit fell. Suddenly. It was Brother Clendennen who frequently said that he had grown to love the word ‘suddenly!’ Suddenly all things were made right. Suddenly strength came into sick bodies, suddenly lives were changed. Suddenly the Lord will come to his temple and things will never be the same again. Suddenly life will spring from death.
A turning friend. Do you believe that there can be a turning from the circumstances all around us?
I believe that this year will be a year of turning – a turning from bad to good, from hate to love, from unforgiveness to forgiveness, from war to peace, from drought to harvest, from few to plenty, from hard hearts to soft hearts, from sin to salvation and from death to life.
We as the blood bought of Christ must believe that the Lord can turn the hearts of a nation to seek Him once again. The Lord turned Balaam’s curse into a blessing, He turned David’s mourning into dancing, He turned the rock into a fountain of water and in Ezra 6 He turned the heart of a King to favour Gods people.
Psalm 126 begins with “When”. That means He has promised it, He is going to do it, it will come to pass, it is going to happen. The Lord is not slack concerning His promises. He does not delay beyond the appointed time. When the Lord turns the captivity of Zion, sick bodies will be healed, difficult circumstances will be made right, relationships will be mended, and the church will be filled to overflowing with the Glory and joy of the Lord. The moving of the spirit of the Lord will be so great that many lost souls will be swept into the Kingdom of God. The outside world looks on, searching and yearning for reality. This passage of scripture is all about revival; it begins with the church and finishes with the lost.
Everything is all about Christ. It’s about His glory, His honour and His testimony. Everything that has happened and will happen is all for the Glory of God.
Though the vision tarry, wait for it, for it will surely come!