My greatest joy

Have you ever felt far from God? When the Israelites were in exile before the coming of Jesus, they were far from the dwelling place of God as he chose to dwell among them in the temple. Even though we are in an age of God dwelling with and among us, I often put myself in exile from God’s presence by removing myself from him in difficult times. I’m sure many of you do the same. Today I’d like to challenge all of us to turn our affections toward Christ and to find our deepest satisfaction in him as we consider Psalm 137:1-6.

This Psalm describes Israelites in exile in Babylon, remembering Jerusalem and struggling with the idea of praising God in a foreign, or pagan, land. The Israelites did not keep their promise to love and obey God and turned instead to idols. Because of this, God carried out his promise of destruction and the Israelites were carried into exile. This is the context of Psalm 137:1, “Beside the rivers of Babylon, we sat and wept as we thought of Jerusalem.”

It’s hard for us living long after the time of Jesus to understand the significance of Jerusalem. In this time, God had chosen Jerusalem as his dwelling place and the location of the temple. The Israelites in Psalm 137 struggled with worshipping God when they were separated from his dwelling place. For me it’s easy to replace the idea of Jerusalem in the passage with closeness to God. How can we worship and praise God when we feel far from God? That is what the Psalmist was questioning.

If we equate Jerusalem in this Psalm with intimacy or closeness with God, then we are to view closeness with God as our greatest joy. With that in mind, Psalm 137:5-6 reads, “If I forget close fellowship with God, 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 intimacy with God my greatest joy.”

We are all hardwired to worship. The question is not whether we will worship, but what. God asks to be our greatest joy and for us to delight in him. If this is true of us, we will find complete satisfaction in him. If we hold anything else in the place of God as our greatest joy, we will be left empty.

Praise God, we cannot fully relate to the Psalmist of 137. We are not exiled from God’s presence. God dwells with us and in us through the Holy Spirit. How can we worship God when our hearts are hurting? Because his faithful love endures forever. Because he is worthy of praise, no matter what. Because he is our true source of joy, awe, and satisfaction. So he must be our greatest joy and satisfaction, which will bring us to awe of him.


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