I’d only ever heard the Boney M version of this story which seemed to be a little upbeat until you listen to the words. It’s sets a pretty dismal atmosphere; captives, in a foreign place, being mocked.
I guess the Israelites must have felt defeated/disheartened/disconnected as they sat down, distanced from familiarity and more so, distanced from God’s presence. Their resent naturally simmered as they dreamed of revenge in an attempt to appease their feelings of isolation and hopelessness.
The question of how to retain a faithful, triumphant and loyal disposition during the times we feel ‘distanced from God’ could be asked. ‘How do we genuinely even give praise from a place of defeat, hopelessness or embitterment?’
Firstly, I think the distance needs to recognised. For the Israelites, it was an obvious removal. They were physically removed from Gods dwelling place. Today, I know other things in life do just as good a job at removing us from an affinity with God if we let them. Unlike the Israelite captors, life captors/ preoccupations may start more subtly; firstly dividing your attention, then leading you to become consumed and finally mocking you when you realize what a slave you’ve become to them. The distance is recognized, but contemplating a plan to reconnect with Him is difficult and you realise that the joy went a while ago. That’s maybe when the defeat, hopelesness & embitterment feelings come in.
I like 1 John 4: 13-16 which describes how we now live/ dwell/ are in union with God through Jesus because of His Spirit. The feeling of disconnection can still be recognised and felt on our part if we allow it, however; vs 15 says that ‘if anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him, and him in God.’ Then wherever we go and whatever we do (or fail to do), we are not distanced from His presence, his loyalty, and the same spirit which dwells amongst us as a body and unites us as His people. And….’where the spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom’ (2 Corinthians 4:2). So we are constantly free, no longer captives to whatever attempts to distance us from God. Through that, I think authentic joy can come.
So I’m grateful he was right with me this weekend. In all big and small ways. Particularly on a dodgy country train, with me on my run and with me when I had time to ‘squeeze in time’ with him. Whenever I remembered his faithfulness (and inescapable presence), I actually took a breath of relief. He has paid the price, willingly, to come and stick by each of us, readily available to reveal his faithfulness in any foreign land & with it, restore joy.
Janet Lamb, October 2014