Psalm 137 is known as an imprecatory psalms. In these psalms, the author invokes God to bring down judgment or punishment on his enemies. This psalm has one of the harshest verses in the psalms in verse 9: “Blessed shall he be who takes your little ones and dashes them against the rock”! But before we get to that, look at how the psalmist begins. “By the waters of Babylon, there we sat down and wept, when we remembered Zion”. The psalmist is not simply trying to address us, but to shock us into seeing the awfulness of sin. Sin is a real problem in God’s eyes – no matter how much we try to belittle it.
The psalmist wants us to have an emotional reaction to sin which has taken place. We are too mild in our hatred of sin. God hates sin, and that is not an overstatement of His position on it. It is an issue that will cause us to spend eternity apart from a loving God who more than anything wants us to spend that eternity with Him. But He won’t give us a pass on sin. He won’t bend the rules so we can spend that eternity with Him. That’s the reason Jesus has to go to the Cross – because God can’t ignore sin – any sin – no matter how we view it.
Just as these faithful Jews could not sing Zion’s songs in Babylon, so God’s people today should not just blend in with the world. “How shall we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land….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”! God’s people can’t praise God while in captivity, even though their very actions are what led them to their situation. The Jews refused to play their harps in Babylon. They stood firmly for the Lord, yearning for worship in Jerusalem.
But back to the closing verse, which seems very harsh. One commentary explains it this way: When the psalmist prays for Babylon to have its infants dashed against the rocks, he is asking that the law of retribution be carried out through God’s prescribed means against a warring nation to punish Babylon with the same evil Babylon had inflicted on Israel. He is invoking God for the judicial punishment of the wicked. God’s punishment certainly can be strong and severe, especially against those who choose to cause pain to His children.