By the rivers of Babylon
By the rivers of Babylon—there we sat down and there we wept when we remembered Zion. On the willows there we hung up our harps.
Psalm 137:1-2 (NRSV)
The Jewish settlements in the Babylonian captivity were set out between the rivers Tigris and Euphrates.
Willow trees, which were growing along the rivers’ banks, have main branches growing upward; the secondary ones grow straight down, creating the graceful weeping effect. The Jews most likely tied their instruments onto the branches in very much the same way a boxer would hang up their gloves at the end of their careers.
Cold weather can impact stringed instruments by causing warping. Because these instruments are usually made from wood, when the temperature drops it can cause the wood fibres to contract.
Stringed instruments are happiest given a constant temperature of 60 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit, and a relative humidity of 35 to 50 percent. Temperatures higher than these would give the sounds played a higher pitch. Colder environments by the riverbanks would cause a lower pitch.
The Temple courts had the ideal conditions for the instruments used in God’s worship. It’s no wonder that King David, the sweet psalmist of Israel, also longed for the temple courts, as Psalm 84:10 records: ‘Better is one day in your courts than a thousand elsewhere…’ (NIV).
We also long for God’s temple courts as we seek for those things in heaven. We don’t have to hang up our instruments. As the church is the temple of God, we can sing and praise God in this strange land, though pilgrims and strangers on the earth.
Heavenly Father, we thank you that you dwell in our praises. Help us to seek your true courts where we will be the happiest. Help us to worship You wholeheartedly, as we seek to be true instruments in Your hands. In Jesus’ name, Amen
Study by Patrick Goodman
About the writer:
Patrick Goodman attends the Central London congregation of Grace Communion International, where he is a Worship Leader.
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