Wayne Clarke is Religious Editor at BBC Radio Merseyside
I love the historical books of the Old Testament. I love to read the way the people asked Samuel to give them a king in 1 Samuel 8 & 9, so they could be like the other nations. Samuel warned them that God wanted to be their ruler, and a king would only oppress them, but they didn’t listen. They got the king they prayed for, and soon realised the mistake they’d made. Be careful what you pray for.
I love the historical books because the people then are just like us. They follow God sometimes, and then they don’t. There are good times and bad times, inspiration moment and long dry periods
The darkest time in the history of Biblical Israel was the exile, when they were defeated and taken in captivity to Babylon. Being in Babylon separated them from all they had known, and the place where they had come to believe their God lived. Exile didn’t only affect their faith, it robbed them of their creativity. Psalm 137 begins:
“By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion. There on the poplars we hung our harps, for there our captors asked us for songs, our tormentors demanded songs of joy; they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!” How can we sing the songs of the LORD while in a foreign land? If I forget you, Jerusalem, may my right hand forget its skill. May my tongue cling to the roof of my mouth if I do not remember you, if I do not consider Jerusalem my highest joy.” (TNIV)
For the singers in exile, captivity led to a loss of creativity. While those who oppressed them asked them to sing the songs of their homeland, to do so seemed disloyal to Jerusalem and to God. When enslaved Africans sang their freedom songs in the Americas, it was a sign of their spiritual liberation and their hope of heaven. But for the enslaved Israelites, singing would have been a sign of oppression and alienation.
How does alienation affect your creativity? Can we sing the Lord’s songs in a foreign land? Most of us work among people who don’t share our faith and for organisations that don’t share our faith. As Christians our home is heaven but we need to work creatively in the here and now, in the place where we live out our calling
Learning to sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land is learning to express our God-given creativity. And my prayer is: “Lord help me to sing your songs in a foreign land, to work creatively to your glory as a testimony to your creative nature”
Now, get that Boney M song out of your head and get on with your work.