THE BACKSLIDDER'S BURDEN
Intro: As you know, Psalms are songs. They were originally put to music.
This particular song was one of the saddest songs ever composed and ever
sung in the house of God.
This Psalm was written by a P.O.W.. But this was not just a prisoner
of war, this was a prisoner of want, W-A-N-T. The songwriter here is
singing of a time when believers where in Babylon. These believers in
Babylon were also believers in bondage. Where once they had been
overjoyed with the fresh fragrance of freedom, now the sour stench of
slavery filled their nostrils.
Now, instead of enjoying blessings, they were enduring burdens.
Fruitfulness had turned to bareness; happiness had turned to bitterness;
joyfulness had turned to brokenness.
Now to understand the background of the story, remember that the
Children of Israel had been carried away into captivity by the Babylonians.
Now the reason they had been carried away was not because of their
weakness but because of their wickedness. They had fallen away from the
living God. God had allowed their defenses to be broken down and used a
pagan nation to bring them to their knees to break them and to bring them
Now that should not surprise you. Because Babylon always leads to bareness. Babylon always leads to bitterness and Babylon always leads
to brokenness. That is, if you are a child of God. The only people who
are happy in Babylon are Babylonians. Now there's a sermon in that
Babylon in the Bible is a picture of the world in all of its iniquity.
It is a picture of the world in all of its idolatry. It is a picture of the world in
all of its immorality.
The name Babylon means confusion. Now, these people were in
Babylon but their hearts were in Zion. They were weeping because they
"remembered Zion" (verse 1). They could not get Zion out of their minds.
Zion is another name for Jerusalem. The name Jerusalem means "City
of Peace". There was a time when these people lived in God's capitol city.
Because they were right with God they were holy. Because God was right
with them they were happy. And because they were right with each other
they were healthy.
There are two major cities in the Bible and they are totally opposite and
yet, in a strange way, magnetically attracted. There is Babylon, the hellish
city; there is Jerusalem the holy city. There is Babylon, the seat of
wickedness; and there is Jerusalem, the source of holiness. The people of
God had been transported from Zion to Babylon.
There were two people in this city, there were the captives and the
captors. Now the captives represent the saints, the people of God. While
the captors represent sinners, children of this world. And so this is a picture
of believers in Babylon. Christians who are in captivity. And it shares, both
historically and theologically, The Backslidder's Burden.
I. V. 1-2 THERE IS A SADNESS THEY CANNOT ESCAPE
(Ill. A dark cloud of depression hung over the heads of these people
which totally eclipsed the sunshine of joy which once had brightened
their lives. Now there are two reasons they were sad.)
A. The Misery In Their Hearts - "By the rivers of Babylon there we
sat down, yea, we wept...." (verse 1). From the very first day they
moved into their new homes they were absolutely miserable. You
see, there is a tremendous difference between being lost and being
saved. Now both a lost person and a saved person can sin. In fact,
I'll go farther, both a lost person and a saved person will sin. But the
difference is this, only one of them can enjoy it. Transgression
always brings tears to the eyes of a true child of God.
You see, God loves you so much that He will let you go to
Babylon, but He loves you too much to let you enjoy the stay.
These people were broken hearted not just because of where
they were but more because of why they were there to begin with.
Why were they there? Well listen to the sad tale that is recounted
in Jeremiah 25:1-11.
Now we read there that God gave three things to the people of
Israel. He gave them a land, He gave them a Law, and He gave
them a Lord. But they defiled the land. The defied the Law. And
they denied the Lord. And when they did, God disciplined them and
He did it by "Nebuchadnezzar the king of Babylon, My servant"
(verse 9). God can hit a tremendous lick with a crooked stick. God
took a pagan king ruling over a pagan army, living in a pagan land,
teaching pagan laws, serving pagan gods and used him as His rod
of discipline to punish His own people.
Now you may think to yourself "if God really loved them He
would not have done that". Quite the contrary, it is because God
loved them that God did do that. For we read in Jeremiah 24:5,
"Thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel; Like these good figs,
so will I acknowledge them that are carried away captive of
Judah, whom I have sent out of this place into the land of the
Chaldeans for their good."
Any parent knows that discipline is never a delight but it is often
times a duty. And the parent carries out that duty because he or she
knows in the end the result will be a delight to both the father and the
child. The same thing is true of God. God loves us enough to let us
sin, if we so desire, but He loves us too much to let us enjoy it or to
let us get away with it.
B. The Memory Of Their Home - These exiles sat down and "wept
when we remembered Zion" (verse 1). Zion here represents
Jerusalem, the Holy Hill of God. The home of God. Zion represents
the place of the presence of God.
Their hearts were heavy. Their harps were hung: "We hung our
harps upon the willows in the midst of it."
Here they were weeping in the shadows of weeping willows.
Their mind had wandered back to Jerusalem, the "city of Peace"
where the peaceful presence of God could be felt day in and day
out. But now they were here in Babylon, separated from their
Father, surrounded by their foes, saddened by their failure, shackled
by their fears.
I admit that I feel sorry for people who do not know God. Who
have never experienced the joy that comes from a vital relationship
with the Lord Jesus Christ. Because "in His presence is fullness
of joy". But may I submit to you that the saddest person in the
world is not the person who does not know God. The saddest
person in the world is the person who does know God but is out of
fellowship with Him.
There are so many so-call "Christians" who live like the Devil.
Citizens of hell who live in sin, who show no zeal for the things of
God, who could not care less about living holy, separated lives.
They never weep, they never cry; they never seem to be bothered,
much less broken because of their sin and yet they profess to be
Do you know why so many of these so-called Christians live in
sin and never shed a tear? It is because they have no memory of
Zion. They have never been to Zion. They have never been saved.
They cannot remember what it was like when they walked with God
because they have never had a walk with God.
Do you know why many people drop out of church? It is
because they were never a part of the church to begin with, 1 John
The church is more than a building. The church is a body. It is
the Body of Christ. There is a tremendous difference between
belonging to a building and being a party of body.
A leech can attach itself to my body and yet never be a part of
my body. In my ministry I have seen in the church spiritual leeches.
People who attach themselves to the building, sucking all of the
benefits and blessings from it they can, but when the blood is gone
- they go find another building. But they never become a part of the
Do you know why a true believer can never be happy in
Babylon? Because once you have tasted Jesus, you will never be
satisfied with the food the world has to offer. These dear people,
who once had tasted the sweetness of Zion's glory, now was having
to taste the bitterness of Babylon's guilt. And I can well imagine they
were thinking to themselves:
Where is the blessedness I knew
When I first saw the Lord?
Where is the soul-refreshing view
Of Jesus and His Word?
What peaceful hours I once enjoyed!
How sweet their memory still!
But they have left an aching void
The world can never fill.
II. V. 3 THERE IS A SARCASM THEY CANNOT ENDURE
(Ill. Sin always brings more than just slavery. It brings shame. This
world is not interested in a Christian as long as he stands on his feet.
But he will put him on the front page of the newspaper when he falls flat
on his face. The world loves to see Christians fall. Their motto is "The
bigger they are the harder they fall and the better we like it."
Now that should not surprise you. Jesus said: "If ye were of the
world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the
world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world
hateth you.", John 15:19.
The world loves to load its cannon with the fodder of fallen
Christians. Did you notice that when Jim Baker and Jimmy Swaggart fell
they became the biggest targets of comedians like Johnny Carson and
others? They became the butt of so many jokes.
Chuck Swindoll said: "The scoffers and critics of Christianity
never stand any taller or shout any louder than when God's people
publicly fall into sin and are force to suffer the inevitable
consequence. All Satan's host dance with glee when believers
compromise, play with fire, then get burned."1
One of the first spiritual superstars ever to fall was the strongest man
who ever lived by the name of Samson. You remember his story well.
He was the fair-haired boy of the Jewish race. He was God's choice and
the people's champion. But he fell. He tripped over his own sin. When
he did, his enemies put out his eyes, they bound him, put him to doing
a woman's work and the last thing they demanded of him before he took
his revenge is recounted in Judges 16:25.
"So it happened, when their hearts were merry, that they said,
And it came to pass, when their hearts were merry, that they said,
Call for Samson, that he may make us sport. And they called for
Samson out of the prison house; and he made them sport: and
they set him between the pillars."
But while he performed for them you can just imagine how they
mocked him and how they scorned him. And more particularly how they
made fun of the great God that he once served.
The greatest tragedy of a backslidden believer in Babylon is the
shame and disgrace he brings to his God. If God knows my heart, I
would rather die today than ever to bring shame to the name of Jesus.
(Ill. There was a teenage girl who was out on a date one night. In fact,
she and her boyfriend were double dating and one of them suggested
that they go to a party where there was going to be alcohol and drugs
and all kinds of illicit activity.
Well, this particular young lady was a radiant Christian who loved the
Lord and she said, "No, I'm not going to do that. And if you're going to
do that you can take me home." Well one of the kids said, "What's the
matter? Are you afraid you're Daddy will hurt you?" She said, "No, I'm
afraid that I will hurt my Daddy.")
If you know and love the Lord Jesus Christ, you have been branded
with the name Christian. And when a Christian falls into sin he drags the
name of Jesus through the mud and the slime and the filth of that sin
and holds his precious Saviour up to the ridicule of an unbelieving world.
We ought to see sin as a spiritual AIDS that we avoid at any cost.
III. V. 4 THERE IS A SONG THEY CANNOT EXPRESS
(Ill. The reason why the song that they once could sing was stuck in their
throat is because they were in a foreign land. Only those who are free
can sing. Only those who have been delivered from bondage can sing.
David said in Psalm 32:7: "Thou art my hiding place; thou shalt
preserve me from trouble; thou shalt compass me about with
songs of deliverance. Selah.")
The songs of God are songs of deliverance. Do you know where the
first song in the Bible is found? It is found in the fifteenth chapter of
Exodus. It is called the Song of Moses. The occasion was the
crossing of the Red Sea. These people had been in bondage in Egypt
for over 400 years. Egypt is a picture of sin. But when these people
had been freed from Egypt, when they had been redeemed from their
sin, they sang.
Now there's only one thing that can rob a saint of his song. You
would think that sorrow could do it. But sorrow cannot rob you of your
song. Even when night is at its darkest God puts a song in your heart.
The Bible says in Isaiah 30:29, "Ye shall have a song, as in the night
when a holy solemnity is kept; and gladness of heart, as when one
goeth with a pipe to come into the mountain of the LORD, to the
mighty One of Israel."
Someone else may say suffering can rob you. But no, suffering
cannot rob a saint of his song. Paul and Silas were in jail, having been
beaten. They were tired, they were hungry, facing death. And yet the
Bible says they sang such a song that it brought the house down.
No, the only thing that can rob a saint of his song is S-I-N. And
there's only one kind of sin that can rob you of your song and that is
your sin. Now when you're a backslidden believer in Babylon, there's
only one thing to do. That is to take down your harp and to tune up your
You see, singing is not a matter of physical freedom, it is a matter of
spiritual force. Did you know one of the marks of being filled with the
Holy Spirit is that there will be a song in your heart? Paul said in Ephesians 5:18, "Be filled with the Spirit". But he went on to say
"speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs,
singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord." (verse 19).
There is nothing that will put a song in your heart, a smile on your face
or a bounce to your step like knowing you're clean before the Lord. That
every sin is confessed and every sin is forgiven.
(Ill. A.J. Gordon was a great preacher who lived many years ago.
He was out taking a walk one afternoon and he saw a dirty faced,
barefoot little boy carrying a rusty bird cage.
In that bird cage was some sparrows. Gordon, who was a nature
lover, stopped that little boy and said, "Where did you get those birds?"
He said, "I trapped them." He said, "What are going to do with them?"
He said, "I don't know, I'm going to play with them."
Gordon said, "Well then what are you going to do with them?" He
said, "I guess I'm going to kill them." Gordon said, "Well would you like
to sell them?" Little ol' boy said, "Mister, you don't want these birds.
They ain't no good to you or anybody. They're just little field sparrows."
Mr. Gordon said, "I know what they are. I just asked you if you
wanted to sell them." Little boy said, "Well, what would you give me for
them?" Gordon said, "I will give you $2." Little boy said, "Mister, are you
crazy or something?" He said, "No, I mean it. I will give you $2." He
said, "Mister, for $2 you can not only have the birds, you can have the
cage." Mr. Gordon said, "Thank you, son, thank you."
And that great pastor, A.J. Gordon, took that bird cage full of
frightened birds, waited until that little fellow left. He then walked into an
alley where no one could see him and he opened the door on that rusty
cage where those frightened birds were, he knocked on the bottom of
that cage, and Gordon said that one by one those little birds came to the
perch of that rusty cage that was opened, spread those little wings and
Gordon said he watched those birds circling higher and higher in the
sky. That all of a sudden one by one they began to chirp and they
began to sing. And A.J. Gordon said it was almost as if he could hear
them sing just one song "Redeemed, Redeemed, Redeemed".)
Conc: That's what every child of God should be able to sing at any moment.
I am redeemed, I'm right, I am clean before the Lord. There is nothing in the
Word of God that says a backslidden Christian has to remain that way. You
may be backslidden, but you don't have to live that way and you certainly
don't have to die that way.
Jesus gave his blood, not just to save you from the penalty of sin. Not
even one day to save you from the presence of sin. But even now to save
you from the power of sin. Take down your harp, tune up your heart and let
Jesus put a song back in your soul.
Maybe you are saying within yourself, "Things just aren't like they
used to be! I don't get anything out of church any longer. It seems as
though the things of God are not as exciting as they used to be. I just
don't have any joy." If that is you, there is hope at the feet of the Savior.
Come to Him today if you have never been saved. Come home if you have
wandered away from Him. Either way, He will receive and restore you!