Psalm 136: Infinite Love: Creating, Saving, Enduring and Relating

Introduction

It is one of the oldest tricks in the book when it comes to conversation; it is something we all do to make, remake or hammer home a point; we do when we are engaged in any discussion about anything. Especially when in the midst of a flowing sentence someone interrupts you and exclaims that they did not understand your last point, I don’t think I ought to expand that idea, place it in more context – I simply repeat it with added volume and a slower pace. I repeat, you repeat, we will all repeat something in the next 24 hours to make a point. I first learnt the power of repetition at home, when from a young age I would repeatedly ask why to which whatever one I was conversing with would simply repeat their original statement with added emphasis and a slower speed in the hope that I would get it.

Even know, nearly ten years after the torture that was GCSE french one of the last remaining phrases in my head is ‘please repeat that.’ Repetition is part of how we speak, it is engrained in our language: We repeat to find out more, or in some cases to add emphasis. Sometimes we repeat because we are so overcome by something that we cannot find any other word or phrase to speak of in relation to a truth or an event. So wether we are declaring or sorrow, seeking forgiveness or speaking praise – sometimes, the only way to do it is through repetition: We said the same simple truth over and over again to show how much we mean it, how true it it.

This Psalm is a Psalm with a lot of repetition, over and over again we hear the phrase that declares a truth about Gods love. It knows no limit nor end, it is not bound by time, space, or boundary: Simply, God’s love goes on forever and ever and ever and ever. The love of God endures forever, because God endures forever. The love of God endures forever because God is love. So wether you are reading:

• the ESV (his steadfast love endures forever)

• KJV (his mercy endureth for ever),

• NIV (His Love endures for ever) or

• NLT (His Faithful Love endures forever)

• Message (His Love never quits)

This is a Psalm that declares one thing about God, the greatness of his love and the fact that no matter what you have faced, face now or will face – the one thing you can rely on not to let you down, not to change is God and his love. It remains the same regardless of circumstance or time.

The truth with modern english translations of this Psalm is they can appear quite cumbersome, slow, and hard to read. There is little sense of the awe and wonder that is actually being presented. In Hebrew the repetition likes is normal in communication; would be read fast and add emphasis – it would be like a machine gun over and over again firing home the same point, exciting the reading and challenging their minds and thinking and exciting them as they read down the Psalm. So we must see past the cumbersomeness of the English and see this Psalm for what it is: This is a Psalm that has been written by someone who has been overcome by the beauty, grace and wonder of God – it is a Psalm of overwhelmed Praise in response to who God is and all that he has done. it is a Psalm that reminds us as we enter another new year, that God has not changed, he is is the same God who is alone of all that exists worthy of our praise and trust. He is the God who Loves and mercy reminds the same, who’s love and mercy endures all things and in the end who’s love and mercy will overcome all things.

God of all Gods (1-3)

These first three verses are introduced to us with a stark challenge; a call to all people to give to God what he is due based on three pieces of evidence: Who God is, the power he has and what he has as done. This new start, as the year counter increments by one we are instructed by the Psalmist to Give thanks to God: not because of our circumstance, our possession or even our memory of the last year, or for what we think is ahead of us. None of these things matter in relation to worship: We are told to give thanks to God – regardless of our circumstance – because he is good. That is our praise and worship of God is never based on how we are, it is based on who God is. The never changing God of heaven, which means our worship of him should always be true becuase he is always who he says he is and will do what he says he will do.

What a challenge this is to us as we face an unknown future: a reminder that we face it with a known God: Furthermore, we are challenged where to ground ourselves not in health, wealth, fears, failures, challenges or success of the past year or whatever we think lies ahead in our future. No we ground ourselves in the unchanging God who is complete and perfect. When we do this, nothing will effect our worship of him. It should be the opposite: Worship of God should affect how we face everything no matter what we find ourselves standing before it should not effect how we see God and worship him. It should be a reversal – How we see God and worship him should affect how we face everything that this world can throw at us, becuase we know ultimately that even in death we have victory in Christ: Additionally, for us who walk with Christ and trust him as Lord of our lives, we know that we are loved by a God who is bigger, stronger and more powerful that anything that is bigger than us. Finally, we know that in all things God is working for his Good and Glory. He is sovereign and over all things. All of these truths of who God is should lift us out of our circumstance to worship him consistently and with all that we have because he is all we need.

Some scholars suggest that the sense of ‘Give thanks’ would be better translated as confess or acknowledge. Thus, three times we are called to deep, thoughtful and reverent worship of God through a spelling out of what we know of God’s nature and what we have found of his Glory in his deeds: This call to grateful worship is done by: Firstly, speaking of the character of God, verse 1: His Goodness; Secondly his sovereignty, verses 2&3: He is the God over all gods and Lord of all lords; and Lastly, the Psalmist goes on to remind us of all that God has made and done (verse 4-24) and what he continues to do and will do (verse 25) – thus, we should praise God becuase of actions past present and future.

God the Creator (4-9)

In the next five versus of his passage the purpose remains the same; we are to praise God, but the causality of that praise is now different. The Psalmist call us to confess who God is through praise because of what he has created becuase of his enduring love. In this case these verses bring us almost into a summarised view of the biblical creation narrative: We are told to give thanks to God because he has done great wonders in creating out of his enduring love, in the sense of Job 9:20:

He performs wonders that cannot be fathomed,

miracles that cannot be counted.

The Psalmist here brings together the two Old Testament treatments of creation: Firstly, the Proverbs narrative of creation (3:19,20; 8:1,22-31) which focuses on the role of wisdom and understanding in regards to the act of creating – we should look at the world we exist in and see behind it a mind of great wisdom and understanding – a mind capable of bringing such things into order; Secondly, the Genesis narrative which tells the story of creation (Genesis Chapter One) where we see God create. So here the Psalmist wonderfully combines two different yet similar treatments of creation, a combination which is not meant to cause us to wrestle in our minds and thinking with great cosmological theories. No, simply when we as Christians think about creation or stop and look at the world around us we are to delight in our environments becuase in everything from the fallen leaves of autumn, the cold breeze of summer or in the pouring rains in July – wether its glorious or miserable when we look at the world around us in everything we are reminded of the love of God and then he did not create as a mechanical work of necessity but as a joyful overflow of his steadfast and enduring love. Creation calls us to worship because in it we are reminded of Gods enduring love.

God the Rescuer (10-16)

The Next section moved on from a creation narrative, but, is still focused around something God has done, this time the Psalmist recounts God as Rescuer. Specifically, the rescuer of a rejected and despised people who had been enslaved by the greatest power in the World – Egypt. Thus, through exploration of the Exodus narrative mainly from the Exodus and Levitical Accounts we see God as Deliverer. The Psalmist recounts the various stages of Gods actions in rescuing: from the Plagues; his changing of the heart of Pharaoh; splitting of the Red Sea; and his leading of them through the wilderness with an outstretched arm: all actions out of Gods enduring and unfailing Love. Gods rescuing of Israel was a clear deed out of his unfailing love. For us as Christians we see with Gods reductions of the might and Egypt and their god-king to rubble as fore telling of the judgment that is to come: The judgment of this world and the ruler of the prince of the air:

“The time for judging this world has come, when Satan, the ruler of this world, will be cast out.”

John 12:31 NLT

“The world’s sin is that it refuses to believe in me. Righteousness is available because I go to the Father, and you will see me no more. Judgment will come because the ruler of this world has already been judged.”

John 16:9-11 NLT

Secondly, their redemption is also part of our history. God heard their cries and responded out of his love, saving them when they could not save themselves. So the exodus of Israel out of Egypt illuminates for us the redemption power of the cross of Christ as our exodus out of this fallen world and the defeating of the one who rules for now. Thus we are implored to give God thanks because he acts as rescuers and deliver for us through the cross of Christ.

Thirdly, this section of the Psalm reminds us that God is with us no matter what we face. The people within Egypt, a nation that once provided safety for their families in famine, now enslaved them must have felt there was no hope, even as they cried out to God – they must have wondered did he even exist or care. In a world that was once safe to them, yet with the passing of time and lose of memory a world that became dangerous to them, seen them as outsiders and a threat to a normal way of life. It was a reality where resource seemed impossible, where evil’s power seemed to grow and where they would have began to feel the need to accept a reality of rejection. Yet, God heard their cries and acted. In their hopelessness Yahweh became hope. In their darkness his enduring and steadfast Love brought light. He acted where no one could, and defeated the greatest human power know them with ease. So no matter what this past year threw at you, or this year ahead holds we must never lose sight of the fact that God dwells with us who are in Christ and is working on our behalf for his Glory. No matter what face Gods love will endure and overcome.

God the Victor (17-22)

The next section of the Psalm shows us that God does not just work from defeat. God is Victory. he is the Ultimate victor. This Section of the Psalm also shares (almost identically with verses 8 to 14) similar phrasing to Psalm 135. So w however has done the borrowing is of little significance. Yet, their presence together at Similar points in the Paslter remind us of the importance of grateful and factual Remembrance in true Worship of God. We worship God because we remember what he has already done for us through the cross of Calvary, and, additionally what he has done for us in our own lives. When we look back we are able to see the enduring Love of God in our own lives and then we are heads turn forward we trust that the same Love that was with us then will be with us ahead no matter what may come up. Because, we trust that the God who begun a work will complete it. Those in Christ must give thanks and praise to God because they will know the ultimate victory at the advent of Jesus, when evil will be defeated and suffering end as God restores all things.

The friend in need (23-25)

We have remembered events from the beginning of time as God though his steadfast love created; secondly, as God through his enduring Love rescued and redeemed. Now the Psalmist turns to an apparently more recent event where God remembered his people his people at a low point and again rescued them. This section could be summarising the whole story or simply speaking of something unknown. However, what ever the point of reflection that inspired this section, the truth of what it is teaching is clear – to God a friend in need is a friend in deed. God is as active in the mundane of the now as he was 2000 years ago because his enduring love never fails or changes. The same love that brought creation into existence, rescued Israel from Egypt works in the presence and in those who have placed their trust in Christ. For us that means we know the enduring and presence love of God through the presence of the Holy Spirit who is working and interceding on our behalf no matter what we might find ourselves in or facing. God the Holy Spirit is present and working in us regardless of our reality. So no matter the reality of the now for you, wether all is good or you dont know how you will make it tomorrow you can and should praise God because he is working in you and for you to his purpose and Glory. What ever you are facing or will face, when you walk with Jesus you never face it alone.

Conclusion: God of Heaven (26)

So the Psalm that started high in the ethereal heavens and descendent right down into the microcosm of our present and at every point of its journey reminded us of the God who we must give praise and reverence to because of his character, power and deeds. That God, is the God we can trust because he is working on our behalf and to his glory. That God is the God we can praise and trust because he is the God who creates, rescues, redeems and in present with those in needs because of his enduring and never failing love. Verse 26, the final verse in this Psalm returns to the style and form of the first three verses calling us to give praise to God in because his steadfast love endures forever. It’s a Psalm Sandwhich that calls us to praise God and then presents the evidence of why we can praise him before returning to its keynote point.

This new year, as we look to the future and seek to create Gospel habits, this Psalm wonderfully and powerfully challenges us on how we are living our lives. Are we a people of praise who confess the Goodness of God because we remember him in word and deed throughout the biblical history and in our present lives or are we a people who only praise God on a Sunday, or when its convenient, even when it suits our agenda. The reality is that for us who are under the new covenant for this Psalm to ever be true we need the help of the Holy Spirit our aid and advocate, and for that reality to be true we must be a people (individually and collectively) who have confessed that Jesus is God of all gods and Lord of all lords, That Jesus is God of our life and Lord of all areas. To truly praise God we must be a people who know him.

This Psalm points to the reality of existence for those who walk with Christ, that they see the world differently – through a Gospel lenses which they trust and know that God is working no matter what. Have you ever confessed the Lordship of Christ instead of trusting in your own rule? Finally, when you hear the verses of these Psalms do they ring true, or do you feel overcome by what ever it is you are going through? What ever is your reality as we go out into tomorrow and 2018 let us be a people who through the power fo the Holy sprit give thanks to God because we know his character: goodness, we know his sovereignty as the God of gods and Lord of lords and we remember his deeds as rescuers (Jesus Death on the cross) and Victor (Christs resurrection) and we know that God is with us now in our low estate. So today, tomorrow, for 2018 and beyond let us Give thanks to the God of heaven, for his steadfast love endures forever. –

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