Psalm 136 – Repeat Thanks, Repeat Thanks

Psalm 136 Bible with Theo Orange Dark Chocolate
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Today’s ChocolateTheo Orange 70% Dark Chocolate

Today’s PassagePsalm 136

Psalm 136 picks up Psalm 118‘s repetition of the phrase “His lovingkindness is everlasting” in its opening verses and takes it to its logical conclusion: repeating it throughout the whole song. The result is a call-and-response worship song that is sure to get the whole ancient Hebrew congregation bouncing. It inspired the song “Forever,” written by Chris Tomlin and performed by Michael W. Smith on his 2001 album Worship. “Forever” repeats the line “His love endures forever” throughout the verses, but while it focuses on God’s faithfulness, power, and compassion for humankind in general, Psalm 136 is specifically a song from Israel’s history about Israel’s history.

It progresses through a sequence of topics closely following Psalm 135’s, beginning with God’s creation of the universe as all-powerful craftsman, then recapitulating the Exodus and Israel’s liberation from Pharaoh, and finishing with God triumphing over his enemies and giving his people the Promised Land. Like the preceding psalm, it even mentions the pagan kings Sihon and Og by name (136:18-20, cf. 135:10-11) when discussing God’s victories. And they’re all God’s victories here: God is the one who “overthrew Pharaoh and his army in the Red Sea” (v.15), who “led His people through the wilderness” (v.16), who “smote great kings” (v.17), who “gave their land as a heritage…to Israel His servant” (vv.21-22). It may be a psalm about Israel’s history, but it’s no nationalistic ode to Israel’s greatness. It’s all about the all-powerful, all-loving God who chose his people and worked in their time and space to write a story of lovingkindness.

And you don’t have to be an ancient Hebrew to receive God’s blessings, either. The psalm concludes:

[The Lord] remembered us in our low estate,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting,
And has rescued us from our adversaries,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting;
Who gives food to all flesh,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
Give thanks to the God of heaven,
For His lovingkindness is everlasting. (136:23-24)

If you’ve ever been in a low place and had God pull you out of the pit, or seen him deliver you from trouble and threats, you can identify with the psalm here: God loves every human, not just those of a particular ethnicity or nationality. And have you ever eaten food? Like delicious food, like maybe orange dark chocolate? That stuff was created by God, fam. God has made a universe where both food and deliciousness are possible. In light of God’s goodness throughout the universe, the psalmist invites the congregation to thank him for his generosity, his love which endures forever.

 

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