February 14: Psalm 136

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February 14: Psalm 136
His lovingkindness endures forever

87.87 D                     How Deep the Father’s Love for Us (Townend/Getty)

O thank the Lord, for He is good; His mercy lasts forever.

Thanks to the God of gods give ye; His mercy lasts forever.

O praises give the King of kings; His mercy lasts forever;

For He alone does wondrous things; His mercy lasts forever.

He in His wisdom framed the skies; His mercy lasts forever;

And made the earth from waters rise; His mercy lasts forever.

He placed the great lights on display; His mercy lasts forever;

The sun to rule the sky by day; His mercy lasts forever.

The moon and starts to rule the night; His mercy lasts forever;

Who Egypt’s firstborn all did smite; His mercy lasts forever.

Who freed all Isr’el from their charm; His mercy lasts forever;

With mighty hand and outstretched arm; His mercy lasts forever.

Who by His wind the Red Sea clave; His mercy lasts forever;

Led Isr’el through the parted wave; His mercy lasts forever.

O’er Pharaoh He the Red Sea spread; His mercy lasts forever;

Through desert wastes His people led; His mercy lasts forever.

To Him Who great kings overthrew; His mercy lasts forever;

Who famous kings in battle slew; His mercy lasts forever.

King Sihon of the Amorites; His mercy lasts forever;

And Og, the king of Bashanites; His mercy lasts forever.

Their land He gave to Israel; His mercy lasts forever;

A heritage where they could dwell; His mercy lasts forever.

He thought on us when we were low; His mercy lasts forever;

And rescued us from every foe; His mercy lasts forever.

He food bestows on all that live; His mercy lasts forever;

Thanks to the God of heaven give; His mercy lasts forever.
O praises give the King of kings; His mercy lasts forever;

For He alone does wondrous things; His mercy lasts forever.

Psalm 136 insists, literally in every verse, that the root of all of God’s activity in this world, beginning even with the world’s creation, is mercy—hesed. This mercy is eternal—le’olam—“forever.” Mercy is the cause and reason of all that God does. He does nothing, absolutely nothing, except as an expression of His mercy. His mercy stretches out to both extremes of infinity. The encounter with God’s mercy is the root of all Christian worship. Mercy is the defining explanation of everything that God has revealed of Himself. After three introductory verses that call for the praise of God, one may distinguish three stanzas in this psalm. Stanza 1 (verses 4-9), we may think of as the “cosmic stanza,” because it deals with God’s work of Creation described in the opening verses of Genesis. But Creation is the stage on which God makes history, so in stanza 2 (verses 10-22), we move from Genesis to Exodus. This we may think of as the “history stanza,” containing material from the Books of Exodus, Numbers, and Joshua. Finally, stanza 3 (verses 23-26), speaks of God’s continuing care for His people down through the ages. He is not simply a God of the past, but of “us,” the present generation of believers. Thus, Psalm 136 pursues a threefold theme: creation, deliverance, and the continued care of the redeemed. In this respect, the triple structure of our psalm is identical with that of the Nicene Creed: God made us, God saved us, God stays and provides for us all days unto the end. In the Creed, this structure is explicitly Trinitarian: “one God, the Father Almighty, the Creator…one Lord, Jesus Christ… the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of life.” All we will ever discover of God will be the deepening levels of His great, abundant, overflowing, rich and endless mercy. “For His mercy endures forever” is the eternal song of the saints. (Reardon, p. 271-272)

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