I asked my God, “How much do You love me?” He pointed at the cross and said, “That much!”
Psalm 136 (KJV)
Title: His Loving Kindness Endures Forever
Psalm 136 (KJV)
1O give thanks unto the LORD; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.
2O give thanks unto the God of gods: for his mercy endureth for ever.
3O give thanks to the Lord of lords: for his mercy endureth for ever.
4To him who alone doeth great wonders: for his mercy endureth for ever.
5To him that by wisdom made the heavens: for his mercy endureth for ever.
6To him that stretched out the earth above the waters: for his mercy endureth for ever.
7To him that made great lights: for his mercy endureth for ever:
8The sun to rule by day: for his mercy endureth for ever:
9The moon and stars to rule by night: for his mercy endureth for ever.
10To him that smote Egypt in their firstborn: for his mercy endureth for ever:
11And brought out Israel from among them: for his mercy endureth for ever:
12With a strong hand, and with a stretched out arm: for his mercy endureth for ever.
13To him which divided the Red sea into parts: for his mercy endureth for ever:
14And made Israel to pass through the midst of it: for his mercy endureth for ever:
15But overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the Red sea: for his mercy endureth for ever.
17To him which smote great kings: for his mercy endureth for ever:
18And slew famous kings: for his mercy endureth for ever:
19Sihon king of the Amorites: for his mercy endureth for ever:
20And Og the king of Bashan: for his mercy endureth for ever:
21And gave their land for an heritage: for his mercy endureth for ever:
22Even an heritage unto Israel his servant: for his mercy endureth for ever.
23Who remembered us in our low estate: for his mercy endureth for ever:
24And hath redeemed us from our enemies: for his mercy endureth for ever.
25Who giveth food to all flesh: for his mercy endureth for ever.
26O give thanks unto the God of heaven: for his mercy endureth for ever.
This psalm was probably written by Hezekiah after the Captivity; it goes over parts of Israel’s history and underlines the wisdom of worshipping the true God, the God whose “mercy endureth forever.” That expression occurs like a chorus in every verse and that is what sets it apart from all other psalms in the Psalter.
Two choirs sang this psalm. One choir sang the first line of every verse, and the other choir answered, “his mercy endureth for ever.” This was not vain repetition (Matt. 6:7), for the second choir was offering inspired praise to the Lord. You can never say too much about the mercy of God!
In the Rabbinical writings, Psalm 136 was designated as “the Great Hallel,” but it has no title in the Hebrew, nor any of the versions and the author and occasion are unknown. It is little else than a repetition of the preceding psalm with an adage added: “for his mercy endureth for ever.” Every verse ends with the same expression.
(1-3) The call to thanksgiving.
- O give thanks unto the LORD; for he isgood: for his mercy endureth for ever.
The theme of this psalm is “mercy’s vast unfathomable sea.” God’s love is deeper, far deeper than that. The psalmist looks first at God’s goodness manifested in His “mercy.” The word for mercy is the usual word for grace or lovingkindness. That “mercy endures forever.” The psalm begins with the call to thanksgiving— O give thanks unto the LORD. The opening verses give a three-fold invitation to join in thanking God for His goodness and mercy. It is addressed by the leader or choir to the congregation.
“Give thanks” means “to give a public acknowledgment
“Mercy,” which may also be translated “loyal love,” is the most significant term used in the Psalms to describe the character of God. His mercy is “forever”; it is part of His eternal character. Now, let me expand on the meaning of the word “mercy.” By “mercy” we understand the Lord’s disposition to save those who sin has rendered miserable and vile, and all the provision He has made for the redemption of sinners by Jesus Christ. The counsels [advice; guidance] of this mercy has been from everlasting, and the effects of it will endure for ever, to all who are interested in it. The Lord continues equally ready to show mercy for all who seek after it, and this is the source of all our hope and comfort.
- O give thanks unto the God of gods: for his mercy endurethfor ever.
God is merciful because He is God. It is His nature as God to be merciful. When Moses in his memoris sought to explain to Israel why God set His heart’s affections on them. He said, “The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; But because the LORD loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the LORD brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.
Why does He love you? Just because He loves you. That’s the way He is. He doesn’t need another reason.
Moreover, He is God of gods; Elohim of the elohim. Are these elohim other “gods” or earthly rulers? The gods of the heathen are idols. Behind them, however, lurk the fallen elohim, the fallen angels of Satan, the lords of the underworld, the princeling powers of the air. We can let the word stand as it is printed in our text: He is the “God of gods,” meaning, He is God and Ruler over all the rulers of the earth, whether in things sacred or civil.
The expression, “the God of gods,” is matched in the next verse by the expression, “the Lord of lords.” Since earthly rulers are in view in that verse, heavenly principalities are probably in view in this verse. This “God of gods,” however, is not like them. He is celebrated for His mercy, a mercy that lasts forever.
- O give thanks to the Lord of lords: for his mercy endurethfor ever.
He is not only Elohim of the elohim, He is Adonim of the adonim. All power in heaven and earth is His. The “mystery of iniquity” works its woes in the world, empires rise and fall, man’s cruelty to man goes on, and on, nations lord it over. Suffering and sorrow, war and famine, oppression and injustice, misery and woe, inundate the planet from pole to pole and from sea to sea. But God in His mercy sets limits to it all. Evil men like Stalin and Hitler die. In time oppressions are overthrown; in the end, God wins.
(4-9) The God of Creation.
- To him who alone doeth great wonders: for his mercy endurethfor ever.
We have a God who “doeth wonders.” The universe is full of such wonders. From the inner mystery of the atom to the outer mystery of black holes in space, all creation bears tribute to the wonder of this God, whose “mercy endureth for ever. Thus, Creation is celebrated as an extraordinary achievement illustrating both the power and intelligence of God.
In the Old Testament, the term “Great wonders” is used exclusively for awe-inspiring actions of God. His creation of the universe is the great display of His wisdom. The heavens give a clear demonstration of the glory of God (19:1-6).
God reveals His mercy by giving to you a wonderful creation to use and enjoy (vs. 4-8) Just think, He had everything ready for our first parents when He made them! It is too bad that many people are such poor stewards of God’s creation gifts. Never take for granted the wonderful world you live in.
- To him that by wisdom made the heavens: for his mercy endurethfor ever.
- To him that stretched out the earth above the waters: for his mercy endurethfor ever.
He put the stars in space. He is the One who “by wisdom made” the heavens. He put the seas in their place ─once they covered the world in one vast shoreless sea.
- To him that made great lights: for his mercy endurethfor ever:
- The sun to rule by day: for his mercy endurethfor ever:
- The moon and stars to rule by night: for his mercy endurethfor ever.
He gave the sun and moon their form. How great they are. One is a giant reactor generating heat and light with an efficiency beyond anything ever dreamed of by the ancients; the other is a great reflector to catch the light of the absent sun and throw its beams on the darkened earth.
God has ensured that the sun will shine as long as there is life on earth. He also gave the sun and moon their function: “The sun to rule by day: for His mercy endureth for ever: The moon and stars to rule by night: for his mercy endureth for ever.”
Think of the orderliness of the sun, the moon, the stars ─the way they obey the laws of God as they undertake their journeys through space. The set rule of the sun, moon, and stars is another proof that God’s mercy “endureth for ever.”
(10-25) The God of History.
- To him that smote Egypt in their firstborn: for his mercy endurethfor ever:
Mercy? To smite the firstborn? The baby in the crib, the boy at school, the grown man in the field, the old grandfather in his bed? To smite the firstborn of every beast, of the calf in the stall, of the old mule by the mill. Mercy? Yes. It could have been everyone. Nor did that stroke of doom come until he had manifested to Pharaoh and to Egypt both his pity and His power nine times. Not until he had been lied to and played with and resisted by the Pharaoh and his court nine times did God smite. Mercy? Yes. This is indeed one of those incidents in history that prove that, in wrath God remembers His mercy.
The great things God did for Israel, when He brought them out of Egypt were mercies which endured for a long time (40 years); and our redemption by Christ endures for ever. It is good to consider the history of God’s favors, and in each to observe that His mercy endures for ever. He put them in possession of a good land.
- And brought out Israel from among them: for his mercy endurethfor ever:
- With a strong hand, and with a stretched out arm: for his mercy endurethfor ever.
It was the strong hand of which Jesus spoke when He drew attention to a salvation much greater than that of the Hebrews from Egypt. “My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand.” “My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand” (John 10:27-29).
That too was the arm which is not shortened that it cannot save. The arm we see outstretched on the cross.
- To him which divided the Red sea into parts: for his mercy endurethfor ever:
- And made Israel to pass through the midst of it: for his mercy endurethfor ever:
When Pharaoh, in a final fit of fury, hardened his heart for the last time and harnessed his chariots of war to pursue Israel, that mighty arm was outstretched to bar his way. The Shekinah glory cloud came around and stood between Israel and Egypt’s calvary. Then followed the greatest miracle of the Exodus; the waters of the Red Sea parted so that this saved people might safely pass over on dry land to the other side.
- But overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the Red sea: for his mercy endurethfor ever.
The foolish Pharaoh thought that unbelievers could do what believers could do. So, he spurred his horses and he and his regiments leaped forward. Halfway across, his chariots broke down. Then back came the thundering waters of the sea. God had not saved Israel from Egypt in order to surrender them to their foes. What a mercy it is for mankind that, sooner or later, tyrants like Pharaoh meet their match in God. All history bears witness to that. If he does not strike down the tormentor in the first acts of his defiance, it is because He loves the poor deluded tyrant too.
- To him which led his people through the wilderness: for his mercy endurethfor ever.
God’s daily guidance of Israel was as great a demonstration of His mercy as was His salvation. He led them down around the rim of the Sinai Peninsula because “the longest way around was the shortest way home.” He led them into experiences that would develop and discipline them, into experiences that would delight them. He fed them with bread from heaven, gave them water from the “riven rock,” gave them victory over Amalek, led them to an Oasis of rest along the way. Above all he bore their murmurings, complaints and chronic unbelief. He bore with their worldliness and carnality, just as He puts up with ours.
- To him which smote great kings: for his mercy endurethfor ever:
- And slew famous kings: for his mercy endurethfor ever:
- Sihon king of the Amorites: for his mercy endurethfor ever:
- And Og the king of Bashan: for his mercy endurethfor ever:
We perhaps would not think of smiting great kings as an act of mercy, but rather an act of judgment. But what dreadful kings these were. They were Nephilim kings; remnants of the giants, products of sorcery and spiritism, hybrid, demon men such as roamed the world before the flood. To rid the world of such wickedness was an act of mercy to all the rest of humankind.
- And gave their land for an heritage: for his mercy endurethfor ever:
- Evenan heritage unto Israel his servant: for his mercy endurethfor ever.
Although the “wandering Jew” is a source of blessings to nations that give them a temporary home, they are also their ruination. They belong in the Promised Land. Today the nations that still are fighting tooth and nail to keep Israel out of the land are hurting themselves, inflaming an old wound, hindering the healing of the nations. God, who smote great kings for Israel’s sake in days gone by, and who gave them their inheritance in the Promised Land, can do the same today. He has not changed his mind nor revoked Israels title deeds. He will yet settle Israel in its heritage, and thereafter heal the hurts of all nations (as many a Bible prophesy declares).
- Who remembered us in our low estate: for his mercy endurethfor ever:
Our merciful God remembers us. How terrible it would be if we had a forgetful God. Suppose it were possible for God to forget His promises! But no matter how low our estate, how far we have fallen, how frail and forgetful we are— He remembers. God’s remembering is His acting upon a past promise or in accord with a relationship previously established.
It is possible that the words “remembered us” suggest the return of the people to Judah and Jerusalem to their land following the Babylonian captivity. Like Psalms 135, 136 may have been written after the Exile.
“Low estate” refers to a condition of humiliation or degradation, perhaps the exile or subjection to a foreign yoke).
- And hath redeemed us from our enemies: for his mercy endurethfor ever.
The word redeemed means “rescued.” It comes from a root meaning “to break” and occurs only here. God knows how to rescue His people.
- Who giveth food to all flesh: for his mercy endurethfor ever.
The human race has no monopoly on God’s goodness and mercy. He cares just as much for the wild beast of the forest or an insect buzzing around your head. Every creature has its place in God’s ecological balance of nature. He provides for them all.
He reveals His mercy in His care for you, helping you to fight battles and defeat your enemies. Israel was not always faithful to God, but that is where His mercy comes in! He is faithful to them.
(26) The Doxology of Thanksgiving.
- O give thanks unto the God of heaven: for his mercy endurethfor ever.
The title, “God [El] of heaven,” is an interesting one, first occurring in 2 Chronicles 36:23. It is a title of God, [the last verse of the book and the last verse of the Hebrew Old Testament]. It is a title of God found on the lips of Cyrus the Persian, who ended the Babylonian captivity. It is a title peculiar to the times of the Gentiles when God acts from heaven and not from between the cherubim as the God of Israel. Thus, the psalm ends by leading us on to our own age, where likewise “His mercy endureth forever.” The God of heaven is caring for you on earth! His mercy endures forever.
This psalm ends as it begins, with celebration of God’s continuing faithfulness to God’s people Israel and a call to thank Him for His continuing goodness