Unending Praise

Psalm 136

read responsively

Need to cover a few introductory things before diving into text. “In Jewish tradition, this psalm is referred to as the Great Hallel (Great Psalm of Praise) although there was debate as to whether that term included the preceding one or two psalms.” Segal “Jewish celebrants sing Psalm 136 by itself, or with Psalm 135, on the morning of every Sabbath, on Passover evening, and for Hanukkah.” Barrick Parallel phrases found elsewhere; e.g., v.1 = 1 Chron. 16:34 = Ps. 106:1, 107:1, 118:1, 29 part of song composed by David to celebrate return of Ark to Jerusalem. “Praise the LORD, For His mercy endures forever.” the battle cry in days of Jehoshaphat. v.26 “God of heaven” found frequently in Ezra, Nehemiah and Daniel. Themes common to Jewish life for much of history.

Spoke briefly last week about words in one language that don’t have single corresponding term in receptor language; there’s one in this psalm: chêsêd, is root word; phrase in psalm is kiy La` owlaam chacdow – “Indeed, forever his mercy.” Number of different ways is translated: “kindness, lovingkindness, mercy and similar words (KJV). (RSV usually has steadfast love, occasionally loyalty, NASB loving kindness, kindness, love, NIV unfailing love”. TWOT Others: loyal love, faithful love. Here’s why it’s complicated: is a comprehensive term that spans full range of God’s benevolent relationship with his people.

Indicator of just how broad a term chêsêd is: takes photo gallery of 26 pictures to scratch surface showing how God relates to us, his children. Apostle Paul gave it a stab: Eph. 3:17-19 prayed that “you, being rooted and grounded in love,may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height;to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge”. Key element in worship: praising God for who he is, what he has done. Here God is displayed as Creator, Provider and Healer – Creator who demonstrates loyal love, Provider who sustains with loyal love, Healer who restores with loyal love.

A. the Creator demonstrates loyal love v.1-9

good (1)

praise God, thank God because he is good

world would be awful place to live apart from God’s goodness; bad enough as it is, God did curse it because of man’s sin, unimaginably worse were God not good

a less than good God could make even his faithful subjects wait for all rewards; would perhaps abandon his enemies in their evil, not giving countless opportunities/reasons to repent

praise God, thank God for his goodness

is good and demonstrates goodness to all without exception – his default not “mean face”; Jesus self-description: “I am gentle and humble in heart” (Matt. 11:29); Luke’s characterization: “went about doing good” (Acts 10:38)

especially to his people: demonstrations of his goodness abound – we can figure out lots about his creation… harness its resources, help improve one another’s lot

sovereign (2-3)

praise God for his governance of all things

imagine if Deists were right – only whatever blind forces God programmed in governed; how about Democrats – 100% autonomy

give thanks for his indubitable (too evident to admit of doubt; Webster) superiority

God of Bible incomparably superior to any power we experience or imagine; since God is good and sovereign, has good goal in view, governs all things in light of that goal

powerful (4)

things we take for granted are really “magnificent, amazing deeds” NET

how about essentials of air and water: 6000+ years, atmospheric blend just right; same true for water cycle, tides, aquifers

generation after generation produces life – human, plant, animal; sun continues w/o devastating power fluctuations (Heb 1:3)

not just works of creation that are wonders, so are works of providence

think about all steps required to get food for one meal on table – how many people and parts and processes involved… who’s in charge, overseeing and coordinating

God exercises power purposely to demonstrate his loyal love

God not like us, feelings and actions in opposite directions; God declared himself to be in loyal covenant relationship with his people, therefore…directs his power to that end

wise (5)

whether look at heavens or consideration of what’s out there/how we can explore it, what are reasonable conclusions?

most complex thing mankind has made can be reverse-engineered in few years; have spent a few thousand years studying, barely scratched surface of understanding universe… haven’t even mapped it all yet!

God’s purpose in making them: to show off his glory, wisdom, imagination; to provide clear and inescapable evidence of his existence

how does that display his enduring love? don’t know he exists, don’t bother looking for him; since we know he’s there,…

orderly (6-9)

since God made us way he did, needing order to thrive, demonstrates his love that he gave orderly place for our home

sin and curse has introduced element of chaos yet God providentially maintains order (within boundaries); corruption that shortened lifespan from 900+ to 90- did not have similar effect on orbital motion

B. the Provider sustains with loyal love v.10-22

enabled them to endure until deliverance (10-12)

supplied in countless ways: endurance, advance warning, protection (no collateral damage), kept from total demoralizing discouragement

God oppressed the oppressors, humiliating them in front of their subjects – like bully getting beat up in front of whole school: gives hope to the oppressed, maybe won’t have to endure hardship forever

gave strength and courage (13-15)

participants in Exodus not military force; was men, women, children of all ages from all walks of life not used to “roughing it”

even with Pharaoh chasing, would you have walked into Red Sea? more than physical, required strength of faith to follow path

supplied continuous direction (16)

was 24/7 presence of God – cloud and fire; showed both when to move and where to go, to place of God’s next provision

made provision for more persistent pervasive source of direction at Sinai – what to believe, how to behave in all areas of life

God’s revealing of his Law immeasurable display of love – could have left us to try figure out on own, smack us when we fail

fought on their behalf (17-20)

not content to support from sidelines, or keep fully functioniong supply line; commander of Lord’s army out in front leading charge, calling the shots

repeatedly overcame military and tactical odds explainable only by God… besides what Bible says of various ways God won battles – hailstones, confusion, blindness, Angel of death

“planned” for the future (21-22)

remember Joseph – was destination promised to Abraham 400 years before actual fulfillment; didn’t bring out of Egypt to be homeless, perpetually wandering

had plan for future that went far beyond Canaan – enduring loyalty makes enduring heritage necessary: Canaan in foreground, heaven in view in distance!

in spite of all sorts of bad behavior, God never abandons his people, never leaves them to their own devices and resources – God is loyal to his covenant promises long after he would be justified in “giving up”

C. the Healer restores with loyal love v.23-26

remembers (23)

we remember by calling back to mind, God never has to – all things always present knowledge for him; for God to remember means thinking about someone/thing with intent to act

remembered them in captivity, in dire straits when surrounded by enemies, later in exile in Babylon – in his time, God acted

rescues (24)

God didn’t just push enemies back into truce position (e.g., North/South Korea), cessation of hostilities; provides real rescue/deliverance

used lots of different ways: fought for them, equipped them to fight, sent rumors that provoked withdrawal, other armies

restores (25-26)

regardless of specific circumstances, God did not simply deal with immediate issue – picked them up and supported/nourished

restored their health as well as their “status”; includes spiritual component, too – supplied prophets, pastors, teachers, Bible

D. is God still doing this?

yes, still takes care of his kids

same God today, still in covenant relationship with his people; his mercy, loyal love still directed toward kids and their needs, both physical and spiritual

God remembers “us when we are down” NET for purpose of picking up; especially true in regard to “lowly estate” pre-conversion

not a stretch to make that application: context here is deliverance from Egypt, also enemies in Canaan

God remembers and acts then, also remembers during other low points – discouragement, opposition, affliction

God’s loyal love extended to us through Lord Jesus

new creation in Christ, sustained by union with Christ, restored to fellowship now, full restoration at resurrection

and his mercy will continue throughout all eternity

means there is never-ending stream of reasons to praise and give thanks to “God of heaven”… forever… unending praise

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