Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Dec 1 2019 - Psalm 136 – God's love endures for ever

There can be little doubt about the key theme of this psalm for it is the repeated second line to each of the 26 verses. Speaking of the Lord this psalm declares, "His love endures for ever." In this, the psalm is very similar to psalm 107, and indeed begins with exactly the same words:

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good;
    his love endures for ever. (verse 1 of Psalms 107 and 136)

Psalm 107 contains a series of testimonies from those who found themselves in difficulties and turned to the Lord seeking his help. Their situations may have been different but the response of the Lord was the same in each case; he rescued them from their troubles. The people in each of these situations discovered something of God's goodness and his enduring love.

Psalm 136 is also a psalm of testimony, but this time testimony drawn from Israel's history – or perhaps more accurately, from the Bible story. God's goodness and love is seen in his work of creation (vv. 4-9). There is no one else like our God; no other power that could have stretched out the heavens with their billions of galaxies and fashioned the earth as a home for his people. He is the one who created the sun to mark out the day and the moon and stars to mark out the seasons.

We may have spoilt the world God made for us so that he is no longer able to declare it to be good, but it still bears eloquent testimony to the goodness of our God. Moreover, all that he made was an act of his love – a love and delight which he lavished on his own handiwork.

But the goodness and love of God are particularly visible in his work of salvation. When his people were enslaved and oppressed in Egypt he came down to rescue them. He told Pharaoh that Israel was his firstborn son and that if Pharaoh refused to let the Israelites go he would kill Pharaoh's firstborn son (Exodus 4:22-23). So, out of love for his people, God struck down the firstborn of the Egyptians and led the Israelites out of captivity. In love he divided the Red Sea to bring his people safely across. In love he destroyed the Egyptian army that was pursuing them. In love he provided for them in the wilderness and enabled them to defeat those who stood in the way of them possessing the land God had promised them.

Nor is God's goodness and love reserved only for a limited group of people. In love he provides food for every creature (v. 25), and, we might add, sends his rain and sun upon all alike. God is good and deserves our praise and adoration (v. 26).

We, of course, may take Israel's story, or the Bible story, so much further. In love for a lost world God sent his own Son into the world to live alongside us, take upon himself the burden of our sin and guilt and die in our place. Father God struck down his own firstborn for us that we might be set free from slavery to sin and death. In love the Lord Jesus was raised from the dead that he might be our mediator in the courts of heaven and the beginning of a new creation. In love the risen Saviour poured out his Spirit from heaven to flood our hearts with the knowledge of his redeeming and everlasting love for us. In love he assures us that there is no more condemnation for us and that nothing can ever again tear us from the embrace of his love.

As in Psalm 107, we can also add our own personal testimony here. We can speak of what we have discovered concerning the goodness and love of our triune God.

This psalm reminds us that our lives should be marked by a continual note of thankfulness – the first three verses and the final verse all begin with the words, "Give thanks …" Let's make this our aim.

Living God, we give you thanks for your goodness and love shown towards us through the world you have made and given into our hands but also and especially for the wonder of our redemption in the Lord Jesus Christ. May our testimony to your goodness, and our lives of thankful praise, draw others to acknowledge that you are good and worthy of their worship.

Peter Misselbrook