Psalm 136: His Love Endures Forever
July 11, 2022
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
If one of the first rules of interpretation is to look for repetition to be able to discern the main theme of a text, then the main theme of this text is pretty clear!
“Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever” (136:1).
Clearly, this psalm is intended to teach us that God’s love endures forever, and because of that, therefore, to give thanks to God. That said, under that overall theme, there are particular subsections here regarding ways we can see that God’s love endures forever—and that therefore, separately as well as jointly, fuels our giving thanks to God.
The first is who God is in his essence (136:1-3). God, in his own nature, is good. He is the God of gods, and the Lord of lords. That is, God, in his own nature and essence, is foundationally and truly good and all powerful. When God loves us, then, it is not an add-on to his nature, but an expression of who he really is. God, out of the depths of who he really is, loves. This is why we can know that his love endures forever. His love for us is not based upon who we are, but on who he is. This reflection gives us, then, great security. He loves us because he is love, not because we are lovable; therefore, we can be assured of his love for us even when we are convicted that we are very much not lovable. It was while we were still sinners that God demonstrated his own love for us in this, that Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).
This brings us to the next subsection of how we can know God’s love endures forever (136:4-22), which is that God has acted in rescue of his people. This section describes God’s rescue of his Old Testament people from Israel, leading them through the desert, and giving them the Promised Land. In the middle of these descriptions of rescue, there is also a description of judgment: he “struck down the firstborn of Egypt…swept Pharaoh and his army into the Red Sea…struck down great kings…killed mighty kings…” After each of these judgment statements, we still hear the much-repeated refrain: “his love endures forever.”
How are we to understand this? God’s love is a love of justice too. These kings and authorities were acting in injustice and evil. God’s love is not sentimental; he rescues his people from the hands of these evil authorities and judges those unjust authorities in his rescuing of his people. This teaches us to fear God even as we proclaim his love.
How different is this idea of God’s love from the contemporary one! When we say today that “God is love,” we tend to mean that God will let anything go. He will not bother with sin very much, will turn a blind eye to evil, and will generally act like a nice, kind white-bearded grandfather figure in the sky. But that is not the God of the Bible. It is not how God expresses his love, and it is not what “his love endures forever” means. God’s love is expressed in his willingness to deal with sin. He dealt finally with the sin of his own people—who also richly deserved judgment—by lovingly and justly taking in himself the penalty for our sins when he died on the cross. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16)—the famous words that express God’s love come at the cost of the death of the son whom God gave. Such is God’s love! Such is his love that endures forever. Such is the love that rescues—even rescues sinners, at the cost of the death of Jesus the Christ!
Finally, “his love endures forever” is not only in his essence and nature, not only in his rescue through the sacrifice of his Son, but also in his tenderness and compassion to the weak and vulnerable (136:23-26). Lest we think this love sounds like an arbitrary exercise of power, the psalmist concludes with bringing us down to the lowliness and humility of God. “He remembered us in our low estate…freed us from our enemies,” and even cares for the animals around us, “gives food to every creature.” Such is our God. He defends the widow and the orphan, loves the weak and the vulnerable, and declares that “blessed are the poor in Spirit,” “blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled!” (Matthew 5:3, 6).
Therefore, be assured: because of who God is, because of how God rescues, because of God’s tender mercy, God’s love does indeed endure forever! Even today, even in your situation, even right now, and for all days. Cry out to God, the God whose love will never fail, whose love will always endure, and who will never cease from loving his people!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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