Sunday, July 16, 2017

A Song Worth Repeating (26 times) (Session 8 – Psalm 136:1-5,10-15,23-26)

Can there be any doubt about the main point of Psalm 136? Even a cursory glance at the psalm reveals its theme: God’s faithful love endures forever.

Twenty-six times, once in every verse of the psalm, the refrain is repeated: His faithful love endures forever. … His faithful love endures forever. … His faithful love endures forever. …

This psalm most likely was sung antiphonally. The worship leader would sing the first line of each verse, the congregation or choir would respond with the chorus: His faithful love endures forever. Twenty-six times. Clearly, repetition in worship songs is not a contemporary phenomenon.

The seventeenth-century English poet John Milton followed the psalmist’s format, basing his hymn, “Let Us with a Gladsome Mind,” on Psalm 136:

Let us, with a gladsome mind, praise the Lord, for he is kind:
for his mercies aye endure, ever faithful, ever sure.

Let us blaze his Name abroad, for of gods he is the God:
for his mercies aye endure, ever faithful, ever sure.

He with all commanding might filled the new-made world with light:
for his mercies aye endure, ever faithful, ever sure.

Milton’s refrain, for his mercies aye endure, ever faithful, ever sure, is repeated in each of the hymn’s twenty-four stanzas.

Some truths are just worth repeating—or singing—over and over. This is one of those truths: His faithful love endures forever!

That being said, we risk missing the profundity of truth contained in this oft-repeated refrain if our focus is only on the uniqueness of the psalm’s form. Let’s instead focus on the great truths contained in it by asking three questions of the phrase, His faithful love endures forever.

Whose love is this?

This is God’s love. Look at the names used for God in the first verses: “Lord” (v. 1), “God of gods” (v. 2), and “Lord of lords” (v. 3). The name “Lord” in verse 1 is Yahweh, God’s personal name; the name He revealed to Moses in Exodus 3 and a form of the verb “I am.” It points to God as eternal, self-existent, holy, and yet graciously choosing to reveal Himself and enter into a relationship with us. “God” in verse 2 is Elohim, pointing His absolute, sovereign rule over creation and history; it is the word for God in Genesis 1. The word “Lord” in verse 3 is Adonai, further extoling His absolute authority. We are reminded here of Revelation 19:16, where Jesus is called “King of kings and Lord of lords.” This is who loves you.

What kind of love is this?

The Hebrew word used for love in every verse of this psalm is chesed. This kind of love is difficult to translate with one word—it is faithful, unchanging, gracious, compassionate, and kind. It is a love based on who He is, not on our worthiness. It is also a love that “endures forever”; it never quits. You never have to worry that God will stop loving you—no matter what.

How is this love demonstrated?

The first line of verses 4-25 recounts the mighty works of God from creation to the exodus to the conquest of Canaan and the ongoing work of God. God has repeatedly demonstrated His love. In every instance cited in the psalm, His deliverance or provision on behalf of His people was a demonstration of grace, not a reward for the people’s goodness.

God has shown us the depth of His love for us: “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son” (John 3:16). If your circumstances ever cause you to doubt God’s love for you, just look at the cross and know how much God loves you: “But God proves his own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). That is something to sing about!

It’s worth repeating—even twenty-six times: His faithful love endures forever.

Mike Livingstone is a content editor at LifeWay for Explore the Bible resources.

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