Oh, give thanks to the Lord, for He is good!
By David Malcom
For His mercy endures forever. Psalm 136:1
The writer of the one hundred and thirty-sixth Psalm sounds like a broken record. For 26 verses he lays out the history of Israel, and tagged on the end is this repetitive statement: “for His mercy endures forever.”
The statement almost sounds like a catchy chorus to a modern worship song, one of the one’s that traditional parishioners so dislike. Or, maybe the poetic nature of the Psalm reminds us of a children’s book. Something reminiscent of “ I do not like green eggs and ham…” sort of a catchy jingle to keep the listener engaged. Possibly.
Maybe the writer wanted the reader or singer to be engaged with the message, to remember the Psalm. I know that always works for me, a devious marketer doing his job, creates some tag line, I hear it on the radio, then next thing I know ,subliminally, I’m hooked. I’m humming the jingle.
So is this what the Word is trying to do? To create a jingle in our head?
If so, it’s a good one. “His mercy endures for ever.” What an extraordinary truth about God.
Well, the answer is yes and no. God’s inspired Word often repeats itself, but not just for the sake of repetition.
The God of Heaven is a God of abundance, but not a God of waste. Remember when Jesus multiplied a little boy’s lunch and fed five thousand? Or, the time He fed three thousand with less?
In both accounts (Matthew chapters 14 & 15) there were left overs. Yet, rather than say “Oh, don’t worry about those, I can multiply more anytime.” Jesus told His disciples to gather the fragments. God is abundant in giving His children more than enough, but He is not interested in any of it being wasted.
So then why does this Psalm again and again state “His mercy endures forever.”?
The answer is in the way it’s written, as we stated earlier these statements are preceded each time by a historical account of the children of Israel and God’s faithfulness to them.
The word here used for “mercy” is the Hebrew word chesed, it means: steadfast love. So, again and again, the reminder is: God created all things and watches over them, because His steadfast love is forever (vs. 1-9). He saw His people in bondage and delivered them, because His steadfast love is unchanging (vs. 10-16). He brings His people to His promised purpose for them, because His unchanging love is unending. (vs. 23-26).
Does He repeat Himself because He wants us to remember? Yes, God wants His people to know, His love is always pursuing us, He doesn’t give up on us, and there is no situation to difficult for Him, because His love for us doesn’t change.
He reminds us that all the while, in all our hardships, the ones brought on us and the ones we invited onto ourselves, His love for us doesn’t change. For Israel it’s as if He tagged it on the end of each verse of their history so that if they look back to see where they had come from the would see, the love of God was always behind them.
Does He do it just for the sake of repetition? No. Omniscient God knows that with our past and our failures, our future and our uncertainty, we need to be reminded often of this truth.
1 John 4:8b says “God is love.” Colossians 1:15 says of Jesus “He is the image of the invisible God,” these statements of truth tell us that, love is God’s nature, and that nature is in the person of Jesus Christ! When He promised to “never leave us nor forsake us.” In essence He is saying, I will always love you!
For the unbeliever or yet-to-believe His love pursues, and “…endures forever.”
David Malcom is the pastor of Trinity Gospel Church. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.