Psalm 136

Read: Psalm 136

The Talmud refers to this song as “The Great Hallel,” i.e. the Greatest Praise of God, because it refers to God’s greatness in terms of who He is and what He has done, and culminates with His greatest, most enduring achievement: the daily sustenance of every living thing.  Devout Jews recite this psalm every Sabbath morning to celebrate the continuing perfection of God’s creation; the Great Hallel is also used in the Passover Seder because it contains several of God’s miracles by which He delivered Israel from bondage in Egypt.

Think About It: What specific miracles are mentioned in Psalm 136 that relate to the Exodus? What specific acts of God relate to the conquest of Canaan?  How has God acted in a miraculous way in my salvation?

Prayer: Give thanks to the Lord, for His mercy endures forever.

 

Read: Psalm 136; Matthew 26:44; Luke 22:44

The phrase “for His mercy endures forever is repeated 26 times in Psalm 136. Jesus warned against vain repetition in prayer (Matthew 6:7), but not all repetition is vain.  It is not a coincidence that 26 is the numerical value of the four letter name of God: YHWH; the psalmist probably had this in mind when composing the psalm.

Think About It: What makes repetition vain or meaningless? What function does repetition serve in Psalm 136? What function can repetition serve in my prayer life?  When is repetition appropriate in worship?

Prayer: Give thanks to the Lord, for His mercy endures forever.

 

Read: Psalm 136

“Mercy” translates several Hebrew and Greek words. In Psalm 136 the Hebrew word repeatedly used is chesed.  It denotes devotion to a covenant, but in God’s devotion to His covenant with Israel what becomes increasingly apparent is His faithfulness in spite of Israel’s infidelity.  God remains faithful to His promise, in spite of human unworthiness and defection.   Many modern English versions translate chesed as “love” or “steadfast love,” but in Psalm 136 “mercy” might be a better translation, since it implies the unworthiness of the one receiving mercy.

Think About It:  What is the difference between “grace” and “mercy”? Why is it so important to affirm repeatedly that God’s mercy endures forever?  In what specific ways have I experienced God’s mercy?

Prayer: Give thanks to the Lord, for His mercy endures forever.

 

Read: Psalm 136:1 – 3; Luke 18:19; Romans 3:10; Isaiah 45:23; Philippians 2:10 – 11

We should praise God first of all for who He is.

Think About It: Who is God — what is He like, according to Psalm 136:1 – 3?  Why are these aspects of God important to understand?  On what basis do people question God’s goodness and sovereignty? What are the results of questioning the goodness of God? What are the implications of questioning God’s sovereignty?

Prayer: Give thanks to the Lord, for His mercy endures forever.

Read: Psalm 136:4; Matthew 24:24; 2 Thessalonians 2:9 – 11; Revelation 13:13 – 14

We should praise God for what He does.  Psalm 136:4 invites us to praise Him for doing great wonders.

Think About It:  The psalm affirms that God alone does great wonders.  Is God the only one who performs wonders? What differentiates God’s miracles from the “miracles of the lie?”

Prayer: Give thanks to the Lord, for His mercy endures forever.

 

Read: Psalm 136:5 – 24

Psalm 136:5 – 9 tells us we should praise God for His works in Creation. He created earth, the waters, the sun, moon and stars.  The very things that pagans worshiped are in fact God’s servants, and God controls them for the benefit of His children.  Psalm 136: 10 – 24 tells us we should praise God for His miraculous works by which He delivered His people from Egypt and brought them into the Promised Land.

Think About It: The Passover miracles mentioned in Psalm 136 make it a fitting psalm for the Seder meal.  What miracles could be added to the list that would make Psalm 136 a New Testament Psalm?

Prayer: Give thanks to the Lord, for His mercy endures forever.

 

Read: Psalm 136:25 – 26

The last two verses of Psalm 136 tell us to praise God for His providential care for all flesh.  History is not confined to extraordinary events, like Creation and the Exodus; it continues every day as God controls the countless details that provide for every creature. Every day is a miracle.  The culminating miracle of Psalm 136 is not the spectacular, but the mundane.

Think About It: What “mundane miracles” have I experienced today?

Prayer: Give thanks to the Lord because He sustains us from day to day.

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