This week, Richard Coekin (CEO of Co-Mission and Senior Pastor of Dundonald Church) encourages us with the words of another psalm.
His Love Endures Forever
The core of human sin is ingratitude towards God – ‘for although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him’ (Romans 1:21). It’s the bitterness of the unbelieving heart that complains, ‘What’s he ever done for me!’ It fuels our rebellion and idolatry.
But the gospel of God’s sacrificial kindness to us in Christ creates praise towards God ‘overflowing with thankfulness’ (Colossians 2:7). It’s the joy of the believing heart that sings, ‘Thanks be to God for his indescribable gift!’ (2 Corinthians 9:15).
The psalms abound with prayer-songs full of joyful thankfulness. They teach us how to be grateful for God’s countless blessings, including the simple things we often take for granted – which is especially important in a season of anxiety and sickness like this Covid-19 pandemic. No psalm does this more than Psalm 136.
It praises God for his supreme power and wisdom in creating and governing the universe. It recounts the history of God redeeming Israel from slavery in Egypt – preserving them on their journey through the hardships of the wilderness and from savage enemy kings – to bring them into the ‘inheritance’ he had promised in the land of Canaan. The Bible everywhere regards this redemption as pointing forward to Jesus’ journey through life, death, resurrection and ascension to glory in heaven. It also points forward to Christians following Jesus through the hardships of life – including this pandemic and lockdown – to our inheritance in heavenly glory. The psalm’s repeated refrain, ‘His love endures for ever’, compels us to keep recognising his redeeming love – to remember that, whatever the stress, sickness, bereavement or economic hardship we are facing now, nothing can ‘separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord’ (Romans 8:38–39).
As before, I have separated each verse of the psalm with a line of application and formed it as a prayer for us to pray privately or with family or friends – perhaps taking it in turn to read a couple of lines each. For whenever we give thanks like this to God, we will feel less self-pitying and more thankful that he is our loving heavenly Father. Let us pray…
Almighty God, our loving heavenly father,
‘1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures for ever…’
We praise you for always being wonderfully good – and we thank you for your constant love.
‘2 Give thanks to the God of gods. His love endures for ever…’
We worship you as the only real and living God, supreme over all rivals – and that your love is everlasting.
‘3 Give thanks to the Lord of lords: His love endures for ever…’
We honour you as sovereign over all the powers of this world – and that you have never stopped loving us.
‘4 to him who alone does great wonders, His love endures for ever…’
You alone could accomplish a mighty salvation – and your love is never exhausted.
‘5 who by his understanding made the heavens, His love endures for ever…’
You created this universe in all its complex beauty – and have loved us from before its beginning.
‘6 who spread out the earth upon the waters, His love endures for ever…’
You have designed this world – and have always loved your people.
‘7 who made the great lights – His love endures for ever…’
You have provided the resources of nature from which our prosperity comes – you have always loved us.
‘8 the sun to govern the day, His love endures for ever…’
You direct the business of all our lives each day – and never forget to love us.
‘9 the moon and stars to govern the night; His love endures for ever…’
You govern and protect us from the unknown perils of nature – and have loved us despite our sin.
‘10 to him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt His love endures for ever…’
You have rescued us from the misery of our slavery to sin, Satan and death – your love never ceases.
‘11 and brought Israel out from among them His love endures for ever…’
You redeemed us for freedom through the Passover sacrifice of your beloved Son – because you love us.
‘12 with a mighty hand and outstretched arm; His love endures for ever…’
You acted in power in the death of Jesus to release us from your wrath – because your love is unbreakable.
‘13 to him who divided the Red Sea asunder His love endures for ever…’
You brought us out of Satan’s condemnation into the forgiveness of you Son – because your love is for ever.
‘14 and brought Israel through the midst of it, His love endures for ever…’
You have broken Satan’s claim upon our lives through Jesus’ satisfaction of your law – because of your love.
‘15 but swept Pharaoh and his army into the Red Sea; His love endures for ever…’
Satan and his demons have no power over us now – because of your promise-keeping love.
‘16 to him who led his people through the wilderness; His love endures for ever…’
You are bringing us safely through the hardships of this life – because, despite our sin, you love us every day.
‘17 to him who struck down great kings, His love endures for ever…’
You have only ever allowed us to suffer what will help us become like Jesus – because you love us.
‘18 and killed mighty kings – His love endures for ever…’
You can protect us from all threats, whether political or economic – because of your love.
‘19 Sihon King of the Amorites His love endures for ever…’
Terrifying rulers have often persecuted your people – but your love is always watching over us.
‘20 and Og king of Bashan – His love endures for ever…’
Religions and ideologies have threatened your children – but your love brings all of us home.
‘21 and gave their land as an inheritance, His love endures for ever…’
You will give us the joy that others claim in your glory in heaven – because your love is victorious.
‘22 an inheritance to his servant Israel. His love endures for ever…’
Though we deserve nothing you have given us everything – you are loving because you are love;
‘23 He remembered us in our low estate His love endures for ever…’
Though we deserve nothing, you have given us everything – you are loving because you are love.
‘24 and freed us from our enemies. His love endures for ever…’
You have given us freedom from guilt to enjoy for ever – because your love is for ever.
‘25 He gives food to every creature. His love endures for ever…’
You sustain us in every day of our lives – because you never stop loving us.
‘26 Give thanks to the God of heaven. His love endures for ever.’