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Sunday, March 5, 2017 pm                                                Psalms Index

 

STUDIES IN PSALMS
His Mercy Endures Forever
Psalm 136

 

Tonight, we examine another psalm.  This particular psalm is unique as we will quickly see.  We do not know who wrote it, but it seems to have been a popular psalm – at least the theming of the psalm is mentioned in the historical writings of Israel.    This is based upon usage of the first verse on various occasions.
    Solomon at the dedication of the temple – 2 Chronicles 7:3, 6
    Jehoshaphat, appoints singers to go before his army singing “Praise the Lord…” (2 Chronicles 20:21)
    Ezra 3:11 – after Judah returns from captivity, they begin rebuilding the temple.  As the foundation was laid there was playing of instruments and singing, “And they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the LORD: For He is good, For His mercy endures forever toward Israel.  The KJV, NKJV adds “responsively” to a word that deals with singing.

What is interesting about this psalm is how the phrase “For His mercy endures forever” is mentioned in each verse after every line.  Possibly this is a responsive psalm – a leader reads a line and others respond, “For His mercy endures forever”.

Doctrinally, there is nothing new in this psalm.  It is a reminder of the greatness of God as He has manifested Himself in the world.  A breakdown of this psalm (without the responses) includes:  1-3 – Acknowledging God for who He is; 4-9 – the wonders of His creation; 10-15 – He delivered Israel from Egypt; 16-22 – He delivered and sustained them in the wilderness and receiving their inheritance in Canaan; 23-26 – a God who remembers.

 I.                     His mercy endures forever

a.       We continually emphasize the mercy of God.  Considering the emphasis on mercy in this psalm, we want to give it some attention.

                                                   i.      We are here because of the mercy of God.  Mercy is defined as loving kindness, steadfast love (Vine’s OT), it is a word dealing with the compassion and pity toward one – even if undeserved.  It is related to the grace (graciousness) of God and often addresses not only His acting in our favor, but His NOT acting against us though we often deserve it.  Hence, as grace is God giving us what we don’t deserve, mercy is God NOT giving us what we deserve!      

                                                 ii.      This is a recurring theme in the Bible. 2 Corinthians 1:3 describes Him as the Father of mercies and God of all comfort
1 Peter 1:3 according to His abundant mercy, He has begotten us again to a living hope…
James 5:11 the Lord is very compassionate and merciful
Psalm 103:8 notes that the LORD is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in mercy.  103:17 notes that His mercy is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear Him

Ephesians 2:4 – God who is rich in mercy saved us by His grace.  NOTE: In this we find the GREATEST example of His mercy – He sent His Son to die for us!

                                                iii.      Let it be understood that the mercy of God does NOT mean we have no part – far too many misunderstand God’s mercy thinking it will lead to universal salvation (or at least it will include them in their unrepentant behavior).
But we cannot despise His grace and mercy – Romans 2:4 which challenges those who despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance and longsuffering…
Perhaps some in Israel even had this misconception – however, consider Psalm 62:12 which says,  Also to You, O Lord, belongs mercy; For You render to each one according to his work.

                                                iv.      May we strive to understand, accept and apply His mercy in our lives.

b.       Give thanks to Him – this bookends this psalm and so many other that we have addressed lately.  When we consider God, let us ever strive to be thankful to Him.  Ephesians 5:20 in our praising Him with our hearts, it should be “giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
Colossians 3:15, let the peace of God rule in your hearts…and be thankful
1 Thessalonians 5:18, in everything give thanks…
Hebrews 13:15
, Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name.

 II.                   Our God is: (1-3)

a.       Hallelujah – praise the LORD.

b.       LORD – YWHW.  His name so frequently used in scripture. 

c.        Good – again we are reminded of this simple, yet so profound word.  Good, as used here, means there is NOTHING evil or bad in Him.  FURTHERMORE, associated with this word is the idea of being held in high esteem or worthy of respect.
His goodness is demonstrated, and has been demonstrated in so many ways.  As we go through this psalm we see a reminder of that goodness where Israel was concerned!  Personally, we can never fully grasp the goodness of God, but in humility we must accept it.  Again, note Romans 2:4 – don’t despise His goodness.  Romans 11:22 calls for us to consider both the goodness and severity of God. 
2 Thessalonians 1:11 finds Paul’s prayer that God would count us worthy and “fulfill all the good pleasure of His goodness and the work of faith with power…”

d.       God of gods -  again we are reminded that there is no other god beside Him.  That was the lynch pin of Israel’s faith – commandment #1 – Exodus 20:2-3.  Hosea 13:4, “Yet I am the Lord your God Ever since the land of Egypt, And you shall know no God but Me; For there is no savior besides Me.
Throughout the Bible and history of Israel this is demonstrated – cf. Daniel 2:47 – where Nebuchadnezzar said, “Truly your God is the God of gods, the Lord of kings, and a revealer of secrets.”  We sometimes question, how can He be the God of gods when there is no other?  The answer lies in the times.  Yes, there was only ONE God, but that is not what man thought – so the declaration is to show all other gods are a farce and powerless. 

e.       Lord of lords – the Hebrew word here is (ʾā·ḏôn, cf. Adonai), which means master or lord, ruler.   God is in charge!  He is the one to whose will we must submit.  It applies to US as it did to Israel back then.
Jesus today is called “King of kings and Lord of lords” (1 Timothy 6:15, Revelation 7:14, 19;16, etc.).

 III.                 God of creation (4-9)

a.       He alone does great wonders – wonders is a word that means to do something extraordinary, such as the miraculous.  
God is God of wonders – He has proven Himself spectacularly – both in various physical acts as well as spiritually.  Our salvation is just as much a great wonder as the creation of this world and various events through which He set Himself apart from all others. 
David in Psalm 86:10 praised Him saying, “For You are great, and do wondrous things; You alone are God. 
Psalm 119:18 David also wrote concerning His word, “Open my eyes, that I may see Wondrous things from Your law.”
 In our text, the wonder addressed is dealing with creation. 

b.       By wisdom He made the heavens – Genesis 1:1-3.  NOTE throughout this chapter, “Then God said…”  He spoke and it was done.  Proverbs 3:19 notes, The Lord by wisdom founded the earth; By understanding He established the heavens;

Hebrews 11:3 – by faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God.

c.        He laid out the earth above the waters – He spoke and separated waters from land on the third day (Genesis 1:9-10).

d.       He has given us great lights (7-9) – sun, moon and stars - Genesis 1:3, 14-18  - on the fourth day!
Spiritually, we see that God is light and in Him there is no darkness (1 John 1:5)
2 Corinthians 4:6, For it is the God who commanded light to shine out of darkness, who has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.

e.       I simply appeal to Romans 1:20 – when we look at creation, we are without excuse when we reject Him!

 IV.                 God who delivered Israel out of Egypt (10-15)

a.       Continually, both the Old and New Testament give reference to this spectacular event.  It represents so many things, including OUR deliverance from sin.   

b.       He struck Egypt in their firstborn – the 10th plague which resulted in Pharaoh letting the people go – Exodus 11-12, esp. 12:29-34

c.        He brought Israel out from Egypt with a strong hand and an outstretched arm – a description of His power in all that He accomplished.  Throughout the ten plagues the people of Egypt more and more realize who YHWH is.  He defeated their gods (cf. Exodus 12:112, Numbers 33:4)

d.       He divided the Red Sea in two so that Israel could pass through its midst – Exodus 14

e.       But he overthrew Pharaoh and his army in the Red Sea – in a final act of judgment against Egypt, Exodus 14:24-28.

f.         Let us notice Exodus 14:29-31 – NOTICE how in this the LORD SAVED Israel.   Truly, we see the hand of God AND His mercy at work.

 V.                   God who delivered Israel through and from the wilderness (16-22)

a.       But God was not done.  He continued to sustain them throughout their wilderness wanderings. 

b.       He led His people through the wilderness – a simple statement that records numerous events in Exodus, Numbers and Deuteronomy.  Including manna and food, water – sometimes miraculous, a cloud that led them by day and night, interaction via prophets, as well as protecting from their enemies. 

c.        He struck down great and famous kings – even in the wilderness, before inheriting the promised land, Israel dealt with many enemies.  Oft mentioned are the two found here –

                                                   i.      Sihon of the Amorites – recorded in Numbers 21:21-32 as Israel requests to pass through the land of the Amorites, they are denied and Sihon sends his armies against Israel, but the LORD is with Israel and they defeat the Amorites and take possession of their land (21:24-26)

                                                 ii.      Og of Bashan, also recorded in Numbers 21:33-35 – after defeating the Amorites, Og, king of Basham went to war against Israel.  They defeated Og and his sons and took His land too.

d.       He gave Israel, His servant, their land as a heritage -  we read of the physical conquest throughout the book of Joshua.  But even more powerful is that this is fulfillment of a promise made to Abraham more than 4 centuries earlier (Genesis 15:13-16).  God’s mercy is seen as He keeps His promises, even though often, the recipients are ungrateful.

 VI.                 God remembers (23-26)

a.       He remembers our lowly state – in the scheme of the world, Israel was a small people.  Abraham was chosen not for His wealth and power, but for his faith.  Israel became God’s chosen people though they were insignificant because of His mercy.  Ezekiel 16:1-14 describes Israel as a recently born child that was abandoned by the side of the road (think of a baby place in a dumpster).  The LORD passed by saw her and had compassion.  Healed her and raised her.  That was descriptive of His choosing them. 
Consider Isaiah 63:7-9 – which describes the lovingkindness and mercies of the LORD toward these people.
God remembers us as well, even in our lowly state – Romans 5:8, Ephesians 2:1-5 – in spite of our former state, His rich mercy and love made us alive in Christ.

b.       He rescues us from our enemies – 2 Peter 2:9 – He knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations, etc. Also see Romans 8:38-39 – NOTHING can separate us from the love of God!

c.        He gives food to all flesh – God sustains us.  Those who are His are taken care of – Psalm 37:25 – David even in his old age knows that God takes care of His people.  He has never seen the righteous forsaken, His descendants begging bread. 
Of course, our text reminds us of a truth that goes BEYOND this – God makes His sun shine on the good and the evil.  He gives bread to all – Matthew 5:45, Acts 14:17, etc.

d.       O give thanks to the God of heaven – again, we conclude as we begin.

 

While a study of the psalms seems redundant, it is not an exercise in futility.  The psalms deals with themes we must continually remind ourselves of, as a single expression is mentioned 26 times in this one psalm alone.  We need to OFTEN pause and consider our God and His mercy.  This is the ONLY way we will endure spiritually in the face of trying times.  Truly God is merciful.  Have you availed yourself of His mercy?