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Sunday, November 22, 2020

“His Love Endures Forever” [Matt's Messages]

“His Love Endures Forever”
Lanse Evangelical Free Church
November 22, 2020 :: Psalm 136

It’s obvious.

I think one look at Psalm 136 and it’s rather obvious why I picked it for the Sunday before the Thanksgiving holiday.

Psalm 136 begins with the words, “Give thanks” at the start of each of the first 3 verses[!] and then ends with the same, “Give thanks.”

“Give thanks.”
“Give thanks.”
“Give thanks.”
“Give thanks.”

That repetition tells us what this psalm is all about and tells us what we should do with it, namely “Give thanks to the LORD.”

That’s not, however, the greatest repetition in this song!

Just one look at this psalm, and you can see what’s really different about it. This is the only psalm that does this in the whole Bible.

Psalm 136 repeats one key phrase at the end of every single line. 26 times. 26 verses, 26 times, it says the exact same thing! The exact same refrain.

And that exact same refrain tells us the reason WHY we should give thanks to the LORD.

It’s because “His love endures forever.”

“His love endures forever.”

26 times. The song writer put those words in there 26 times in a row. Even breaking up sentences with it.  There must be a good reason for that.

Don’t let your eyes (or your ears !) just bounce over that repetition. Don’t get bored with it. It’s in God’s Word for a reason. It’s in this one short psalm 26 times for a reason!

The Hebrews called this psalm “the Great Hallel,” the Great Psalm of Praise.

And it seems clear that it was sung in worship antiphonally which means call and response. Call and response.

The leader, probably a priest, would say the first part of every line and then the congregation or perhaps a special group of singers would respond back with “His loves endures forever” or in Hebrew, “ki leolam hasdo.”

Sometimes I hear people complaining about modern worship songs with all their repetition. Often calling it “7-11 worship.” 7 words repeated 11 times. Well, there is a biblical basis for repetition OF GOOD LYRICS! Here we have 3 good words in Hebrew repeated 26 times in just one worship song.

What’s really important are what words we are saying again and again and again.

Because these are words to shape us. These are words that we need to get down deep into our souls.


“For His love endures forever.”

So, as we go through this psalm, we’re going to have to repeat that phrase over and over again or we’re doing the psalm wrong.

And I’ll need you to participate with me, or we’re doing the psalm wrong!


Before we read verse 1, let’s think some more about this repeated phrase: "His love endures forever."

You might be surprised to find out how many different ways that phrase can be translated. It’s mainly because of the wonderful word “hesed” embedded in it.

That word is wonderful and also difficult to capture in English.

It’s more than just love. It’s loyal love. It’s steadfast love.

The King James used “mercy,” because it has a gracious element to it, as well. This  is the thing that King David said in Psalm 23 that follows him all of the days of his life.

Listen to how various versions translate this phrase for us:

King James: “For his mercy endureth forever.”

New American Standard: “For his lovingkindness is everlasting.”

English Standard Version: “For His steadfast love endures forever.”

New Living Translation and Christian Standard Bible: “His faithful love endures forever.”

Another one (Alec Motyer’s personal translation): “Because forever is his committed love.”

And another (Derek Kidner's): “His love has no end.”

Do you get the sense of it? Do you see and hear how wonderful this is?

Our God has a love that lasts. Our God keeps His promises faithfully. Our God is unchanging in His commitments to show gracious steadfast love to His people. (It takes a lot more words in English than it did in Hebrew.)

Our God’s gracious loyal love is unending! Isn’t that good news?!  Don’t we all need to hear that?

No wonder the song repeats it! And repeats it again.

I mean, how do you convey, how to do you communicate the concept of forever, of everlasting? That’s a mind-bending word, isn’t it? Infinite?

How do you get the idea of “forever” across and into someone’s psyche? Well, what better way than repetition?

"His love endures forever." 26 times so that we might begin to get the point.

Psalm 136, verse 1.

“Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good. His love endures forever.”
 
Psalm 136 calls upon all of us to give thanks to the LORD, to Yahweh, the God of the Bible.

I love the Thanksgiving holiday here in the United States because it’s just not that commercialized. I know that there are football games with commercials and Black Friday deals that play a part in many of our celebrations.

But the idea, even in the name of the holiday, is just simply saying, “Thank you.”

And we, as followers of Jesus Christ, know Whom we are thanking!

Not everybody knows who to thank at Thanksgiving. It’s not just Mom for roasting a turkey. (Though you should certainly thank her if she does!)

Thanksgiving, for us, is thanking God.

Because He (v.1) He is good and because "His love endures forever.”

Psalm 136 calls upon us to give thanks to God for both WHO He is and WHAT He has done.

For both His character and His actions in history, today, and for all eternity.

Verses 2 and 3 emphasize His supremacy. V.2

“Give thanks to the God of gods. His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords: His love endures forever.”

God is supreme over every being in the universe.
He is exalted on high. 
No one is in His class.
No one is even near!

And what’s amazing is that His ultimate transcendence does not keep Him far away from us; instead it enables Him to show His unending love for us!

"His love endures forever."

Now, starting in verse 4, we begin to see another thing that this psalm does so well.
The psalm starts to tell history.

It’s still a song, and it’s a song with all of that repetition, so you don’t miss the point.

But the psalmist begins to march through his Bible, the Torah, and demonstrate how the LORD’s love has been seen to endure forever.

He doesn’t just say it; he shows it, in poetic form.

And the song proceeds in canonical order. Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, and really into the first part of Joshua.

Just like we as a church have been studying the Big Story of the Bible since 2003, this song sings the Big Story of the Bible to show the faithful love of God.

It’s like the Old Testament version of “Count Your Many Blessings,” but it does it in historical order, starting in Genesis with creation. V.4

Give thanks...

“to him who alone does great wonders, His love endures forever.
who by his understanding made the heavens, His love endures forever.
who spread out the earth upon the waters, His love endures forever.
who made the great lights–His love endures forever.
the sun to govern the day, His love endures forever.
the moon and stars to govern the night; His love endures forever.

Do you see how that comes right out of Genesis?

This song calls upon us to thank the LORD for making everything.

It’s amazing that He can, and even more amazing that He did.

When was the last time you thanked God for making the world that you live in?

This song emphasizes that God make everything, and with great skill.

In verse 5, it says, “by his understanding” he made the heavens and the earth.

That means with great wisdom, insight, and skill.

And that’s the reason why we can have science, by the way. The only reason why science is so effective is because God set up with the world with so much skillfulness and because His faithful love endures forever.What we call “scientific laws” are rules for the world that God built into it in the first place.

Anybody thankful for science this year? I’m thankful to the scientists who are working so hard on medicines and vaccines for COVID-19. If any are eventually effective, that’s because of what this psalmist is singing about in verse 5.

And how about you guys going out in the woods next weekend after that elusive whitetail? Don’t forget to stop and look up at the sun, and the moon, and the stars and say to the Lord, “Thank you!”

#1. THANK YOU FOR MAKING US.

Sing it out now: "His love endures forever."

Do you see how those two things go together?

It isn’t just wonder and worship that God made the world. It’s wonder and worship and gratefulness that God made the world and placed us in it. The book of Genesis doesn’t just say that God made the world, but that He made us, too, and placed us in the world.

But He didn’t stop there. He didn’t just place us in the world He made and then leave us alone. After we sinned, He came to redeem and rescue us.

In verses 10 through 15, the song moves from Genesis to Exodus. From creation to salvation. V.10

Give thanks...

“to him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt His love endures forever.
and brought Israel out from among them His love endures forever.
with a mighty hand and outstretched arm; His love endures forever.
to him who divided the Red Sea asunder His love endures forever.
and brought Israel through the midst of it, His love endures forever.
but swept Pharaoh and His army into the Red Sea; His love endures forever.

This song is not about some generic vague notion of God. This song is about a particular God who saved a particular people for His glory.

In the book of Exodus, the Lord rescued His people, Israel, from Egypt. And they loved to sing about His deliverance.

For you and me, it wasn’t Egypt that had us trapped in bondage. It was sin and Satan. And the LORD rescued us through Jesus’s death on the Cross and resurrection on the third day. So that today we can say:

#2. THANK YOU FOR SAVING US.

Altogether?  "His love endures forever."

Unless, of course, you can’t sing that because it hasn't happened for you yet. The Israelites could sing Psalm 136 because they had been saved from Pharaoh by the Lord’s mighty hand and outstretched arm.

Have you been saved from your sin by the Lord Jesus? He is stretching out His arm to you today. He invites you to put your faith and trust in Him and what He did on the Cross on your behalf.  He came back to life to give you life and life forever.

Forever! Remember, that’s how long His love lasts.

In verse 15, the song moves from Exodus and Leviticus through Numbers and Deuteronomy and even into Joshua. The Lord doesn’t just save us and then leave us. He goes with us, and He guides us. V.16.

Give thanks...

“...to him who led His people through the desert, His love endures forever.
who struck down great kings, His love endures forever.
and killed mighty kings–His love endures forever.
Sihon king of the Amorites His love endures forever.
and Og king of Bashan–His love endures forever.
and gave their land as an inheritance, His love endures forever.
an inheritance to His servant Israel; His love endures forever.

The LORD was faithful to Israel in the wilderness.

This psalm sings about the Lord’s guidance, and protection, and promise-keeping.

Read Numbers chapter 21 to find out about these bad guys, Sihon and Og. 

They just sound like bad guys, don’t they? They attacked Israel even though Israel was coming in peace. And the Lord rescued His people again and again. And then when they got into the Promised Land, they got the land that was promised.

Now, I think that these verses are the most like what I feel right now in November of 2020. It kind of feels like the desert, like the wilderness.

2020 is on the attack like Sihon and Og. But the same Lord that got His people through the wilderness and into the Promised Land is the same Lord that we are singing about today.

He guides and protects and provides so that we can say:

#3. THANK YOU FOR SUSTAINING US.

Thank You for making us.
Thank You for saving us.

But thank You also for not leaving us there.

Thank You for sustaining us no matter what comes.

And everybody said? "His love endures forever."
 
The psalm ends with escalating praise for how faithful and gracious the Lord is. Verse 23.

Give thanks...

“to the One who remembered us in our low estate His love endures forever.
and freed us from our enemies, His love endures forever.
and who gives food to every creature. His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of heaven. His love endures forever.”  [Number 26!]

Do you hear how the psalm changes from “them” to “us?” Verse 23 moves from the history to the present day of the psalmist.

It wasn’t just what God had done for Israel in the past. But what God was doing that very day for God’s people. And also what we can expect for ever and ever and ever.

He made us.
He saved us.
He sustains us.

And for all who belong to Jesus, we can expect that for all eternity.

"His love endures forever.”

So give thanks!


***

Fortifying Truth - Fall 2020

01. Majestic and Mindful - Psalm 8
02. All Our Days - Psalm 90
03. "The LORD on High Is Mighty!" - Psalm 93
04. "The LORD Is My Shepherd" - Psalm 23
05. "Praise the LORD, O My Soul!" - Psalm 103
06. "The Blessing of Aaron's Oily Beard" - Psalm 133
07. "A Dying Thirst for the Living God" - Psalm 42
08. "Our Fortress" - Psalm 46
09. Unrestless - Psalm 131
10. "Sun and Shield" - Psalm 84
11. "With Songs of Joy" - Psalm 126

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