Wednesday, November 30, 2022

His Eternal Mercy (Psalm 136)

"Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever" (Ps. 136:1).

Psalm 136 contains a continuous refrain that follows a declaration of God’s glorious work. The insertion of the clause “For His mercy endures forever” serves as a reminder that all God is and has done is good and merciful. “Men may not deny the divine goodness to be the source and fountain of all their blessings, but the graciousness of His bounty is far from being fully and sincerely recognized, though the greatest stress is laid upon it in Scripture,” Calvin wrote. “Paul in speaking of it (Rom. 3:23), calls it emphatically by the general term of the glory of God, intimating, that while God should be praised for all His works, it is His mercy principally that we should glorify.”

Why does the psalmist direct us to give thanks to the Lord? “For His mercy endures forever.” The writer continues to weave throughout the psalm a number of pronouncements concerning God, showing how each flows from God’s mercy. In doing this, the psalmist reveals how God abounds in mercy. He has shown mercy, or love as the NIV calls it, by performing great wonders. He separated the land from the waters, revealing His divine care and love toward His creation in establishing suitable habitats for man, birds, fish, plants, and animals. He set the stars in place and positioned the sun that we may have the light we need and the warmth necessary to live. Like a mother who cares for every need of her children, God fashioned a world, a universe, out of love for His creation.

The psalmist continues his praise by extolling God’s mercy to His chosen people in particular. While it may seem inappropriate to sing God’s praises for killing the firstborn of Egypt, in doing this God showed great mercy to Israel. This final blow ushered in their deliverance. God revealed His mercy by sparing Israel. Because of His great love for them, He led His people out of Egypt, divided the Red Sea, overthrew Pharaoh, struck down foreign kings, and led them into the promised land.

God has done many great and wonderful things for His people. He “remembered us in our lowly state,” and “rescued us from our enemies.” “Oh give thanks to the God of heaven! For His mercy endures forever.”

Though the biblical acts of mercy certainly apply to you, it is difficult to relate directly to the division of the sea, the defeat of kings, and the conquest of the land. Think today of what mercies God has extended to you in your life. Make a list of those divine mercies and carry it with you this week.