Psalm 136:1 Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good.
His love endures forever.
This particular declaration is found multiple times in Psalms, and was obviously a standard, and frequent, part of worship. Here it is used as an antiphonal chant, between a leader and either a choir or the whole congregation. I’ve heard it used both ways in modern churches, and as such it can be a very moving worship experience. As I’ve commented before, the Japanese says “grace” rather than “love,” but that difference isn’t so significant in this context. The whole point of the Psalm, and the expression in general, was to get people into the habit of thanking God. “He is good; His love endures forever” is very general, so this Psalm fleshes that out with various acts of God, both in nature and in Israel’s history, ending up with the reminder that He is the “God of heaven,” that is, the Creator over all. When we are mired in our own little difficulties, frustrated that things aren’t turning out as we would like, we would do well to remember the many ways God has demonstrated His might and power, as well as His individual concern for us His creatures. That should help us regain a bit of context and perspective. A popular song of many years ago had the line, “Don’t they know it’s the end of the world? It ended when you said goodbye.” The younger we are the more likely we are to feel that our personal “tragedy” is earth-shaking, often causing older people to smile. However, even mature adults can be consumed by their own circumstance, when others are doubtless having it even worse. We need to remember first of all that God is the Creator, the One who spoke the universe into being. As mankind has had to be reminded again and again, nothing is impossible for Him. (Luke 1:37) At the same time, He cares about each one of us. John 3:16 is of course justly famous, but Peter’s reminder is also very important: “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.” (1 Peter 5:7) After all, Jesus said that He keeps track even of the hairs on our head! (Luke 12:7) When we have that bedrock assurance, nothing can shake us.
I have certainly had to grow in this truth, and I can’t say I’m there 100% even yet. I too get tied in knots over ultimately inconsequential things. It is a comfort that Paul faced the same situation! (Philippians 3:12-14) As a pastor I am constantly dealing with people in a wide variety of difficulties, with a wide variety of maturity to handle things. My difficulty is in helping them understand the reality of God’s power and love without making them feel put down, that their difficulties are unimportant. God really does care, but He’s far more concerned with our character than with our comfort. For myself and for those to whom I minister, I’ve got to remember that growth is the goal, and that “Our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all.” (2 Corinthians 4:17)
Father, thank You for this reminder. Thank You for how much of this season You’ve already brought me through. Thank You for the service this morning, and the caroling this evening. May everything happen as You desire, blessing all involved, for Your glory. Thank You. Praise God!