Love Enduring Forever
Lord, You whisper to me through the stillness and You shout to me in the storm. I wait to hear from You now.
Read PSALM 136:1-26
Scripture taken from the THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION, NIV Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
“The theme of Psalm 136 is that our God is a working God. He has worked in creation (4-9), providence (16-24), and redemption (10-15). ‘O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever’ (1)” (A. Leonard Griffith).
The beautifully succinct refrain is even shorter in Hebrew. “Forever his love … Forever his love,” repeated 26 times, focuses the mind. Like any good liturgy, this sends the congregation out with the words singing in their hearts. This “love,” the Hebrew hesed, more than any other Bible word, proclaims the very nature of God and his “covenant of love” (Deut. 7:12).
We Bible translators struggle to find words deep and powerful enough to express it. “Love” does not say it all but is sometimes the best word we have. Some translators try to express the aspect of God’s love in focus in a particular text and choose words like “mercy” or “kindness.” Some translations recognize that we need a phrase. The NIV’s frequent choice of “unfailing love” comes close (Psa. 130:7), as does “steadfast love.” And could anyone improve upon Miles Coverdale’s inspired invention, God’s “loving-kindness” (Psa. 89:1)?
We may be shocked at the sudden linking of God’s love with war and death (10-22), but to the psalmist the escape from Egypt was an act of redemption. God was saving his people with a love which had not deserted them, even in slavery. The list of slain kings is hard to read today, but that is largely because it is not our history, not a victory God gave to us personally. Being honest with ourselves, we must admit we Christians can feel thankful to God for victory over cruel enemies, the defeat of a Hitler or a Pol Pot or an Osama bin Laden, and if we have been in personal danger from them, we may well feel that our survival is a gift of God’s love. It is a love which endures forever. Inspired writers search for apt imagery. This love is “reaching to the heavens” (Psa. 57:10). Mary, her heart still in the old covenant, proclaimed that it endured “from generation to generation” (Luke 1:50).
In what ways can you hold the reality of God’s love before you? What practical difference does it make?
Gracious God, I can do no better than the psalmist: “O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever.” Hallelujah!