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Psalms 136

 

 

Verses 1-26

Psalms 136:1-26

O give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good.

The eternity or God’s goodness

This is a reason for praising Him--

I. In the material universe (Psalms 136:1-9). When the grandeur of nature overawes you, when its terrific phenomena, thunders, earthquakes, volcanoes seem to overwhelm you, still praise Him. There is goodness in all.

II. In the history of mankind (Psalms 136:10-26).

1. In the deliverance of His people (Psalms 136:10-16).

2. In the destruction of despots (verses 17-22).

3. In His regard for all (Psalms 136:23-26). All men have enemies, foes to their virtues, their interest, their happiness. He delivers them. All men require nourishment. They live by the appropriation of the fruits of the earth. He “giveth food to all flesh.” His “mercy endureth for ever,” and thus should we praise Him in all. (Homilist.)

A song, a solace, a sermon, and a summons

I. A song.

1. For all singers. Let young and old, rich and poor, instructed and ignorant, saved and unsaved, take part in it. Let us bless God for the eyes with which we behold the sun, for the health and strength to walk abroad in the sunlight; let us praise Him for the mercies which are new every morning, for the bread we eat; let us bless Him that we are not deprived of our reason, or stretched upon the bed of languishing; let us praise Him that we are not cast out among the hopeless, or confined amongst the guilty; let us thank Him for liberty, for friends; let us praise Him, in fact, for everything which we receive from His bounteous hand, for we deserve little, and yet are most plenteously endowed.

2. But the sweetest and the loudest note in the chorus must always be reserved for those who sing of redeeming love (Psalms 136:10-12). Even now by faith we wave the palm branch and wrap ourselves about with the fair white linen which is to be our everlasting array, and shall we not this day give thanks to the name of the Lord whose redeeming “mercy endureth for ever”?

3. Further on our poet invites the experienced believer to join in the psalm (Psalms 136:16-22). Just as some among us, whose voices are deep, can take the bass parts of the tune, so the educated saint, who has been for years in the ways of the Lord, can throw a force and a weight into the song which no other can contribute.

II. A solace. We have many troubles, and we need comfort; God is willing that we should be comforted.

1. I shall use the text as a solace to the past. The year is all but gone. Have we not found, up till now, that His mercy has endured for ever?

2. Our text is also a very sweet consolation as to the present. Have we at this moment a sense of present sin? Then, “His mercy endureth for ever.”

3. As to the future. Ah! we are poor fools when we begin to deal with the future. It is a sea which we are not called upon to navigate. The present is the whole of life, for when we enter into the future, it is the present. When these fingers cannot perform their daily work, when my brow is wrinkled, and I can scarcely totter to my toil, what shall I do?” Ah! “His mercy endureth for ever.”

III. A sermon. “His mercy endureth for ever.” Then--

1. Let our mercy endure.

2. Let us learn the duty of hoping for everybody.

3. See the duty of hoping for yourself.

IV. A summons. “His mercy endureth for ever.”

1. Is not that a most loving and tender summons to the wandering child to return to his Father? to the backsliding professor to approach his God? to the chief of sinners to humble himself before the mercy-seat? There is mercy--seek it. There is mercy in Jesus--believe in Him.

2. Believers, the summons is also meant for you. It says this, “His mercy endureth for ever”; therefore let your love to souls continue; let your labour for conversion abide; let your generosity to God’s cause abound; let your endeavours to extend the kingdom of Christ endure evermore. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The duty of praise and thanksgiving

I. The duty, It implies--

1. A grateful sense of the Divine benefits. Here the duty begins, though it ends not here; in acts of the mind, in attentive meditations on the loving-kindness of God, and lively warm affections produced and cherished by these meditations.

2. A suitable expression of gratitude. The heart will awaken the tongue, and the affections of the inner man direct and influence the actions of the outward.

II. The persons called upon.

1. The whole world of mankind are by the psalmist invited to pay their common tribute of praise to their supreme and universal Lord; even all the nations of this widespread and many-peopled earth, by whatever name, or language, or religion they are distinguished; seeing how much soever they differ in these and other respects, they all partake of the light of reason, which discovers a God to them, a first and most perfect Being, and directs them to make Him the universal object of their worship, and trust, and obedience.

2. The Church of God is more immediately and expressly spoken to.

3. All those are particularly called upon to give thanks who have received any fresh or remarkable instances of the Divine favour and interposition on their behalf; such as have been prospered in their designs, and perhaps beyond their own expectations; or have been happily disappointed (for frequent experience shows there are such things as happy disappointments), have had light and comfort in a day of trouble; succour in threatening dangers and temptations; have been raised up from beds of sickness, or blessed with extraordinary measures of health; have had considerable turns in their lives, and seen the hand of God guiding and overruling events to their good.

III. The reason or foundation of it heres assigned.

1. Men should give thanks unto the Lord, because He is good. Other perfections challenge our reverence, and fear, and admiration; this demands our gratitude.

2. Men should give thanks unto the Lord, because His mercy endureth for ever. This may be understood--

Application.

1. Does religion invite and oblige us to give thanks unto the Lord, because He is good? and does a great part of religion consist in the duty of thanksgiving rightly performed? then, certainly, religion can neither be an unreasonable nor a tiresome service.

2. Since the mercy of the Lord endureth for ever, let us resolve that we will serve, and praise, and trust in Him for ever. (H. Bonar, D. D.)

For His mercy endureth for ever.--

God’s goodness and mercy

I. God’s goodness.

1. Goodness is the perfection of things for which they are desirable; perfection imports freedom from all defects, and fulness of all excellences, and is chiefly seen in the being, working, end of things; that which hath the noblest being, and therefore end, and therefore operations, is ever best and most desirable; desire is the reaching of the soul after that that likes us, because it is like us. Now the all-sufficient God is His own Being, His own end, His own act, or rule in action; yea, He is the Author of all good, the end and desire of all things (in natural respects), and therefore the perfection of all, and so all perfection and goodness.

2. God is--

1. God is good, let us put it to good use; first, for humbling, see what we were once, good; for of goodness can come nothing but goodness; secondly, what we are now by nature, bad; for first, we are sunk as far from God as hell is from heaven.

2. See what we should be, good; goodness is ever admirable, and therefore (saith the philosopher) imitable. Now, Psalms 119:68 tells us that God is good, and doth good, and He is our copy and rule. First, therefore, we must be good, and then do good; first the sap must be good, and then the fruit, for as things be, so they work.

II. God’s mercy.

1. It is everlasting.

2. Reasons.

1. Dwell upon the mercy of God.

2. Put it to use.

3. Be ye merciful, as He is--to men’s souls, bodies, estates, names. (R. Harris, D. D.)


Verses 1-26

Psalms 136:1-26

O give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good.

The eternity or God’s goodness

This is a reason for praising Him--

I. In the material universe (Psalms 136:1-9). When the grandeur of nature overawes you, when its terrific phenomena, thunders, earthquakes, volcanoes seem to overwhelm you, still praise Him. There is goodness in all.

II. In the history of mankind (Psalms 136:10-26).

1. In the deliverance of His people (Psalms 136:10-16).

2. In the destruction of despots (verses 17-22).

3. In His regard for all (Psalms 136:23-26). All men have enemies, foes to their virtues, their interest, their happiness. He delivers them. All men require nourishment. They live by the appropriation of the fruits of the earth. He “giveth food to all flesh.” His “mercy endureth for ever,” and thus should we praise Him in all. (Homilist.)

A song, a solace, a sermon, and a summons

I. A song.

1. For all singers. Let young and old, rich and poor, instructed and ignorant, saved and unsaved, take part in it. Let us bless God for the eyes with which we behold the sun, for the health and strength to walk abroad in the sunlight; let us praise Him for the mercies which are new every morning, for the bread we eat; let us bless Him that we are not deprived of our reason, or stretched upon the bed of languishing; let us praise Him that we are not cast out among the hopeless, or confined amongst the guilty; let us thank Him for liberty, for friends; let us praise Him, in fact, for everything which we receive from His bounteous hand, for we deserve little, and yet are most plenteously endowed.

2. But the sweetest and the loudest note in the chorus must always be reserved for those who sing of redeeming love (Psalms 136:10-12). Even now by faith we wave the palm branch and wrap ourselves about with the fair white linen which is to be our everlasting array, and shall we not this day give thanks to the name of the Lord whose redeeming “mercy endureth for ever”?

3. Further on our poet invites the experienced believer to join in the psalm (Psalms 136:16-22). Just as some among us, whose voices are deep, can take the bass parts of the tune, so the educated saint, who has been for years in the ways of the Lord, can throw a force and a weight into the song which no other can contribute.

II. A solace. We have many troubles, and we need comfort; God is willing that we should be comforted.

1. I shall use the text as a solace to the past. The year is all but gone. Have we not found, up till now, that His mercy has endured for ever?

2. Our text is also a very sweet consolation as to the present. Have we at this moment a sense of present sin? Then, “His mercy endureth for ever.”

3. As to the future. Ah! we are poor fools when we begin to deal with the future. It is a sea which we are not called upon to navigate. The present is the whole of life, for when we enter into the future, it is the present. When these fingers cannot perform their daily work, when my brow is wrinkled, and I can scarcely totter to my toil, what shall I do?” Ah! “His mercy endureth for ever.”

III. A sermon. “His mercy endureth for ever.” Then--

1. Let our mercy endure.

2. Let us learn the duty of hoping for everybody.

3. See the duty of hoping for yourself.

IV. A summons. “His mercy endureth for ever.”

1. Is not that a most loving and tender summons to the wandering child to return to his Father? to the backsliding professor to approach his God? to the chief of sinners to humble himself before the mercy-seat? There is mercy--seek it. There is mercy in Jesus--believe in Him.

2. Believers, the summons is also meant for you. It says this, “His mercy endureth for ever”; therefore let your love to souls continue; let your labour for conversion abide; let your generosity to God’s cause abound; let your endeavours to extend the kingdom of Christ endure evermore. (C. H. Spurgeon.)

The duty of praise and thanksgiving

I. The duty, It implies--

1. A grateful sense of the Divine benefits. Here the duty begins, though it ends not here; in acts of the mind, in attentive meditations on the loving-kindness of God, and lively warm affections produced and cherished by these meditations.

2. A suitable expression of gratitude. The heart will awaken the tongue, and the affections of the inner man direct and influence the actions of the outward.

II. The persons called upon.

1. The whole world of mankind are by the psalmist invited to pay their common tribute of praise to their supreme and universal Lord; even all the nations of this widespread and many-peopled earth, by whatever name, or language, or religion they are distinguished; seeing how much soever they differ in these and other respects, they all partake of the light of reason, which discovers a God to them, a first and most perfect Being, and directs them to make Him the universal object of their worship, and trust, and obedience.

2. The Church of God is more immediately and expressly spoken to.

3. All those are particularly called upon to give thanks who have received any fresh or remarkable instances of the Divine favour and interposition on their behalf; such as have been prospered in their designs, and perhaps beyond their own expectations; or have been happily disappointed (for frequent experience shows there are such things as happy disappointments), have had light and comfort in a day of trouble; succour in threatening dangers and temptations; have been raised up from beds of sickness, or blessed with extraordinary measures of health; have had considerable turns in their lives, and seen the hand of God guiding and overruling events to their good.

III. The reason or foundation of it heres assigned.

1. Men should give thanks unto the Lord, because He is good. Other perfections challenge our reverence, and fear, and admiration; this demands our gratitude.

2. Men should give thanks unto the Lord, because His mercy endureth for ever. This may be understood--

Application.

1. Does religion invite and oblige us to give thanks unto the Lord, because He is good? and does a great part of religion consist in the duty of thanksgiving rightly performed? then, certainly, religion can neither be an unreasonable nor a tiresome service.

2. Since the mercy of the Lord endureth for ever, let us resolve that we will serve, and praise, and trust in Him for ever. (H. Bonar, D. D.)

For His mercy endureth for ever.--

God’s goodness and mercy

I. God’s goodness.

1. Goodness is the perfection of things for which they are desirable; perfection imports freedom from all defects, and fulness of all excellences, and is chiefly seen in the being, working, end of things; that which hath the noblest being, and therefore end, and therefore operations, is ever best and most desirable; desire is the reaching of the soul after that that likes us, because it is like us. Now the all-sufficient God is His own Being, His own end, His own act, or rule in action; yea, He is the Author of all good, the end and desire of all things (in natural respects), and therefore the perfection of all, and so all perfection and goodness.

2. God is--

1. God is good, let us put it to good use; first, for humbling, see what we were once, good; for of goodness can come nothing but goodness; secondly, what we are now by nature, bad; for first, we are sunk as far from God as hell is from heaven.

2. See what we should be, good; goodness is ever admirable, and therefore (saith the philosopher) imitable. Now, Psalms 119:68 tells us that God is good, and doth good, and He is our copy and rule. First, therefore, we must be good, and then do good; first the sap must be good, and then the fruit, for as things be, so they work.

II. God’s mercy.

1. It is everlasting.

2. Reasons.

1. Dwell upon the mercy of God.

2. Put it to use.

3. Be ye merciful, as He is--to men’s souls, bodies, estates, names. (R. Harris, D. D.)


Verses 4-9

Psalms 136:4-9

To Him who alone doeth great wonders.

God the wonder-worker

Altering a little the language of Coleridge, I would say, “All true science begins with wonder, and ends with wonder, and the space between is filled up with admiration. If we turn to Providence, the history of the nations, the history of the Church, what centuries of wonders pass before us! It is said that wise men only wonder once, and that is always; fools never wonder, because they are fools. The story of the Church is a constellation of miracles. I cannot venture upon themes so vast as Creation and Providence. Shall we turn to the works of Grace, the wonders of Redemption? If we consider the glory of grace surrounding the Cross, which is the wonder of wonders, we are upon a boundless ocean.

I. God is working wonders of mercy now.

1. In the salvation of the lost.

2. In the preservation of believers.

3. By maintaining His Church and the cause of truth in the midst of the world.

II. These wonders are still great. Many apparent wonders can be explained, and, henceforth, the wonder is gone. Certain nations wonder at an eclipse, which to the astronomer is a very simple affair. Now, you cannot explain away redemption, regeneration, and the pardon of sin: these great wonders of almighty love are all the greater the more you know of them. Many wonders, also, are diminished by familiarity. The wonders of grace are such, that the more you see them the more your wonder grows. Those who are most familiar with the Lord think the most of Him and of His grace. The wonders of Divine grace are so great that they can never be eclipsed by any greater marvels.

III. These great wonders are wrought by God alone. When the Lord uses means in the salvation of a soul, He takes care that nobody shall praise the means or ascribe the salvation to the agent. He has many ways with His most useful servants of making them keep their places; and you will notice that as soon as ever any one of them begins to grow rather large in his own esteem, he is usually met with weakness and barrenness. We must keep self out of the way. We must put ourselves absolutely into God’s hands, that He may use us in the winning of souls, and then we must send the great I down, down, down, till it is buried out of all remembrance.

IV. For these wonders God is to be praised. Holy wonder is like sweet incense, but love must set it on a blaze with a burning coal of gratitude. If you will begin to praise the Lord for His great wonders of mercy, I will tell you what will happen to you.

1. First, we shall find His nature revealed to us. “O give thanks unto the Lord, for He is good.” We shall begin to see the essential goodness of God, and then we shall the better understand the manifestations of it as seen in ten thousand ways.

2. Next, while praising for His wonders, thou wilt learn to adore His Godhead. “Give thanks unto the God of gods.” It is a grand thing to be deeply impressed that God is God.

3. If thou wilt keep on praising Him for His wonders, thou wilt come to know somewhat of His sovereignty. “O give thanks unto the Lord of lords,” for He rules over all things, both in heaven and in earth, and in all deep places. We can trust our God with unlimited power; and it is a part of our worship that we should never question whatever He may do. “It is the Lord; let Him do what seemeth Him good.”

4. Still, when thou praisest God for the wonders He has wrought for thee, and for others, let the climax of thy praise be this, that “His mercy endureth for ever.” Magnify with all thy faculties of mind and heart; with memory, and hope, and fear, and every emotion of which thou art capable, the changeless mercy of God. (C. H. Spurgeon.)


Verses 17-22

Psalms 136:17-22

To Him which smote great kings.

Mercy in the destruction of tyrants

I. The mercy of God recognized in the destruction of tyrants.

1. It appears in their own destruction.

2. It appears in the relief afforded to the race. When such demons in human flesh are cut down, the world breathes freer, obstacles are swept from its path of progress; when the Pharaohs are engulfed the human Israel can march forward to promised lands.

II. The praises of God celebrated on account of the perpetuity of His mercy.

1. Because Divine mercy will always work for good. Therefore, the longer it continues, the better.

2. Because the future ages of the world will require mercy. There will be much for mercy to do on this planet yet, before the race will be brought hack into harmony with God.

3. Because we ourselves shall ever be dependent on mercy. (Homilist.)

Sihon and Og, or mercies in detail

These six verses reiterate the same fact. Is the tautology tedious; do the chimes weary you with their monotony? For my part I like a repetition in the tune of a psalm as well as in its language. No doubt one verse instead of these six might have sufficed. It might have run thus, “Who slew famous kings, Sihon, king of the Amorites, Og, king of Bashan, and gave their land for a heritage to His people, for His mercy endureth for ever.” That would have comprehended all the sense. But by this repetition we learn that it is well to dwell long and to dwell deliberately upon some of God’s dealings with Us. This is the theme on which I want to thread a few reflections. And--

I. It is well to deliberate long over the merciful side of God’s judgments. We might have thought it more natural if we had read, for His justice, or, for His vengeance endureth for ever. But though terrible for these tyrants, it was a great mercy for others. When tyrants die nations have time to breathe. When lions fall, or the wolves are slain, the deer and sheep have time to rest. Not mercy to the one man, perhaps, to Nero, Caligula, Tiberius or the like, but to the millions who groaned under his abominable rule. And so of huge systems of error and superstition which have oppressed men. They have passed away, and others shall, “for His mercy endureth for ever.”

II. Each mercy deserves to be remembered. See with what special point and emphasis each instance is put. They are thus given--

1. Because each mercy we have received is undeserved. In the very chapter which tells of these victories of Israel their murmurings and the fiery serpents that chastised them are told of also. It was to these people God gave these repeated victories.

2. Not one could be dispensed with. Had the Lord stopped when Sihon was slain, what would have become of Israel?

3. There was a peculiarity about each mercy. You never had two mercies from God that were quite alike.

4. But if any mercy deserves to be particularly remembered, it is early mercy. The children of Israel had not got their hands into fighting yet. They were young recruits. And so with ourselves, how we ought to remember God’s mercy to us in the beginning of our career.

III. Each mercy does really in itself deserve separate contemplation. How we dwell in detail and fulness on our troubles. Should we not do so also with our mercies? When I have got some trouble of my own, I think I generally find myself turning it inside out and showing every bit of it--every point of it--upside down, the wrong way up, the right way up, and all ways. Ought I not to do the same with my mercies?

IV. Continued benefits are a special proof of enduring mercy. For God to give one mercy might not prove that His mercy endureth for ever, but when no sooner is one given than another follows, and another follows that, the unbroken succession of wave upon wave in ceaseless regularity does show that His mercy endureth for ever. And is not this what so many of us have to tell of?

V. The overruling of trials is a subject to dwell upon with delight. Israel did not expect to have the territory of Sihon and Og. Their land was on the other side Jordan, but since they attacked them as unexpected foes, they got out of them unexpected territory. Unexpected trials often issue in unexpected advantages.

VI. That all this should be for the same persons further shows that “His mercy,” etc. For whom does Sihon, does Og, fall but for Israel? All is for them, undeserving, evil, full of provocation as they were. Is there one of us who might not justly be in hell before the clock ticks again, if it were not that His mercy endureth for ever? Do any say, “My sins are strong, how can I master them?” Cannot He who slew great kings, yea, famous kings, cannot He slay them? (C. H. Spurgeon.)


Verse 23-24

Psalms 136:23-24

Who remembered us in our low estate.

Raised from low estate

I. By apostasy from God we are reduced to a condition of great degradation.

1. By sinning we have lost all moral excellence.

2. All sources of supply are forfeited.

II. God remembered us in this our low estate.

1. He devised a way of escape from our thraldom.

2. He remembered us in the day of our conversion.

3. Since our conversion to Himself, how many have been the seasons of distress in which God has remembered us!

III. Such remembrance could only arise from the mercy of God. (Isaac Mann.)
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Psalms 137:1-9

 


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Bibliography Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Psalms 136:4". The Biblical Illustrator. http://odl.studylight.org/commentaries/tbi/psalms-136.html. 1905-1909. New York.

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