“Give thanks to the Lord.” Giving thanks to God was an important part of Israel’s worship. They were to recount before the Lord solid reasons for their appreciation of the Almighty, beginning with this important reminder: “… for He is good, for His steadfast love endures forever.” The Hebrew word translated “steadfast love” appears in every verse of Psalm 136. Israel needed to sing about the mercies of the Lord. The Lord’s covenant faithfulness to His people would continue forever.
Israel’s God was the “Lord of lords.” He “alone” had accomplished great feats of creation. Their great “God of gods” had made the heavens, the waters, and the dry land. No other being made the “sun to rule over the day” and the “moon and stars to rule over the night.”
The Lord was also Israel’s Savior. He rescued His people out of Egypt. He accomplished their redemption by mighty acts of judgment and deliverance. The God of Israel “overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the Red Sea.” He made a distinction between His chosen people and their captors.
As God’s people drew near to the land that He was giving them, He destroyed the surrounding powers that sought to thwart His great plan. He defeated kings and armies and brought His people into the land of Canaan.
The power and wisdom for creation and redemption did not come from Israel. They were a people of “low estate.” All of God’s great works took place because of the steadfast love of the Lord for His people. He “remembered” them in their affliction and rescued them from all their foes.
Why did God do all this for Israel? Why did He have a chosen people at all? The Savior of the world came from the Jews, the one people group that the Lord had prepared for the first proclamation of His Kingdom to the nations.
God’s greatest work of redemption was bigger than the rescue of Israel from Egypt. The Lord of heaven and earth who “gives food to all flesh” had a plan to renew the entire earth. He intended to bring about a resurrection world through one Man who would die for our sins. The Son of God would be born of a woman—born as a part of the chosen people of the Old Testament—in order to extend His covenant mercy to the ends of the earth.
The coming of God’s kingdom, first announced by Jewish disciples, has now reached our ears and touched our lives. How can we respond to the mercy of the Lord that has extended to the ends of the earth? We join in the song that so many have sung before us: “Give thanks to the God of heaven, for His steadfast love endures forever.”
Prayer from A Book of Prayers
Merciful God, Your steadfast love endures forever. We give thanks to You. You do great wonders. You made the heavens. You also created the earth and You keep it going. You put the sun up in the skies. You gave us the moon and the stars for signs and seasons. You have performed great works of redemption. You rescued Israel out of Egypt. More than that, You have rescued all of Your people from horrible bondage to sin and Satan. You have granted to us a great hope. The rescue that we have experienced to this day is small when compared with the future age of glory that is coming. Surely Your steadfast love will endure forever.