“O give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for God’s steadfast love endures forever.”Psalm 136:1
If you read Psalm 136 from beginning to end, you will see that it has 26 verses, and that the second half of every verse reads, “for God’s steadfast love endures forever.” The psalm was probably originally read responsively in worship, and 26 times in a row, the congregation’s response was the same, “for God’s steadfast love endures forever.” Do you think the Psalmist is trying to get us to notice something?
To every statement about the wonder and beauty of creation, for every item in the litany of how God’s people were brought out of slavery and given a land of their own, in every challenge or uncertainty that confronts the people of God still, that confidence and faith are still secure, because the answer is still, “for God’s steadfast love endures forever.”
Maybe it is meant to teach us that the beauty and wonder of the creation around is an instance of, and a pointer to, that steadfast love of God. Maybe it is meant to be a public acknowledgement that indeed, every human circumstance, every trial or tribulation that is our lot can be answered by the steadfast love of God. Maybe it is meant to call the forgetful to remember how history bears this truth out, that wherever and whenever the people were lost or hungry, or thirsty, or sick, or oppressed, invariably they were guided, fed, healed and set free, through the steadfast love of God which endures forever.
What with political tensions in our neighbours to the south, a pandemic whose hold on us only seems to get worse, and with the coldest days of winter still ahead, we may feel at the mercy of dark forces beyond our control. To our despair, the Psalmist would probably say, remember how God has been there for you in the past, and face your uncertain future with hope. And our response, with people of faith through all the ages, will be, “for God’s steadfast love endures forever.”
May that be our confidence, our hope and our joy.
Revs. Bob and Helen Smith
A version of this message first appeared in the Saturday, January 16, 2021, edition of Tidbits.