Psalm 136 - His steadfast love endures forever

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A Psalm of David.
1) O give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
     for his steadfast love endures forever.
2 O give thanks to the God of gods,
     for his steadfast love endures forever.
3 O give thanks to the Lord of lords,
     for his steadfast love endures forever;
4 who alone does great wonders,
     for his steadfast love endures forever;
5 who by understanding made the heavens,
     for his steadfast love endures forever;
6 who spread out the earth on the waters,
     for his steadfast love endures forever;
7 who made the great lights,
     for his steadfast love endures forever;
8 the sun to rule over the day,
     for his steadfast love endures forever;
9 the moon and stars to rule over the night,
     for his steadfast love endures forever;
10 who struck Egypt through their firstborn,
     for his steadfast love endures forever;
11 and brought Israel out from among them,
     for his steadfast love endures forever;
12 with a strong hand and an outstretched arm,
     for his steadfast love endures forever;
13 who divided the Red Sea in two,
     for his steadfast love endures forever;
14 and made Israel pass through the midst of it,
     for his steadfast love endures forever;
15 but overthrew Pharaoh and his army in the Red Sea,
     for his steadfast love endures forever;
16 who led his people through the wilderness,
     for his steadfast love endures forever;
17 who struck down great kings,
     for his steadfast love endures forever;
18 and killed famous kings,
     for his steadfast love endures forever;
19 Sihon, king of the Amorites,
     for his steadfast love endures forever;
20 and Og, king of Bashan,
     for his steadfast love endures forever;
21 and gave their land as a heritage,
     for his steadfast love endures forever;
22 a heritage to his servant Israel,
     for his steadfast love endures forever.
23 It is he who remembered us in our low estate,
     for his steadfast love endures forever;
24 and rescued us from our foes,
     for his steadfast love endures forever;
25 who gives food to all flesh,
     for his steadfast love endures forever.
26 O give thanks to the God of heaven,
     for his steadfast love endures forever.
Psalm 136 (NRSV*)
2nd Sunday after Epiphany, Year A
Monday of Holy Week

This psalm is a litany, "a prayer consisting of a series of invocations and supplications by the leader with alternate responses by the congregation" (Merriam Webster dictionary). You can just hear this psalm used in devotional worship - as it is. To every faith statement, there is a response: "for God's steadfast love endures forever."

The Hebrew word "hesed" (חסד) is one of the most important words in the Hebrew Bible. Commonly translated as "steadfast love" or "lovingkindness," it is used over and over again to refer to God's persistent, unshakable, love, which is linked to God's promise. Hesed is sometimes interpreted as "covenant-faithfulness." It is one of the Hebrew Bible's "go-to" words to describe God's loving, faithful, righteous, and sure relationship with God's people.

Psalm 136 leads into the "praise section" at the end of the Book of Psalms. It is a love song to God's goodness over time, in history, to the people God has claimed as beloved, and focused specifically on those foundational experiences of the journey out of Egypt and establishment in the lands of Judah and Israel.

The hymn, though, steps beyond a narrow view of God's grace. God reigns not just in Israel, but in the heavens, and extends blessings to all creation ("who gives food to all flesh").

Let it roll over you, again and again. Throughout everything, God's undying hesed endures forever. The Lord is justly hymned by those who have experienced and and hope for blessings.

How great is this God? Worthy to be praised! Because... "his steadfast love endures forever."

Credits:
StockSnap. Forever hands. Used by Pixabay license. * New Revised Standard Version Bible (NRSV), copyright © 1989 the Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

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