Sunday, April 27, 2014

His Steadfast Love Endures Forever



Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, 
     for his steadfast love endures forever. 
Give thanks to the God of gods, 
     for his steadfast love endures forever. 
Give thanks to the Lord of lords, 
     for his steadfast love endures forever; 
to him who alone does great wonders, 
     for his steadfast love endures forever; 
to him who by understanding made the heavens, 
     for his steadfast love endures forever; 
to him who spread out the earth above the waters, 
     for his steadfast love endures forever; 
to him who made the great lights, 
     for his steadfast love endures forever; 
the sun to rule over the day, 
     for his steadfast love endures forever; 
the moon and stars to rule over the night, 
     for his steadfast love endures forever; 
to him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt, 
     for his steadfast love endures forever; 
and brought Israel out from among them, 
     for his steadfast love endures forever; 
with a strong hand and an outstretched arm, 
     for his steadfast love endures forever; 
to him who divided the Red Sea in two, 
     for his steadfast love endures forever; 
and made Israel pass through the midst of it, 
     for his steadfast love endures forever; 
but overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the Red Sea, 
     for his steadfast love endures forever; 
to him who led his people through the wilderness, 
     for his steadfast love endures forever; 
to him who struck down great kings, 
     for his steadfast love endures forever; 
and killed mighty kings, 
     for his steadfast love endures forever; 
Sihon, king of the Amorites, 
     for his steadfast love endures forever; 
and Og, king of Bashan, 
     for his steadfast love endures forever; 
and gave their land as a heritage, 
     for his steadfast love endures forever; 
a heritage to Israel his servant, 
     for his steadfast love endures forever. 
It is he who remembered us in our low estate, 
     for his steadfast love endures forever; 
and rescued us from our foes, 
     for his steadfast love endures forever; 
he who gives food to all flesh, 
     for his steadfast love endures forever. 
Give thanks to the God of heaven,
     for his steadfast love endures forever. 
Psalm 136

No less than 26 times the psalmist reiterates the same combination of words in Psalm 136, “for his steadfast love endures forever.”  He reflects on the glory of God, and marvels at the wisdom that stretched out the heavens and flung the great stars in the sky, yet more than anything else is blown away by God’s mercy.  He carefully turns the frayed pages of history, only to find each one drenched with the goodness of God.

In the process, he also reminds us that the road to life eternal is not a straight highway lined with shady green trees without any ascends or dips on the way. There will be occasional detours through the wilderness, times when you will be required to swap your frail walking stick for a steely sword and engage in combat with all your might and valor.  These are perhaps situations and circumstances that we don’t normally associate with goodness and love. But for the psalmist, every event that came to his mind from the nation’s history affirmed God’s unfailing love to His children.

I believe that the most used trick in Devil’s bag is creating doubt – Self doubt, but more importantly doubt about God’s goodness and His love towards us. We see this constantly with people who call themselves Christians and they teach only hate.  They hate the LGBT community, they hate the poor for not working hard enough, they hate anyone who needs God's steadfast love that endures forever.  These people want to place self doubt in our minds so that we think we are not good enough.  Only those who they deem spiritually acceptable because they can be scared into larger donations are accepted, but it is the work of the devil that teaches them the hate that they spew to all those that don't fit their narrow description of Christianity.  They don't want people to believe in God's steadfast love that endures forever, because if one believes what God teaches us about His love, then we cannot have self doubt.

It was the weak ones who were most attracted to Jesus. Lepers, blind men, sick and the lame formed the regular crowd. It is the people in the margins that Jesus went to and befriended.  They had nowhere to go and they knew that all too well. In Jesus’ parable, the righteous Pharisee who prayed long and loud had nothing right. Yet the tax-collector, sinful as he was, went home justified. It is in our weakness that we are closest to God, and when we acknowledge that we are weak, He lends his strong arm and lifts us up. The unknown Psalmist seems to agree: “It is he who remembered us in our low estate, for his steadfast love endures forever.”

2 comments:

Michael Dodd said...

I am sad to say that too often when I hear sermons or homilies on texts of this sort, the preacher spends more time attempting to explain "what God/Jesus is trying to say" instead of what scripture claims that God/Jesus said. Sort of teaching people that such things do not apply to all the categories you mentioned. God's love turns out to be everlasting for me and those like me, but quite contingent for lots of other people.

Having spent over a quarter of a century in public ministry, I assure you that when one does preach the overpowering love of God, one can be reasonably sure that at least one of the congregation will come up and point out that God smiteth the evil and so on. Funny how easy we find it to believe in a God who is harsh and so difficult to believe in one who is tender.
No wonder young people are drifting away ...

EthanJM said...

This is a beautiful post and psalm. In the bible, Jesus surrounded himself with sinners. He didn't hate them, but rather loved and taught them. He condemned the sin not the sinner. He condemned the behavior of those who puff themselves up and judge themselves to be better, more holy. And commanded them to repent and then follow him. I will never understand hate in the name of God or Christianity. Jesus taught us to love God and to love one another. God is merciful. God is loving. God wants us to obey his commandments. For his steadfast love endures forever, for me for you for everyone who will believe and follow his teachings and example. None of us are perfect. How can we then judge others or hate others.

Thanks Joe. I love how your Sunday posts cause me to think about my own beliefs. I'm learning a lot.