Psalm 136

Psalm 136  •  4 min. read  •  grade level: 11
This is both a touching and interesting Psalm. It traces from the character of God, in spite of earthly corruption, through creation, by Israel redeemed, to the blessing of "all flesh" naturally, and the recognition of the "God of heaven." "Jehovah is good"—"His mercy," the Jewish godly celebration, "forever." He is "God of gods." Ha-elohim (the gods) are the assumed, or supposed, existing authorities over the earth—a name of earthly power, not of supremacy, but as the object of acknowledgment, not of governance; see Deut. 10:1717For the Lord your God is God of gods, and Lord of lords, a great God, a mighty, and a terrible, which regardeth not persons, nor taketh reward: (Deuteronomy 10:17). The ground of this, He is the doer of "wonders." What man knows not this? The heavens above the formed earth (the types of the arrangement of dispensation) the order of rule. Then deliverance of power as to those in whom Creation-blessing is constituted in order. And we must note, for it is an important point (as here shown) that Creation-blessing is resumed in the Jewish order; first, under responsible obedience by a given law, and then, on redemption in Jesus by power, constituted obedient on earth by a new way. The heavens are possessed by God through Christ and the saints. The order of Creation-blessings is to be looked for then in the Jews. Then guidance, then clearance for the heritage—heritage of Israel His servant—then, the now celebrated mercy of the latter day, verse 23; verse 24, the power of redemption; verse 25, the provision for the world; the recognition of the "God of heaven"—the Jewish position, for "the God of heaven shall set up a kingdom," etc.
This Psalm takes up the well-known Israel's chorus, "For his mercy endureth forever." The present occasion of their praises, proved that "mercy endureth forever," and that that mercy had really gone on unceasingly, and had preserved them through their rebellions, and remembered them, as said in Deuteronomy, "in their low estate," and "redeemed" them from the hand of their enemies. It still takes up the Almighty Sovereignty of God Jehovah, and takes up the same elements of praise, but adds Israel's sense of mercy, and that its having endured forever enabled Israel to take up this very praise now. "He remembered us in our low estate"—then indeed it is that praise really comes out from a humble spirit, and mercy known now, and known in unchanging favor in personal blessing, gets more glorious and lovely, because a love which flowed from itself, not caused by the Spirit, is added to the praises as the sinner's only basis for them all. It is a beautiful expression of this. And the mind, thus taught, recounts them all with happy particularity—power, wisdom, skill, grandeur of governance in the objects formed in their proper order. Judicial and mighty power in deliverance to His people—for the Creator looks at them (and they are immediately associated with Creation in its blessing) who did everything in controlling power over creation for them—distinctive in judgment, Israel passed through, Pharaoh overthrown—who led them with unceasing care where there was no way, and smote their enemies when they would have checked their entrance into their inheritance, giving their possessions to them, His people—and, after all, "Redeemed them from their low estate, for indeed his mercy endureth forever"—and then blessed in Providence all the race of man, and the animal creation too, for to this his mercy reached, "The God of Heaven, whose mercy endureth forever."
It is not here, of earth merely, for it is for them as much to look up as the Gentiles who had the earth; and the Church, apt to think God did not mind the earth, to look down and own Him the God of the earth. Messiah's reign in that day shall prove Him both; gathering these dislocated elements—failing Israel on earth, and a failing Church for heaven—into perfection and stability, for both the inhabitants of the one, and of the other fully blessed in them—they suitably made one.
This closes, I think, the rising up by degrees to the Lord's house, where this, or these, are sung. What follows takes a wider scope, and yet looks back to the interval, which has been entirely omitted in these two Psalms—discipline, and sorrow, and humiliation for sin by the way—the people visited. The former two took up merely the land on their introduction into it, and looks at them there in their low estate; and this, whatever its cause, was looked at as an object of compassion. "Mercy forever," was the word, and they could truly sing it then. Circumstances are entered into, here connected with visitations and sorrows in strange lands, and deliverances there, and all that was associated with Israel's state when far from Jehovah, and Lo-ammi indeed really written upon it—quite another and different aspect of things.