Short Meditations on the Psalms: Psalm 136

Psalm 136  •  3 min. read  •  grade level: 8
This Psalm is of the same general character. It is still appended, without any new title, to the 134th, as we have already observed the 135th is.
It is a Psalm which awakens peculiarly happy thoughts. It tells us, and echoes again and again, the joy and the song that are prepared for eternity.
The Jews say that it is prepared for the days of Messiah, which means, in their thoughts, the days of the kingdom. And this surely is so. It is a millennial national hymn, in which everything is found, in the review of it, to draw out the nation’s gratitude.
In contrast, however, with the 135th, we observe that this Psalm sees mercy where that had seen glory. The creation of the heavens and their daily courses, the divine dealings with Egypt, with the Amorites, with Basilan, and with the Canaanites, all these had declared God’s name or glory, and had drawn forth praise (Psa. 135); but now the very same things are celebrated as publishing His mercy, and draw forth thanksgiving (Psa. 136). For this is so. The same ways and works of the Lord publish both His name and His mercy, His glory and His grace. With equal clearness and sureness they honor Himself and bless His people. And thus they are the theme of both the praise and the thanksgiving of His saints. Praise first opens their lips (Psa. 135), and then thanksgiving (Psa. 136). For it is at God’s name or glory, as reflected in His works, they first look, and then at their own blessings or profit from those works. His name endures forever (Psa. 135:1313Thy name, O Lord, endureth for ever; and thy memorial, O Lord, throughout all generations. (Psalm 135:13)) and His mercy also (Psa. 136).
And, most surely, God has linked His praise and our blessing together in all the counsels and works that He has formed and executed. And such a thing is worthy of Him. In the garden of Eden, or at creation, He provided for His own honor and His creature’s happiness. In Canaan, or in the settlement of Israel, it was still the same; the sanctuary, pitched in the midst of the land and the people, witnessed the constant service both of God and the congregation; the same altar meeting His due as the Lord of the Temple, and their necessities as sinners, day by day. So, at the birth of the Lord Jesus, the word of the angels was this: “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace.” And in the same unchanging grace and wisdom, when at the close the holy city descends out of heaven, it will bring with it both “the glory of God,” and “the tree of life”—it will witness God’s honor and the creature’s health and happiness. Thus, from beginning to end, in every scene and dispensation of divine energy, we see these two things joined together, as these two Psalms in their order celebrate.
But this by the way: the burden of this very joyous Psalm has been called the Jewish chorus—“for His mercy endureth forever.” It was heard at Jerusalem in the days of Solomon (2 Chron. 5), for those were, in type, the days of the glory. And it was heard before, when David brought in the Ark to its place (1 Chron. 16). And afterward, as the returned captives were laying the foundation of the second temple (Ezra 3). For such occasions also savored of the kingdom, or of the nation’s joy. And here this Psalm or national chorus is sung, as the captives accomplish their journey, and stand in the sacred city again. And raised it will be in still loftier joy, when Israel learns “the songs of Zion,” in the days of the kingdom.