Summary: Israel looked back on their history and sawGod’s hand. We can look back on our lives and se God moving in ways that we did not know at the time. Such hind sight inspires praise and thanksgiving.
Psalm 136:1-26 “The God of History”
One of the most powerful witnesses that we have, as Christians, is a life lived with thankfulness. I believe this is one of the reasons why the Bible is resplendent with exhortations and invitations to be thankful—Psalm 136 being one such invitation. Certainly a life of thanksgiving stands out in today’s world where there is so much moaning and complaining about a slow economy, and high gas and food prices. (News anchors almost have a certain glee in their eyes when they announce that oil has reached another record price.) A life of thanksgiving appears to shed worry and anxiety, and enables a person to walk with a certain lightness of step. It is attractive to those who are crushed by the burden of life.
It is necessary for us, though, to ask the question, “Why is a person thankful?” I once saw a T-shirt that read, “Anyone who isn’t worried doesn’t fully understand the seriousness of the situation.” There are some people who go through life blessedly naïve. They are thankful, but they don’t have a clue about the problems that surround them.
One does not need to be delusional in order to be thankful. Christians are able to be thankful because of God’s steadfast love. That steadfast love has been expressed over and over again as God has interacted with creation and with the lives of God’s people.
CREATION—A LOVE GIFT
The psalm begins by exhorting the God’s people to give thanks for two reasons. First, God is good, and secondly, God’s steadfast love endures forever. The psalm goes on to proclaim that God’s goodness and steadfast love is exhibited in creation. Creation is a love gift from God.
While serving as a hospital chaplain, I discovered that one of the other chaplains was an amateur woodworker. One of the projects that he built during the time we served together was an armoire—a piece of furniture that his wife long desired. The man chose the finest wood and crafted the piece of furniture with an exactness that can only be motivated by love. He presented it to his wife on their anniversary. She immediately fell in love with it. Placed in their bedroom the armoire became a silent witness for her of her husbands love and devotion.
In a similar manner, creation can be viewed as God’s love gift to humankind. Creation could have been monotone and boring, but it isn’t. God’s creation is magnificent in its grandeur and exquisite in its detail. It has the ability to overload our senses and “blow our minds.” All of creation from the scent of a desert rain, to the panorama of a starry night, to the touch of a baby’s skin contains the message of God’s steadfast love.
God is not our adversary, who seeks to harm us. Nor, is God neutral, standing aloof from the daily events of creation and our lives. Creation proclaims God’s goodness and love. For that we can be thankful.
OUT OF SLAVERY
The psalmist moves on from creation to the Exodus. For Christians the clearest demonstration of God’s love for humankind is the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. For Jews it is their escape from slavery in Egypt and their journey to the freedom of the Promised Land. Both address humankind’s slavery and desire for freedom. One the slavery imposed by man on another. The other is the slavery to sin and the freedom of forgiveness. The psalmist proclaims that we can be thankful because the steadfast love of the Lord endures forever and is expressed leading us from slavery into freedom.