David P. Kautt
Sunday Morning, March 7, 2010.
Psalm 136:1-26: Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever.
Oh, give thanks to the God of gods! For His mercy endures forever. Oh, give thanks to the Lord of lords! For His mercy endures forever: to Him who alone does great wonders, for His mercy endures forever; to Him who by wisdom made the heavens, for His mercy endures forever; to Him who laid out the earth above the waters, for His mercy endures forever; to Him who made great lights, for His mercy endures forever–– the sun to rule by day, for His mercy endures forever; the moon and stars to rule by night, for His mercy endures forever. To Him who struck Egypt in their firstborn, for His mercy endures forever; and brought out Israel from among them, for His mercy endures forever; with a strong hand, and with an outstretched arm, for His mercy endures forever; to Him who divided the Red Sea in two, for His mercy endures forever; and made Israel pass through the midst of it, for His mercy endures forever; but overthrew Pharaoh and his army in the Red Sea, for His mercy endures forever; to Him who led His people through the wilderness, for His mercy endures forever; to Him who struck down great kings, for His mercy endures forever; and slew famous kings, for His mercy endures forever–– Sihon king of the Amorites, for His mercy endures forever; and Og king of Bashan, For His mercy endures forever–– and gave their land as a heritage, for His mercy endures forever; a heritage to Israel His servant, for His mercy endures forever. Who remembered us in our lowly state, for His mercy endures forever; and rescued us from our enemies, for His mercy endures forever; who gives food to all flesh, for His mercy endures forever. Oh, give thanks to the God of heaven! For His mercy endures forever.
I was making a list of the things I can count on the other day, and thought I'd share them with you this morning... Se what you think of my list. First on my list, is the weather – yes, the weather. Here in this part of the country we can count on it, can't we, that it's going to be today, what it was yesterday, and tomorrow what it is today! I can count on the weather, how about you? Secondly, I can count on the gas prices – and the grocery prices – from one week to the next, from one stop off at the station or the store to the next, I can be certain that the prices posted, and the amount I pay, will be the same. Third, I can count on what I read in the paper, and what they tell me on the news report to be the fact – plain and simple - just the facts. And, then, last of all on my list of what I can count on – I can count on the politicians – the folks in Washington, Austin and Downtown McKinney, to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth...
I know all of that was in my notes, but – hey – did someone slip that sheet in on me without me noticing it? And, while I'm asking questions, may I ask you this one, too? The weather – in North Texas, in March – the gas prices, the grocery prices, what you read or hear by way of the news reports – the promises and pronouncements of the politicians, even that old car sitting out in the parking lot – are those things on your list of things you are counting on? Are they?!
I ran across this interesting passage – Psalm 136 – again recently, and a little note I had jotted in the margin of my Bible. Take a moment to think about it, as you reflect on what we just read here. My note to myself, beside Psalm 136, went something like this: “In this world nothing lasts – in THIS world I can't – notice I said, I can't – really count on ANYTHING!
I mean, you just think of it with me this way – sort of make up another list than the one somebody slipped in on me a moment ago. In this world, does a person's beauty last? Ever seen one of those distorted-looking pictures on the cover of a grocery store scandal sheet – a photo of a well-known actor or actress who doesn't look anything like he or she did 40 or 50 years ago, when he or she first went to Hollywood?
Beauty doesn't last – neither does youthful vigor – just ask old Arthur, right? “All flesh is as grass” - the Scripture says, “and the glory of man is like the flowers of grass...” Then, what does that passage say? “All flesh is like grass and all man's glory is like flowers of grass, the grass WITHERS and the flowers FADE and FALL...” Youthful vigor – yes, even with vitamins, exercise, good nutrition and 8 hours of rest each night – youthful vigor doesn't last! Have we looked in the mirror lately? Don't remind me, right?!
Earthly treasures doesn't last. Jesus said that such things are subject to moths, rust and thieves – here today, gone tomorrow!
Things we make – things we give or that are given to us – don't last. Have you noticed how many repair and remodel businesses there are these days?
And, perhaps, most gut-wrenching of all, is the sober fact – the sad reality – that many relationships don't last! Marriages fail, yes, even so-call 'Christian marriages'. And families, seemingly solid families crumble and disintegrate!
In this world – like the note in the margin of my Bible says – in THIS world, nothing lasts... Nothing, that is – except God's mercy! God's mercy! Have you ever thought about it, my friends? Consider with me this morning, will you please? What we think we need – what we're convinced is absolutely essential to our lives – youthful vigor, earthly treasure, a car that starts every morning, even the people to whom we are committed – we think we can count on them! Somehow, someway, we find ourselves believing that these things WILL last – but is that the truth? Are these things really the rock solid foundations upon which we should build our lives?
In this world where – despite the 7-year, 70,000 mile warranty's claims – nothing lasts. In this world of false hopes, and empty promises – yes, in this world where only the mercy, the loving-kindness – the covenant loyalty, the steadfast love of God, lasts - what is it that we really need? Take your Bibles with me, please, and let's allow our infinite God and His eternally, enduring word to instruct was and inform us regarding this matter. Once again, this beautiful psalm beings with these words:
Psalm 136:1-3: Oh, give thanks to the LORD, for He is good! For His mercy endures forever. Oh, give thanks to the God of gods! For His mercy endures forever. Oh, give thanks to the Lord of lords! For His mercy endures forever.
The enduring mercy of God – His everlasting faithfulness to His promises, His steadfast love – how do we know we can count on it? How can we know for sure? The psalmist – this unnamed vehicle of God's message to us – focuses our attention on 3 or 4 different, but related, certainties to assure us that, yes, we can count on God's enduring mercy. Let's take a quick look at each of them.
First of all, in verses one through three, God's messenger urges us to bank on God's mercy because we can bank on WHO God is. Cultures and people groups, ancient and modern bank on their 'gods', don't they? In the day and time in which this psalm was written, various nations with whom the Israelites mingled, worshiped and trusted fertility gods and goddesses, gods of wind and fire and war – gods they had made images of bulls and goats and stars and trees. In our day and time, folks like us worship their 'gods', too, don't they? “Where your treasure is – where you invest yourself, your time, talents, resources and energy – that's where your heart is,” that's what your banking on and trusting in.
But, let me ask you: do any of those things wear the name, “The Great I-AM?!” Give thanks to the Lord” - the Great I-AM – are the words with which this psalm begins. My children have a book of names – a list of more than 100,000 names folks like you and me wear. But, listen, have you ever met anyone with the name, “I-AM” - the “Great, I-AM”? Or, how about these names? You won't find these names in any other book I know about - “Give thanks to the God of gods – the Lord of lords – the God of heaven” - for His mercy, His loving-kindness endures forever! Baal and Asherah – Elvis and Michael Jackson – some people call them my 'god' or 'my goddess'. But, which of them is the God of gods, the Lord of lords – the Lord, the King – not of fertility or MTV or rock and roll – but the God of heaven??
In this world, nothing lasts. Nothing – that is – except God's mercy. Why? Because it is founded upon Who God is! He is YAHWEH, Jehovah the Great I-AM. And He is NOT a god, a lord, among [along side of, equal to] other gods and lords, but the one true and living God – capital 'G'. And supreme Lord – capital 'L' – of all!
Secondly, please note with me the connection between the certainty of God's mercy and the stability of His creation – verses 4 through 9. The psalmist writes,
[give thanks] to Him who alone does great wonders, for His mercy endures forever; to Him who by wisdom made the heavens, for His mercy endures forever; to Him who laid out the earth above the waters, for His mercy endures forever; to Him who made great lights, for His mercy endures forever–– the sun to rule by day, for His mercy endures forever; the moon and stars to rule by night, for His mercy endures forever.
Why should we bank on God's mercy? I mean everything else in this world is so unstable, so uncertain – oh, but listen, did you go outside last night to look at the moon and stars? And did you go outside the night before and the night before and the night before? Oh, I know that there are cycles and patterns that relate to the movements of those heavenly bodies – but, listen, are those patterns random and unpredictable? Or, are they consistent? Something that if you were a sailor or an explorer, you could use as a guide and compass for your journeys? Or, think about it – this morning around 6:30am or so, the sun began to peek above the Northern horizon and yesterday, and came up in the south – and last night it went down in the east... You know I'm wrong, don't you? No, my friends, we can bank on God's mercy – we can count on Him to do what, in His covenant, He said He would do – why? Because morning by morning – winter, spring, summer or fall – in His creation, He shows us, He tells us, “You can count on Me!” “You can trust Me!”
This last week I had a couple of experiences that – humanly speaking – left me feeling a little helpless and frustrated. Twice, the phone rang and on the other end of the line were friends of mine, in dire straits – asking for help, “My car's broke down 30 or 40 miles from here, I need some help – could you possible tow my vehicle back to McKinney for me?”... “I'm sorry, my friend, but I can't... I wish I were a mechanic, I wish I had a tow truck – but I'm not, and I don't!”
Second phone call, “David – I'm up here sitting outside the county jail. I've been here since Valentines Day and finally, I'm getting out – can you help me?” “I'm sorry, my friend, but the best I can do is take you home. I'm not a lawyer – don't know any lawyers – wish I could do more for you, but I can't.” Ever had any phone calls like that? What do you do? Oh, certainly you can pray – but, beyond that sometimes, it seems our hands are tied, doesn't it? Sometimes maybe we ought to say – all of the time – instead of relying on these hands, this mind, these resources – we ought to rely on the nail-pierced hands! Take a look, one more time, at our text – the God we can bank on... the Lord, the GREAT I-AM, whose mercy endures forever. The Creator who not only made the world, but upholds and sustains it by His powerful word – what else is He? Who else is He? Verses 10 through 22 – He is our Redeemer. He is the One who brought us up out of Egypt, out of that wasteland of bondage to sin and death – He is our Deliverer, the One who brought us safely through the Red Sea of adversity and made it so that we no longer have to look back over our shoulders in fear! He is our victory – our victory over death and over the ultimate enemy who holds the power of death, the Devil! And, perhaps best of all – verses 21 and 22 – He is our Shield and very great reward (see Genesis 15:1-21).
In this world – this sin-stained world of failed programs, broken promises, and shattered people – is there anything you and I can count on? Anything that lasts?
Psalm 136:1 - “His mercy endures forever.”
Psalm 136:2 - “His mercy endures forever.”
Psalm 136:3 - “His mercy endures forever.”
Psalm 136:4, same thing in all the verses to the end of the passage.
In this world nothing lasts – nothing, except what we really need: God's mercy – so what?
So, give thanks – verse 1
So, give thanks – verse 2
So, give thanks – verse 3
So, give thanks – verse 26
So, give thanks!