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His Steadfast Love Endures Forever. Psalm 136 (pg. 443 in pew Bibles)

Thanksgiving  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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Developing a heart of gratitude and thanksgiving as children of God.

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As we begin this morning, would you please turn in your copies of God’s Word to the book of Psalm, chapter 136 (page 443 in the pew Bibles). We will read this chapter shortly, so please have it marked and ready for that time.
In 2018, when Pam and I moved from Kansas City to the farm fields of Indiana, one of the things I looked forward to the most was seeing the stars at night. You see when you live in a major city, you rarely get a good view of the stars. The surrounding lights of the city tend to diminish your ability to see the stars.
Oftentimes we as the church allow all that is happening around us diminish our view of the greatness of our God, and as a result, we rarely express our thankfulness to Him. I would venture to guess that if you honestly looked back over your most recent pattern of personal prayer, in fact even our corporate prayer, praise and thankfulness to God would be a cursory addition at best. Lost in the daily routine, in the packed schedule and the troubles of life.
But for those of us living in the United States, there is something else that causes us to forget all the blessings God has given to us. His blessings in this country are so prevalent, that we see them as something we are entitled to, something we deserve.
You know, Emerson said that if the stars came out only once a year, everybody would stay up all night to behold them. We have seen the stars so often that we don’t bother to look at them anymore. We have grown accustomed to our blessings.
The Israelites in the wilderness got accustomed to their blessings, and God had to chasten the people (see Num 11). God had fed the nation with heavenly manna each morning, and yet the people were getting tired of it. “But now our whole being is dried up,” they said, “there is nothing at all except this manna before our eyes!” (v. 6).
Nothing but manna! They were experiencing a miracle of God’s provision every morning; yet they were no longer excited about it. Nothing but manna! (—Warren Wiersbe, quoted in 10,000 Sermon Illustrations)
This Sunday, as we approach Thanksgiving, I wanted to take this opportunity to remind each of us how much we have for which to be thankful. To do so, we will be looking at Psalm 136. This particular Psalm was one that was a regular part of the worship life of the Nation of Israel, and it is the last Psalm that was part of The Great Hallel, and not only was it a part of the Temple worship, it was also recited by each family as they took part in the Passover Celebration. It was most likely a chorus they sang “antiphonally”. Which is a fancy way of saying a worship leader, or the father in the case of the family Passover Celebration, would sing or recite the first part of each verse, and the rest of those present would answer, in this case, “For His lovingkindness is everlasting.”
So, as we prepare to read this morning’s Scripture passage let’s do the same thing. I will read the first part of the verse, you will answer with the second part.
Additionally, frequently in the Old Testament, when Scripture was read corporately, the people would all stand for the reading. With that in mind, would you all please stand in honor of the reading of God’s Word, and this morning, would you respond by reading the second part of each verse? And this is what we read:
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Psalm 136 NASB95
1 Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, For His lovingkindness is everlasting. 2 Give thanks to the God of gods, For His lovingkindness is everlasting. 3 Give thanks to the Lord of lords, For His lovingkindness is everlasting. 4 To Him who alone does great wonders, For His lovingkindness is everlasting; 5 To Him who made the heavens with skill, For His lovingkindness is everlasting; 6 To Him who spread out the earth above the waters, For His lovingkindness is everlasting; 7 To Him who made the great lights, For His lovingkindness is everlasting: 8 The sun to rule by day, For His lovingkindness is everlasting, 9 The moon and stars to rule by night, For His lovingkindness is everlasting. 10 To Him who smote the Egyptians in their firstborn, For His lovingkindness is everlasting, 11 And brought Israel out from their midst, For His lovingkindness is everlasting, 12 With a strong hand and an outstretched arm, For His lovingkindness is everlasting. 13 To Him who divided the Red Sea asunder, For His lovingkindness is everlasting, 14 And made Israel pass through the midst of it, For His lovingkindness is everlasting; 15 But He overthrew Pharaoh and his army in the Red Sea, For His lovingkindness is everlasting. 16 To Him who led His people through the wilderness, For His lovingkindness is everlasting; 17 To Him who smote great kings, For His lovingkindness is everlasting, 18 And slew mighty kings, For His lovingkindness is everlasting: 19 Sihon, king of the Amorites, For His lovingkindness is everlasting, 20 And Og, king of Bashan, For His lovingkindness is everlasting, 21 And gave their land as a heritage, For His lovingkindness is everlasting, 22 Even a heritage to Israel His servant, For His lovingkindness is everlasting. 23 Who remembered us in our low estate, For His lovingkindness is everlasting, 24 And has rescued us from our adversaries, For His lovingkindness is everlasting; 25 Who gives food to all flesh, For His lovingkindness is everlasting. 26 Give thanks to the God of heaven, For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
May the Lord add His blessing to the reading of His Word, please be seated.
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Psalm 136 begins with a:

Call To Praise. Vs. 1-3

In the first 3 verses, the psalmist gives us 3 specific things we are called to praise God for, to be thankful for. And by “Give thanks” the psalmist means we are to “confess” or “acknowledge”. In other words, we are to openly and verbally speak of these things we know of God. The first thing we are to openly acknowledge and confess is: Next Slide
He is Good. Vs. 1
For the believer, the goodness of God is undeniable. In Psalm 34:8 we read “O taste and see that the Lord is good; How blessed is the man who takes refuge in Him!”. The moment we put our faith and trust in Jesus, we took refuge in Him. So we of all people should understand His goodness, but I am afraid that far too much of the time we take the goodness of God for granted. To give you an idea why I say this, let me ask you a question. Answer the question quietly to yourself. “When is the last time I thanked God for my salvation? or, “Thanked Jesus for dying on the cross?”
Thankfully, for us here at Grace, we are given an opportunity to do this every Sunday during our time of Communion. If you don’t already, I encourage you to add this to your prayer time as you approach the Lord’s Table on Sunday mornings. Just recently, I made this a part of my quiet time routine. I wish I could say this has been a long held habit of mine, but I can’t. The current quiet time journal I use, challenges me to list 3 things I am grateful for each day. At the beginning of October, I started making a habit out of listing something specifically showing my gratitude for my salvation. I change the phrasing daily, but ultimately, however I phrase it, I am thanking God for my redemption, bought and paid for by the blood of Jesus Christ. Our salvation, on its own, should be enough that our lives are marked by gratitude. And that gratitude should be clearly visible in our countenance.
The next thing we are called to praise God for is:
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He is the God of gods. Vs. 2
When Pam and I were in the youth ministry in the 90’s, one of the first things I took the kids through as a Bible study was a study of the Names of God. That study, back in 93’ has had a significant impact on both Pam and me. In fact this is a study I have gone back to and led many times since then. I am sure that before long, I will do the same thing here at Grace.
One of names of God is El Elyon, the Most High God. The first time this name was used in Scripture was in Genesis 14 when Abraham (Abram at the time) was meeting with Melchizedek, who was a king as well as a priest of The Most High God. But it was also a common name used by those, who at the time, were enemies, or at least not followers of God. One of the more powerful usages of this Name is found in Daniel 3. Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon, had just built a golden image, mostly likely made in his likeness. The Nation of Babylon, which included the exiles from Israel, we assembled on the plain of Dura with instructions that when they heard the musical instruments play, they were to bow before this image. Well there were 3 Hebrews there that day, most know them as Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego. These 3 knew that to bow before any other god other than the God of Israel was prohibited. So there, in the midst of thousands who bowed before the image, these 3 stood firm. In the end, King Nebuchadnezzer, filled with rage, had them thrown into a fiery furnace, heated so hot that the men that carried them to the opening, died. Before their were thrown into the fiery furnace, Nebuchadnezzer boldly proclaimed “…if you do not worship, you will immediately be cast in the midst of the furnace of blazing fire; and what god is there who can deliver you out of my hands?” But Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego came out unscathed. In fact there wasn’t a hair on their head singed and not so much as the smell of smoke on them. Seeing them in the midst of the fiery furnace, unharmed and walking around with what may have been Jesus Himself, King Nebuchadnezzer responded by saying; “Shadrach, Meshach and Abed-nego, come out, you servants of the Most High God. The Name he used was El Elyon. That is who we are giving our praise and thanksgiving to, to the Most High God, maker of heaven and earth. The One Who is able to provide and protect His followers, even from the fiery furnace.
We are called to give our praise and thanksgiving to the God of gods.
The next thing we are called to praise God for is:
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He is the Lord of lords. Vs. 3
Generally in Scripture, the term Lord of lords is combined with the term King of kings. The picture here is of One who is greater than all other kings, greater than all other lord’s. But if we just consider Lord of lords, that alone has great significance. The Name of God here used for Lord, is the Name Adonai. The picture with this Name is of our Lord Master, in other words the master of a servant. Now, we in the Untied States have a different picture of the slave master relationship than did the ancient middle east. In the ancient middle east, the lord master was obligated to provide for his servants everything needed to accomplish the task he had laid out before them. So, when we look at God as our Lord of lords, we see a God Who is reigns supreme over all other masters on the face of the earth, who has obligated Himself to provide for us as His servants, everything we need to accomplish whatever task He has laid before us.
We are called to give our praise and thanksgiving to the Lord of lords.
From a Call to Praise, the psalm moves to: Next Slide

Reasons For Praise. vs. 4-22

In these verses we see 3 specific areas worthy of our praise; Next Slide
God’s Creation. Vs. 4-9
Moving forward, from verse 4 to verse 25, the psalmist does not write “Give thanks”. From this point forward, thankfulness is assumed, the psalmist is simply clarifying to Whom we are to direct our thanksgiving. The next 22 verses list 22 things, all of which God accomplished on His own, in a miraculous fashion. While He may have permitted mankind to serve a role in some instances, these things were, non-the-less the work of His Hands alone.
In verse 4, he writes “To Him Who alone does great wonders”. One of the things I love about Scripture is the original languages in which it was written. The Old Testament was written mostly in Hebrew with some portions written in Aramaic. The New Testament was written in Koine Greek. The word Koine simply indicates this dialect of Greek was that of the common man.
All 3 languages are very descriptive, and in some instances a single word takes an English paragraph to describe. They are beautiful and poetic languages. Well in verse 4, when it speaks of great wonders, the Hebrew word used is most commonly used to refer to the miraculous events God did during the time of the Exodus. It was as if the psalmist started writing of the marvelous work God did in Exodus, but stopped mid-sentence because he didn’t want to overlook what God did in creation. Then, in verse 10 he goes back to Exodus.
But in verse 5 he writes of God’s skill in the creation of the heavens. The word for skill is better translated “by understanding”. Which is the way the ESV translates it. If you go back the creation account in Genesis 1, you will notice it begins by saying “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” Then, reading through the rest of Genesis chapter 1, each time we read of God creating something new, we read the words “then God said”. But when He created the heavens and the earth, we aren’t given any indication that He spoke. Now I don’t know this for certain, but I get the impression that the heavens and the earth were created by nothing more than thoughts from His mind. Which fits well with translating verse 5 “to Him Who by understanding made the heavens”.
In verses 6-9, “The psalmist summarized creation in terms of the separation of land and waters and the appointment of the sun … moon, and stars to regulate seasons and times (Gn 1:3–8, 14–19).” (Warstler, K. R. (2017). Psalms. In E. A. Blum & T. Wax (Eds.), CSB Study Bible: Notes (p. 934). Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.)
Having addressed God’s masterful work in creation, starting in verse 10 the psalmist now moves to God’s handiwork in freeing the Nation of Israel from their slavery in Egypt. Or possibly back to it, if vs. 4 was referring to the Exodus. So here we see:
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God’s Deliverance. Vs. 10-15
Verse 10 speaks of the death of the firstborn in Egypt. Many see this as God’s direct attack on one of the many Egyptian gods. You see in Egypt, since Pharoah and his offspring were considered divine, it was as if God was declaring, I’ll show you Who is and isn’t God. Verse 11 could easily be seen as a continuation of that thought, because included in God bringing “Israel out from their midst” was the other 9 plagues, all of which were direct attacks on Egyptian gods.
In verse 12 we read “With a strong Hand and an outstretched Arm”. Every time this phrase is used in Scripture, it is specifically referencing God’s power in the deliverance of Israel from their slavery in Egypt. And this thought is carried forward in verses 13-15 where we see the Red Sea divided, the Nation of Israel cross on dry land, and the water then collapse on Pharoah and his army. Which, by the way, was yet another attack on an Egyptian god, since Pharoah was considered divine. And the word “overthrow” in verse 15 literally means “shook off”. Like you might shake off you coat after a walk on a snowy day. That is all the adversaries of the Nation of Israel were to the Almighty God, he could shake them off like we shake something off our coats.
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From here, the psalmist moves to God’s miraculous provision for the Nation of Israel for their 40 years wandering through the wilderness, as well as the victories He gave them over armies while in the wilderness, and those they faced in the Promised Land.
God’s Provision. Vs. 16-22
Verse 16 by itself is packed with the provisions of God. Like enough water to quench the thirst of as many as 2 million people wandering through a desert. The heavenly manna He provided each day. Or the cloud pillar that not only led them by day, but also gave them a break from the scorching desert sun. And the pillar of fire at night, that not only led them but also gave them some warmth from the cold that swept in each night. Or the fact that for 40 years, neither their clothes not their sandals ever wore out. Of course there are countless other ways God provided for them during the wilderness wonderings, but I think you get the picture.
From vs. 17-22, the psalmist writes of kings as a whole, but also of some specific kings. He is likely referring to victories won during the wilderness wonderings, but also some specific kings they encountered after entering the land of Canaan. The 2 kings mentioned, “Sihon, king of the Amorites” and “Og, king of Bashan”, weren’t really on the radar screen for the Israelites to conquer. The were still on the east side of the Jordan river. Joshua had not yet led them to cross the Jordan. Aaron had just died, but Moses was still alive. They sent a request to Sihon for permission to quietly pass through his land on their way to the Promised Land. Promising not to eat their food, or drink their water or take anything from their vineyards. Not only did Sihon refuse their request, but he came against them in battle. This ended in his death, his land being conquered, and the Israelites taking possession of it. The same basic thing took place with Og, king of Bashan, again, his refusal to let the nation of Israel pass through cost him his life and his nation their land.
Next, the Psalm moves to a call to praise for; Next Slide

God’s Love to All Mankind. Vs. 23-25

The Psalm closes with a final call to praise for the love of God to all mankind. Look at verse 23, in verse 23, the psalmist may be addressing their freedom from slavery in Egypt, but it appears more likely that the psalmist is referring to the Nation of Israel at the time he was writing the psalm, hundreds of years after their rescue from Egypt. And then in vs. 24 when he writes “And has rescued us from our adversaries”. The word “rescued” literally means “snatched us”, giving the picture of a swift rescue, which would lead us to believe this is a reference to the sudden overthrow of the Babylonian empire and the swift freedom of many of the nation of Israel as a result.
Vs. 25 expands God’s love beyond just the Nation of Israel, and even beyond mankind as a whole and encompasses every being that has flesh, which includes every living breathing being. Similar to what we read in Matthew 6:30 Next Slide
Matthew 6:30 NASB95
30 “But if God so clothes the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more clothe you? You of little faith!
Finally, the psalmist moves past all God has created here on earth and into giving praise to the: Next Slide

God of the Universe. Vs. 26

Which is likely to draw our attention back to the beginning, to verses 1-3, where we read “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good, For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
Give thanks to the God of gods’ For His lovingkindness is everlasting.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords, For His lovingkindness is everlasting.”
As we close out this morning, what are we to learn from Psalm 136, what can we take home from this chapter and apply here, as we enter the Holiday season closing out 2021?
First, for those of us who have come to the point where we have put our faith and trust in the lord Jesus Christ;
We are called to give our praise and thanksgiving to God, to openly acknowledge and confess the goodness of God and that He is the God of gods and lord of lords.
Second, beyond just giving praise and thanksgiving to God for Who He is, we are called to give our thanksgiving and praise to God, to openly acknowledge all that God has done in creation and beyond, including His Hand of provision, His Hand of protection, and at times, His Hand of deliverance. Praise to God the Creator,
Praise to God the rescuer,
Praise to God the victor,
Praise to God our friend in need,
Praise to the God of the Universe,
The one true God,
Maker of heaven and earth.
Church family, we have so much to be thankful for, our lives should be marked by grateful hearts and that gratitude should be clearly visible in our countenance. The more we think over the goodness of God, the more we review all that He has done in our lives, all that He has provided for us, from our day to day provisions, to the salvation provided based on the blood of Jesus Christ shed on our behalf on the cross, the more our lives should be marked by the joy of the Lord. And that joy, that joy, should radiate from us in a way that impacts those around us.
I challenge you this week, as we head into Thanksgiving, read through this Psalm, in fact, feel free to add Psalm 135 as well. Read and think through these two Psalms correlating them to all that He has done in your life, and begin the 2021 holiday season with an attitude of deep gratitude to our awesome God. And let that heart of thanksgiving be the mark of who you are.
Let’s close our time this morning in prayer.
Closing song then:
Benediction: 1 Chronicles 16:8-12
1 Chronicles 16:8–12 ESV
8 Oh give thanks to the Lord; call upon his name; make known his deeds among the peoples! 9 Sing to him, sing praises to him; tell of all his wondrous works! 10 Glory in his holy name; let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice! 11 Seek the Lord and his strength; seek his presence continually! 12 Remember the wondrous works that he has done, his miracles and the judgments he uttered,
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