Steadfast Love - Psalm 136

A House Group meditation, 116 Rideau Street, Kingston, Ontario, October 17, 2002

by Robert Brow  (

This psalm was constructed by someone who was obviously overwhelmed by the love of God. You can see that "steadfast love" comes in every one of its 26 verses. In many older translations the Hebrew word khesed was translated "mercy" which emphasized the idea of an abject sinner being forgiven. Let me read the first three verses of the Book of Common Prayer Book version of Psalm 136.

O give thanks unto the Lord, for he is gracious: for his mercy endureth for ever.

O give thanks unto the God of all gods: for his mercy endureth for ever.

O thank the Lord of all lords: for his mercy endureth for ever.

But you can see that the remaining verses of the Psalm have nothing to do with mercy in the sense of forgiveness. They offer various facets of the love of God.

God is love (1 John 4:16), and modern translations of the Psalms pick up on the eternal nature of his love. "His steadfast love endures for ever" (RSV). "His faithful love endures for ever" (New Jerusalem Bible). Let's share some of the other translations you are using.

(read and comment on other versions)

There are half a dozen cases of the word khesed referring to the kindness of a human king. But in the Psalms there are over a hundred references to khesed love and not one of them refers to an individual. Notice who exercises khesed love in the first three verses of this Psalm. "O give thanks to the LORD." We saw in Psalm1, and again throughout the Old Testament that when LORD is put in capital letters it refers to the eternal Son of God who appeared to Moses and other individuals. John's Gospel explains that no one has ever seen God the Father. It is the Son's work to come to be with humans to make him known (John 1:18).

Our Psalm is addressed to the God of gods and Lord of lords, which again refers to the Son of God as he reigns among nations. We say the Grace, "the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ " and grace would be another good translation of the khesed love of our Lord and King.

Now could someone read 136:4-9. You can see these are verses about the creation of our world. The New Testament makes clear that the Son of God was involved in the creation of our world. "All things came into being through him, and without him not one thing came into being" (John1:3). Could somebody read Colossians 1:15-17.

Paul wrote "What can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. Ever since the creation of the world his eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things he has made" (Romans 1:19-20). Perhaps we could discuss how our earth (v.6), the seas (v.6), the sun, moon, and stars, all express the love of the Son of God in creation.

(Discuss how creation relates to God's loving purposes)

Next the Psalm writer remembers some examples of the steadfast love of the Son of God intervening in his own nation (136:10-22). But we won't focus on those verses. We have a different history. So let's share some of the evidences of steadfast love in our own nation here in Canada. (group sharing about God's love in our nation)

Finally we read verses 23 to 25 to remind ourselves of the love of God on occasions when we were were brought very low, when we had enemies out to get us, and when we wondered where the next meal would come from. Could somebody read those verses, and then let's share with one another some of those kind of experience of love when we were in trouble.

(group sharing of such experiences)

Now let's read the Psalm again to capture the feel of what the writer had in mind.

model theology home | essays and articles | books | sermons | letters to surfers | comments