Psalm 136

September 15, 2021

1 O give thanks unto the Lord; for he is good: for his mercy endureth for ever.

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

O give thanks to the Lord of lords: for his mercy endureth for ever.

To him who alone doeth great wonders: for his mercy endureth for ever.

To him that by wisdom made the heavens: for his mercy endureth for ever.

To him that stretched out the earth above the waters: for his mercy endureth for ever.

To him that made great lights: for his mercy endureth for ever:

The sun to rule by day: for his mercy endureth for ever:

The moon and stars to rule by night: for his mercy endureth for ever.

10 To him that smote Egypt in their firstborn: for his mercy endureth for ever:

11 And brought out Israel from among them: for his mercy endureth for ever:

12 With a strong hand, and with a stretched out arm: for his mercy endureth for ever.

13 To him which divided the Red sea into parts: for his mercy endureth for ever:

14 And made Israel to pass through the midst of it: for his mercy endureth for ever:

15 But overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the Red sea: for his mercy endureth for ever.

16 To him which led his people through the wilderness: for his mercy endureth for ever.

17 To him which smote great kings: for his mercy endureth for ever:

18 And slew famous kings: for his mercy endureth for ever:

19 Sihon king of the Amorites: for his mercy endureth for ever:

20 And Og the king of Bashan: for his mercy endureth for ever:

21 And gave their land for an heritage: for his mercy endureth for ever:

22 Even an heritage unto Israel his servant: for his mercy endureth for ever.

23 Who remembered us in our low estate: for his mercy endureth for ever:

24 And hath redeemed us from our enemies: for his mercy endureth for ever.

25 Who giveth food to all flesh: for his mercy endureth for ever.

26 O give thanks unto the God of heaven: for his mercy endureth for ever.

The Point:

God’s love and mercy towards His people will endure forever.

How do we feel in the recitation of this Psalm? 

The point is driven home again and again. It is impossible to miss the message. Repetition provides emphasis, and when a thought is repeated 26 times in a single psalm, we cannot help but fixate upon the point. When we are told that God’s love and tender mercy towards us has no ending, all of our doubts, fears, and insecurities evaporate instantly. If we were to picture it in human terms, it is more the love of a husband who would care for his invalid wife for forty years, rather than some temporary romantic fling. It is a love that conquers life and death, all principality and power, though all hell assail it. It is a love that truly never fails. If we are sure of anything that God reveals to us in His Word, we are sure of this. We feel completely secure in the love of God as we read this psalm, and we offer warm thanksgivings for all of His benefits. 

What does this Psalm say? 

Verses 1-3

This is the great presupposition that we take to our knees before we open our mouths in prayer. God is good. If God were not good, then why would we bother with prayer at all? We give thanks to God because He is good. Those who have denied the faith and embraced atheism typically start down that path by rejecting the goodness of God as the great basic proposition of their lives. They presume their own goodness and reject God’s goodness.

The goodness of God should be the fundamental characteristic of our outlook on our entire life. We open our eyes and see His goodness everywhere. The goodness of God rushes into our consciousness. God is good despite the sin of man and the destruction that attends man’s wretched rebellion. His goodness is seen in His eternal mercy demonstrated towards His people. Sometimes we call this His “covenant mercies.” The tender mercies of the wicked are cruel (Prov. 12:10), and the mercies of our closest friends will often come to an end after a year or two. But the mercies of God never run out. They continue from one generation to the next and then on into eternity. Perhaps after a million years in eternity we will better understand the unfailing, eternal nature of God’s mercies—but we will never entirely comprehend it.

Verses two and three acknowledge His great authority over all authorities. He is God over all gods/authorities and Lord over all lords. We understand the concept of human authority, and we typically respect its offices. If we have no respect for our civil government, we will be quickly overcome by it. Nonetheless, the source of all good things is God. So, when lower authorities (humans and devils) exercise evil upon the earth, God will turn these things to good. This also provides reason to praise Him! He can and will turn all things to good and to His own glory, precisely because He is the ultimate sovereign.

Therefore, we praise Him, and we thank Him. As far as we can see the good He has done in the world, we must thank Him for it. At each point that we recognize God’s redemption, God’s gifts, and God’s goodness in creation and providence, we must offer our sacrifices of praise and thanksgiving to Him. When we cease to offer these sacrifices, we are failing to recognize the gifts themselves as well as the Giver.

Verses 4-9

These verses speak of God’s mighty work of creation. He alone does great wonders. Yes, humans can manufacture buildings and jet airplanes, but these do not come close to meeting the criteria of “great wonders.” Powerful earthquakes and hurricanes can destroy men’s greatest achievements in mere seconds. Whatever men produce is only a derivative of God’s original creation. What then does His mercy have to do with His powerful creative works? Our minds cannot comprehend eternal mercies, because, among mere mortals, we have not encountered anybody who can guarantee mercy for more than a day or two. If God, however, can make a universe of stars in a place where it takes billions of years for light to travel from one side to the other, then naturally He is big enough to guarantee mercy to those who receive His promise. These heavenly bodies also testify to His long-standing faithfulness. Human beneficence runs out quickly. Occasionally, a gift lasts for thirty or forty years. But God’s gifts of the sun, the moon, and stars continue to shine on this earth for at least six thousand years, without failing.

We must remember that this is a thanksgiving psalm. Since our God made the heavens, and His mercy is magnificent and unending, let us give thanks to Him!

Verses 10-22

This section moves into the great redemptive story of the Old Testament, when the Lord delivered His people out of Egypt. In all of the records of history, there has never been such a story of physical deliverance like this one. Never was an empire and its vast armies destroyed so suddenly, and a weak and enslaved people delivered by such a magnificent demonstration of power. This is how God holds true to His covenant promises to Abraham many years earlier. The Israelites who recited this psalm in 800 BC would reflect on God’s covenant mercies extending four hundred years between the promise given to Abraham and the deliverance from Egypt. Then again, His mercies extended another forty years while the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness. Then, these mercies of God extended another 600 years through the period of the judges and the kings, as God provided a temporal fulfillment of His promise to Abraham (in the provision of the land). They would have to wait another 800 years before God’s people would see a fulfillment of His covenant mercies to His people in the form of David’s Son, Jesus Christ, and the rightful King of Israel.

Verses 23-26

These final words encapsulate the message of redemption. Why this redemption story? Why does God order such dreadful conditions and this dramatic rescue?  Of course, it is one unforgettable object lesson that points to something far more important in my life and yours. All of us are enslaved under more horrific conditions than what we find with Israel in Egypt. By nature, we are all enslaved to sin and the devil. And Jesus Christ, the very Son of God, comes to us in our low condition and delivers us in a more spectacular redemption than that performed at the Red Sea. And though we may be halfway out of Egypt, halfway across the Red Sea, or halfway across the Desert of Sinai, we are assured that He is delivering us out of the hands of our enemies. His mercies will go the distance. His mercies really do endure forever.

Verse 25 is an unusual addition, almost a non sequitur in the proceedings of the psalm. This verse mentions God’s feeding of the animals. We know that humans take care of several billion domesticated animals around the globe, but Yahweh God cares for several quadrillion insects, fish, birds, and wild beasts in the oceans and fields from Antarctica to the Arctic, from the Sahara Desert to the Tibetan mountains. How is this comforting to us? In the words of our Lord, if our heavenly Father cares for the birds of the air and the lilies in the field, He will much more attend to our needs as well. “Are you not of more value than they?” (Matt. 6:26)

How do we apply this Psalm to our lives? 

Much of this psalm deals with the violent destruction of great and powerful kings for the benefit of God’s people. We must apply these Old Testament metaphors to the violent destructive work Christ has done for us against sin and the devil. The language used in the New Testament concerning this spiritual warfare is intensely violent. The Lord Jesus Christ destroys the one who holds the power of death and condemns him to eternal hell fire (Heb. 2:14). He treads the winepress of the wrath of almighty God and smites the nations (Rev. 19:15). He triumphs over principalities and powers at the cross (Col. 2:15). Our response must be great and mighty cheers for the conquering work of our Savior-King! From the perspective of the new man in Christ, we delight to see the flesh, the world, and the devil taking devastating blows from the hand of our Lord.

How does this Psalm teach us to worship God? 

Very few of the inspired songs in the Word of God provide choruses and repetition. In fact, our Lord Jesus Christ warns us against using vain repetition as the heathen do (Matt. 6:7). Nonetheless, occasional choruses may be used for the sake of emphasis. When worship is nothing but repetition, the things that really ought to be emphasized can be lost in the cacophony. Let us make selective use of repetition, as we find in the book of Psalms.

The story of redemption in the Old Testament is our story as well. As we view the dead, bloated bodies of Pharaoh’s army washing up on the shore, we are reminded of the work that Christ has done for us. There can be no redemption without the destruction of our enemies. Put yourself in the story of the Red Sea and experience the great relief, the sense of victory, the breathtaking power of God, and the joy of deliverance felt on that great day.

Our worship and prayer must always include an element of thanksgiving. “Be careful for nothing; but in every thing by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known unto God” (Phil. 4:6). In our thanksgivings, let us reflect upon the essential goodness of God that is the source of every good and gracious gift.


1. How does God’s mighty creation buttress our faith in His everlasting mercy?

2. What was the temporal fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham? What was the final fulfillment of that promise to Abraham?

3. At what point does God come to deliver us, according to verse 23?

4. How does the Bible handle repetition in psalms (songs)? What does our Lord Jesus Christ say about the use of repetition?

5. How many animals does God feed around the world? How does God’s providential care for His creatures encourage us, His children?

Family Discussion Questions:

1. How often do our prayers and worship reflect thankfulness to God? Do we tend to move straight to the petition and forget the manifold blessings God has poured out upon us?

2. Let us recount God’s goodness to us right here and now. What are the blessings you can see, hear, and remember?