1. When you are with one of your small children or a grandchild and someone gives them something, what do you remind the child to do? (Thank the person for giving to them.)
2. What makes giving thanks so important?
3. What does a person’s willingness to give thanks to God reveal about his or her understanding of God?
Today we are looking at Psalm 136. It was written to be read responsive or sung antiphonally. But before we do that I want to read the entire psalm leaving out the “responsive” part so we can get a clear picture of what the psalmist was thankful for as he wrote this beautiful song. (Read the Psalm leaving out the responsive portion.)
Now divide the class into two groups and read the entire psalm responsively to get the full impact of this beautiful psalm.
We do not know the date this psalm was written. It could have been just after the exodus from Egypt, during the time of the Judges or after the return from the Babylonian exile. The important truths to remember is this psalm gives thanks to God and recalls again and again His unfailing love for us.
In Creation! Read Psalm 136:1-5
The Hebrew word chesed is the main word in the refrain of Psalm 136, meaning His love is eternal. It is used almost 250 times in the Old Testament and has no exact English translation. Various translations have rendered it “faithful love,” “mercy,” “steadfast love,” and “lovingkindness.” It conveys the idea of “covenant love,” a love that is based on God’s promise to His people. Rarely is chesed used in reference to people; it is almost always used in reference to God’s faithful love toward us.
1. Notice the names used for God in these verses. What do they reveal about His character? (God is thoroughly and consistently good. His character is steadfast, powerful, reliable, true, and trustworthy from first to last.)
2. His supremacy? (Other gods exist only in the imagination of people. There are people we call “lords” but God is supreme above all! See Psalm 135:15-18.)
3. His power? (Our finite mind cannot fathom the extent of God’s creation—it is limitless! Scientists estimate the diameter of the known universe as over 90 billion light years. That is distance you would travel going 186,000 miles per second for 90 billion years.)
4. What do they say about how we should worship Him?
5. How might a wrong view of God affect our worship of God?
6. Why is it important for Christians to believe God created everything out of nothing?
It is humbling to realize that everything God created is for His glory and our good!
In Conquest! Read Psalm 136:10-15
1. How would you describe what God did for Israel as recorded in these verses?
2. What kind of impact do you think these stories had on the original audience for this psalm?
The Israelites often sang or wrote of their release from slavery in Egypt (examples are: Ex. 15:4; Josh. 24:6; Neh. 9:9; Ps. 106; Heb. 11:29). Verses 16-22 of Psalm 136 go on to talk about victories the Lord gave Israel once they left Egypt. Sihon king of the Amorites and Og king of Basham were enemy kings the Israelites conquered before they got to the promised land (Num. 21:21-25). This victory is referenced multiple times throughout the rest of the Old Testament.
It is a humbling thought to realize God took a nation of slaves and molded them into a victorious nation!
3. Why is the act of remembering what God has accomplished in your life and that of your ancestors an important spiritual discipline?
4. Why is it easy to forget God’s blessings?
5. What are some of the pitfalls that come from forgetting? (Taking God’s blessings and mighty acts for granted!)
The previous verses emphasized what the Israelites were to remember. These next few verses focus on what God remembered.
In Compassion! Read Psalm 136:23-26
1. Since we know God doesn’t forget anything, what does verse 23 mean? (From our point of view is seems that God forgets us when we are going through a difficult situation for an extended period of time. Then when He delivers us it’s like he just remembered us and our circumstances. The truth is: He was with us all the time working out everything for His glory and our good!)
2. What does verse 25 teach us?
The Israelites always go back to the miraculous deeds God performed in the forming of their nation and sustaining them over the centuries. We should do the same in our times of thanksgiving.
In Psalm 136 we learn that God reigns with providential care over His universe, His creatures, and all of human history according to the purposes of His grace. Our appropriate response is thanksgiving!
3. Why is giving thanks to God important for believers?
4. How can you help others express their thankfulness to God?
Summarize and Challenge!
While the psalmist recognized the cosmic works of the Lord in creation, he spent more time thanking God for His personal care for His people.
We live in a hurting world.
What’s our role in providing love and resources, even though God is the ultimate provider?
As people made in God’s image, we are responsible to express His love, goodness, and mercy. He frequently works through people to meet the needs of others.
Evidently God led the psalmist to repeat the phrase “His love is eternal” for a reason! Perhaps it was to remind us of His great love for us and that we are to be at least one expression of that love for Him to those around us—after all we are created in His image!