Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Repeating Yourself

Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good,
    for his steadfast love endures forever.
 Give thanks to the God of gods,
    for his steadfast love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
to him who alone does great wonders,
    for his steadfast love endures forever;
to him who by understanding made the heavens,
    for his steadfast love endures forever; (Psalm 136:1-5)

I don't know about you but I hate repeating myself. And now that I have kids I get to do that A LOT. There are only so many times a person can say "Don't touch that!", "Sit up in your chair", "Eat your food", or "Put your pants on" before they start to go crazy.

Thankfully God isn't like me. He doesn't mind repeating Himself for His children's benefit. He understands that we sometimes need to hear things over and over again before we get it. He also understands that sometimes we need to repeat things over and over again ourselves before they sink in. And that's what we find in Psalm 136. 

The phrase "for his steadfast love endures forever" is repeated in every verse of this psalm. That's twenty-six times! Nearly half of the psalm is the same six words repeated over and over again. The phrase is utilized as a type of refrain. Each verse consists of two lines. The first line reminds the people of who God is or of the great things He has done, while the second responds to that truth with the familiar phrase. The first lines function as proof of the second. They prove how good and enduring God's love is for His people!

Remember that the psalms were written to be sung. My hunch is that this song was probably sung responsively, so that a lead singer sang the first lines and the congregation took up the popular refrain in response. Either way we know that when they sang Psalm 136 God's people would have sung about God's love being steadfast and enduring forever twenty-six times. And you thought modern praise songs were repetitive!   

Why all this repetition? What is God trying so hard to tell us? He's telling us at least two things. 

First, He wants us to know what kind of love we can expect from Him. God isn't fickle or unfaithful. We can expect that His love (His goodness, kindness and faithfulness toward us) will never end. It will continue on forever. As Scripture says, "He will never leave you nor forsake you" (Hebrews 13:5). There is an amazing sense of security that comes from knowing that. Thank God that we need not worry about Him turning His back on us. We can expect an unending stream of good things from Him (James 1:17). Notice that I didn't say an uninterrupted stream of good things. We will still suffer in this world, but we know that God works all things together for our good (Romans 8:28).  

Second, God wants us to know that it is well worth it to take time to pause and recount all the ways that He has shown His steadfast love. Not only will this strengthen your confidence that he will be there for you when you need Him in the future, but it will drive you to worship. Doesn't God deserve to be praised for all the good He has done for you? Doesn't He deserve to be thanked? Of course He does! 

So pause for a moment and do this. You don't have to count out twenty-six ways, but maybe you can count at least five ways God has shown His steadfast love for you. Thank Him and praise Him for all He has done and rest easy in the certainty that He will continue to do the same.

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