God’s Steadfast Love Endures Forever

Psalm 136 is truly a remarkable psalm. At the end of each of its 26 verse there is the phrase, “for his steadfast love endures forever,”

[1] Give thanks to the LORD, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.
[2] Give thanks to the God of gods, for his steadfast love endures forever.
[3] Give thanks to the Lord of lords, for his steadfast love endures forever;
[4] to him who alone does great wonders, for his steadfast love endures forever;
[5] to him who by understanding made the heavens, for his steadfast love endures forever;
[6] to him who spread out the earth above the waters, for his steadfast love endures forever;
[7] to him who made the great lights, for his steadfast love endures forever;
[8] the sun to rule over the day, for his steadfast love endures forever;
[9] the moon and stars to rule over the night, for his steadfast love endures forever;
[10] to him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt, for his steadfast love endures forever;
[11] and brought Israel out from among them, for his steadfast love endures forever;
[12] with a strong hand and an outstretched arm, for his steadfast love endures forever;
[13] to him who divided the Red Sea in two, for his steadfast love endures forever;
[14] and made Israel pass through the midst of it, for his steadfast love endures forever;
[15] but overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the Red Sea, for his steadfast love endures forever;
[16] to him who led his people through the wilderness, for his steadfast love endures forever;
[17] to him who struck down great kings, for his steadfast love endures forever;
[18] and killed mighty kings, for his steadfast love endures forever;
[19] Sihon, king of the Amorites, for his steadfast love endures forever;
[20] and Og, king of Bashan, for his steadfast love endures forever;
[21] and gave their land as a heritage, for his steadfast love endures forever;
[22] a heritage to Israel his servant, for his steadfast love endures forever.
[23] It is he who remembered us in our low estate, for his steadfast love endures forever;
[24] and rescued us from our foes, for his steadfast love endures forever;
[25] he who gives food to all flesh, for his steadfast love endures forever.
[26] Give thanks to the God of heaven, for his steadfast love endures forever.

In most of the verses the psalmist gives a very good reason for saying, “his steadfast love endures forever.”

The Lord is good, he is God of gods and Lord of lords.

He does great wonders in making the heavens and the earth, the sun, the moon and the stars.

He remembers us in our low estate and rescues us from our foes. He gives food to all flesh.

The phrase, “his steadfast love endures forever is a pretty common phrase throughout the Old Testament. We find the phrase in I and II Chronicles, the book of Ezra and lots of other psalms. Psalm 118 has the phrase five times.

But then there are some things that the psalmist mentions in this psalm that don’t seem very loving:

He struck down the firstborn of Egypt.

He overthrew Pharaoh and his host at the Red Sea.

He killed mighty kings by the name of Sihon and Og.

Yet even after these verses the psalmist does not change his refrain. He still adds, “for his steadfast love endures forever.”

There is a reason for this. He does it all for us. The people God dealt harshly with were a threat to God’s people. There was no other way to protect us.

We may wonder, why did other people have to suffer just so God could protect us?

That, of course, brings us to Jesus. Why did Jesus have to suffer for us? He had done nothing wrong, deserving of death. But there was no other way to save us. As our Good Shepherd Jesus laid down his life for us.

As God says through the prophet Jeremiah, even if the shepherds whom God chooses to take care of us don’t care for us as they should, God removes them:

“Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” declares the LORD. [2] Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who care for my people: “You have scattered my flock and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil deeds, declares the LORD. [3] Then I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the countries where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. [4] I will set shepherds over them who will care for them, and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall any be missing, declares the LORD.” (Jeremiah 23:1-4)

In the sixth chapter of the Gospel of Mark Jesus fulfills this prophecy of Jeremiah: “When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them many things.” (Mark 6:34) It was not that the people in Jesus’ day did not have shepherds who were supposed to care for them, it was that the shepherds were not doing their job.

God simply will not tolerate anyone who would harm his beloved sheep. And we are most certainly his sheep.

Ephesians 2:19–22 says:

“So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, [20] built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, [21] in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. [22] In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”

Notice Paul calls the church a structure that is joined together and grows into a holy temple in the Lord.

The foundation of the church is the apostles and prophets. The prophets foretold the coming of Jesus the Savior and the Apostles witnessed his coming and spread the Good News around the world.

Jesus is the cornerstone. If he is removed, as so often happens, the whole structure falls apart. Jesus the cornerstone is Jesus the Savior. He is not just a great person and teacher, he is the cornerstone because he is the one who died for us on the cross and rose from the dead to reconcile us sinners with God.

And we are part of this magnificent structure through Holy Baptism. The various parts of the structure may not always look the best to outside world but yet all who believe in Christ are truly part of the household of God, growing into a holy temple in the Lord, into “a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.”

God’s steadfast love for us lasts forever which means that we will last forever. God’s love for us will not end at death. It will continue on to eternity.

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