Psalm 136 Commentary
Some have drawn a distinction between thanksgiving and praise. Thanksgiving is a response to the generosity of the LORD. More often than not, there is a list of known ‘gifts’. It is however not unusual to find the saint deep in thanksgiving for goods not received. Praise is admiration for what the LORD is.
Psalm 136 has 26 verses and not 1 verse. Thanksgiving should be detailed. To thank God for everything in a single sentence is not to thank God at all. Thanksgiving is born out of an acknowledgment of God’s intervention in one’s life. Whenever acknowledgment is missing, thanksgiving becomes empty and nearly valueless.
And so the psalmist lists for us the items that he thanks God for. Each statement is terminated by the declaration that God’s love endures forever. The declaration provides the reason for God’s generosity. The LORD God is doing all these things for Israel because of His love for her.
The Creator God is sovereign. He reigns. He spread out the universe. You would picture the Creator God holding a tiny sphere of clay in His hands and then hanging it in some space with strings we call gravity – whatever it is. Several objects are made around this tiny sphere to provide varied functionality. The sun is one such object made to provide light.
On this tiny sphere of clay, probably looking like a particle of sand, are tiny creatures we call humans. A group of them is enslaved by another group. The loving Creator moves in to rescue Israel from the hand of Egypt.
Details of the rescue are important to the psalmist. The saint can also sit down and think about his own day and fill in the details in a similar way. The getting out of bed and the breakfast; the driving by self or another; the arrival, the reception, the decisions, and experiences in between. You can be grateful for Immanuel.
You can look deep into your own history and see life beyond your conception. You will probably begin to see God’s hand at work even before you were born.
Thanksgiving can be a long prayer. Yes, it should be.
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