Psalm 136 has 26 verses and so 26 times the phrase “his faithful love endures forever” is repeated. We’re taught that whenever something is repeated in the Bible it signals it’s importance. Suffice it to say then, that the psalmist very much wants us to understand how much God loves us. Notice also that he doesn’t just say “his love endures forever” but, “his faithful love endures forever.” The word faithful means “steadfast in affection or allegiance, loyal, firm in adherence to promises…given with strong assurance.” It’s almost like he’s saying it twice, reminding us that this love is not going to change because the God who set this love upon us does not change. A rough paraphrase would be, God’s unchanging love will continue to last forever as he will not change forever.
Notice the definition of the synonym abide, “implies stable and constant existing especially as opposed to mutability. God is the opposite of mutable, prone to change, he is completely unchangeable. He is impervious to outside opinions or forces, especially when it comes to his children. Sometimes I need to just sit with that because I so often take it for granted, or I function like I don’t really believe it. God will never change his mind about me. My best and worst day cannot change his mind, that’s powerful!
This psalm is called an antiphonal psalm, meaning that it was “prepared to be used by a worship leader and a choir, or a worship leader and the congregation” (Wiersbe). This psalm was meant to be sung as worship and I think the refrain, “his faithful love endures forever,” repeated 26 times, was meant to get stuck in their heads. According to James Montgomery Boice, “…it was called the Great Hallel (the great praise) for the way it rehearses God’s goodness in regard to his people and encourages them to praise him for his merciful and steadfast love.”
I think it was to be called to mind when suffering or hardship was upon them, when what was didn’t quite line up with what should be. I think it’s completely relevant to us today. It’s so easy to forget the goodness of God when looking at the world around us, we need the “great praise” to get us oriented again. I love how Wiersbe sums it up; “The psalm reviews God’s dealings with His people and turns history into theology and theology into worship. If our worship is not based on history - what God has done in this world - then it lacks a theological message and is not true worship at all…The focus is on giving thanks to God for who He is and what He has done for His people.”
If you’re looking to go a little deeper today, try writing your history with God, noting all of his goodness toward you. Another idea, come up with 26 ways that God has provided for you or rescued you and write them down, repeating the phrase, “his faithful love endures forever” after each one.