Psalm one-thirty-six is an antiphonal Psalm, prepared to be used by a worship leader and a choir, a worship leader and the congregation, or perhaps two choirs. The choir director might sing, “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good” with the choir or congregation responding,“His faithful love endures forever” (Psalm 136:1).
Early Jewish Rabbis called this the Great Hallel, the Great Praise. The Great Hallel reviews the history of God’s dealing with His people and is thus, a concise theology. In the first nine verses, the congregation of Israel sang praises to the Creator. In verses ten through twelve, they gave thanks for the One who had Redeemed them. In verses thirteen through sixteen they sang of their Shepherd. And in verses seventeen through twenty-six, they worshipfully sang, giving thanks to their Deliverer.
Looking at the first nine verses, we see that Israel’s God was the “God of gods,” the “Lord of lords” who “alone does great wonders.” On Mount Carmel, the lifeless god, Baal, was unable to hear the prayers of the pagan worshippers. Baal was impotent, but Jehovah, the God of Elijah, sent fire from Heaven to consume the sacrifice (1 Kings 18:22-38). Indeed, “He alone does great wonders.” Because this is true, we give thanks, we worship with the Psalmist singing: “His faithful love endures forever!”
The Psalmist worshipped and gave thanks to the One and Only God, whose greatest miraculous feat was making everything out of nothing. A carpenter might skillfully and artistically build a piece of furniture, but he starts with the necessary materials. A potter might fashion a beautiful vase, but he starts with a lump of clay. To construct the endless expanses of the universe, God started with nothing. To fill the depths of the fathomless oceans, He began with less than a drop of water. To cover the mountains with rocks and forests, He spoke. He commanded, and it was so. “The earth was formless and empty, darkness covered the surface of the watery depths, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters. Then God said... ” (Genesis 1:2–3). “The heavens were made by the word of the Lord, and all the stars, by the breath of his mouth” (Psalm 33:6).
We praise our Creator because “He made the heavens skillfully... He spread the land on the waters... He made the great lights... the sun to rule by day... the moon and stars to rule by night” (Psalm 136:5-9). We praise Him because “His faithful love endures forever!” ... “His faithful love endures forever!” ... “His faithful love endures forever!” ... “His faithful love endures forever!”
We owe our lives, our very existence to the Creator God. “All things were created through him, and apart from him not one thing was created that has been created” (John 1:3). He declared of Himself, “I am the Lord, who made everything; who stretched out the heavens by myself; who alone spread out the earth” (Isaiah 44:24). “I made the earth, and created humans on it. It was my hands that stretched out the heavens, and I commanded everything in them” (Isaiah 45:12).
We have many reasons to give thanks: family, health, home, but our thanksgiving list might start with “In the beginning, God!” And wondrously, our list doesn’t end, for “His faithful love endures forever!” Let’s sing the Great Hallel.
All Scripture quotations, except as otherwise noted, are from
Holman Bible Publishers’ Christian Standard Bible.