Portions of Psalm 136
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever.
2 Give thanks to the God of gods.
His love endures forever.
3 Give thanks to the Lord of lords: His love endures forever.
4 to him who alone does great wonders, His love endures forever.
5 who by his understanding made the heavens,
6 who spread out the earth upon the waters, 7 who made the great lights—8 the sun to govern the day, 9 the moon and stars to govern the night; His love endures forever.
10 to him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt11 and brought Israel out from among them12 with a mighty hand and outstretched arm; 13 to him who divided the Red Sea[a] asunder14 and brought Israel through the midst of it, 15 but swept Pharaoh and his army into the Red Sea; His love endures forever.
16 to him who led his people through the wilderness; His love endures forever.
23 He remembered us in our low estate 24 and freed us from our enemies. His love endures forever.
25 He gives food to every creature. His love endures forever.
26 Give thanks to the God of heaven.
His love endures forever.
- Thank God for His goodness.
Right out of the chute, verse one highlights a huge reason we need to give thanks. It says that God is good. Don’t allow this quality of God to simply become a social media meme or quick response that you have memorized, but allow it to shape how you see everything! If you will hold on to and celebrate and appreciate this characteristic of God, it will get you through some rough patches. It will keep you from blaming God for the bad things that happen in life and will keep your faith from getting stalled or derailed. Satan wants you mad at God. He wants you distanced from Him. He wants you to believe that God is withholding good from you, but that isn’t the case.
God is good. Because He is good, you can trust Him. You can’t always know what someone’s motives are like. People can talk a good talk. You can be fooled. You never have to wonder what God’s agenda is, what He is up to. He only wants that which is for your good. He is so good that He can and does cause even the bad things we deal with to turn out for our good. Romans 8:28 says that He causes all things to work in our favor, to work for our benefit, for our good as we continue to live to want to see His purposes advance in our lives.
When you know God and you learn of His goodness over time, as you trust Him more and more, you will hold on to the promises that flow from His goodness. Psalm 34:8 says, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” To taste something, you have to take it in. It has to become part of you. You learn about God’s goodness as you allow Him access to the deepest part of who you are and when you give Him that kind of access and He takes up that kind of space, you begin to live with a contentment and confidence that no matter how dark things get, you know that everything you deal with in life will, in the end, be for your good.
I saw God’s goodness on display this week. On Monday, when I went to visit Bobbi Jo Hammett, her condition really moved me. Seeing her in that sedated state and on a ventilator was tough. Bobbi Jo is an incredibly strong person. She was her son’s primary caregiver. He was born with many challenges and she took care of him like a full-time nurse would even though she didn’t have a nursing degree. His life impacted so many people. The same was true of his death. I cannot imagine how his passing impacted Bobbi’s every day thought life, her routine, just all of it. Her mother’s heart had to be broken over the passing of that sweet young man. I’m giving you that piece of backstory for a reason.
When I walked into her hospital room on Thursday, the nurse let me know they had backed off the sedation and that she would know me and was following simple commands with a “yes” and a “no” head nod. I was blessed to get to spend a few hours with her and was so encouraged. After I left, when her husband, Mike, and her father-in-law, Pastor Larry got there after me, her husband began explaining to her that she had been “out of it” for a few days. He started asking her questions just to see if she had seen anything supernatural while she had been unconscious. He asked her, “Did you go to Heaven?” She said, “No.” (Don’t let that bother or confuse you right now. Just stay with me.) “Did you see any angels?” She said, “No.” “Did you see Jesus?” She said, “No.” “Did you get to see Michael Joseph?” She said, “Yes.” “Did he look good?” She said, “Yes.” “Was he taller than you?” She said, “Yes.” “Was he about my height?” “Yes.” “Did he have that great big, awesome smile?” “Yes.” “Did he still have his orneriness?” “Yes.” “What was he doing in Heaven? Was he a preacher?” “No.” “Was he a teacher of kids?” “No.” “Was he in charge of games for youngsters?” “No.” “Was he like some kind of warrior?” Her eyes got big, and Mike repeated the question. She said, “Yes.” “Was he dressed like a warrior?” “Yes.” “Was he wearing a helmet?” “No.” “Did he have a sword, bow, or shield?” “No.” “Was he broad-shouldered? “Yes.” “Were you with him in Heaven or where were you?” She shrugged her shoulders. The where she was in the experience wasn’t important. It was who she saw that she couldn’t get over. He said, “I know there is more to this story, and I can’t wait for you to tell me.”
When I heard the story, I thought to myself, how good is God, that while she was sedated and unable to experience the comfort of loved ones, God gave her a glimpse into life beyond this life and thrilled her with an encounter with her son who is completely whole? And why God kept the location somewhat veiled, to me, also speaks of God’s goodness. Had he made her aware that she was in Heaven, she would have been so captivated with Jesus she wouldn’t have gotten to see her son! Why did God allow Bobbi Jo to get a miracle at the Cleveland Clinic with a “no cancer” report only to allow her to get Covid after she had had that lung surgery and her lungs were already compromised? I don’t know, but when she gets to tell us the whole story, I know she will say every moment of suffering was worth it for that glimpse into Glory. I know she will say that God was good to her in the midst of her suffering. What appeared to many to be one of her worst earthly days was actually one of her best moments ever! That is how good our God is!
Psalm 23 says that the goodness of God follows us around. That is a reality because He never leaves us and won’t forsake us, Hebrews 13:5. Where God goes, His goodness, goes, and guess what, God and His goodness go with you!
So, you can thank God because He is good. The second reason I see, from our text, that you can thank God is this:
- Thank God because He is in a league all by Himself.
Verses 2, 3, and 4 talk about how He is the God of gods. He is the Lord of lords. He alone does great wonders. We can give thanks to God because He is a miracle-working God. He does things that defy logic. He can even defy the laws of the universe when He so chooses because, well, after all, He created them! There is no power greater than He. No earthly power can match Him. No evil power can overtake Him. No one can unturn anything He does or stop anything He purposes. He is supreme.
Allow me to tell you Part B to the Bobbi Hammett miracle this week. Just in case you were thinking that it was sweet that while Bobbi Jo was sedated that she had a nice “dream” about her son that seemed so real that it provided her with great comfort. Just in case you aren’t sure that was part of a miraculous moment scripted by the hand of the good God who can do the impossible, listen to this.
So, Mike, Bobbi Jo’s husband, was telling Bobbi Jo’s sister about this special experience Bobbi Jo had with their son who is in Heaven and the sister was like, “Hold up!” Someone had called her two days prior to ask if Bobbi Jo was OK. This person hadn’t heard that Bobbi Jo was ill, but they had a dream about her. In the dream, he didn’t know where he was, but he was a bystander. Bobbi approached a young man who had silky blonde hair, broad shoulders, and a good build. When he started talking to Bobbi, the man who was dreaming realized it was Michael Joseph. He had the most melodious voice. He sounded like a professional singer. Michael Joseph said, “Come on, and let me show you where I live.” Then a voice spoke and said, “No. It is not her time yet.” The man woke up and was so shook up that he called Bobbi’s sister to see what was happening with Bobbi because he knew something major was going on.
Don’t tell me that Bobbi Jo’s supernatural encounter with her sweet son, Michael Joseph, and this person’s dream about the exact same encounter, a dream had by a person who had no knowledge of Bobbi Jo’s illness, a dream that corroborated her story, even down to the detail that neither was exactly sure of where they were, don’t you tell me that was anything less than an epic miracle orchestrated by the hand of an Almighty God! I actually believe that both her encounter and his dream were happening at the same time! You don’t have to believe it, but you won’t convince me otherwise. I believe God was confirming His plan to heal Bobbi Jo and return her to us.
Listen, God can do anything, at any time, in any place for anyone because He has unlimited power and authority. He is in a league of His own. Give thanks that you can know Him as Savior and Friend.
- Thank God for creating all that is.
Verses 5-9 speak about all that God has Created. They list the Heavens and earth, the waters that are spread out around the earth, the sun, the moon, and the stars. How beautiful has our Fall been? How gorgeous are the West Virginia Mountains? How pretty have our sunsets been recently? The full rainbow that filled the sky over Teays Valley this week was spectacular!
Nature points to His majesty and creativity. It points to His love and generosity towards us. He has made it all for us to enjoy! Whether you fish or hike or just like to look at the stars, He has given you a way to see Him, to appreciate His vast power and genius. When snow blankets the earth, it will be beautiful. I didn’t say you have to sit outside and stare at it, but look at it through the window and as it falls softly to the earth, just be reminded that your God made that happen. Truly this is my Father’s world. If you have enjoyed the splendor of a waterfall, the serenity of a slowly moving brook, the sweetness of the birds, squirrels and beauty of the wildlife that dot our landscape, if you have stood in awe of the Grand Canyon or been privileged to see the many geysers, hot springs or volcanoes that all have something to say about God’s brilliant design and power, you can be thankful that you know the Creator.
The fourth reason this text tells us we can give thanks is certainly no small thing. Verses 10-15 speak about how God brought the Israelites out of slavery in Egypt. That history, that story, is a type and shadow of how you and I are born into the slavery of sin and how Satan has a grip on us as we enter this world because we are born with a sin nature, a propensity to sin. We have a desire for the things of the flesh which are never satisfied, which always demand we pay attention to them. We are captured early by vices that demand we listen to them and satisfy whatever their demands may be. We cannot escape the pull. We cannot escape the consequences of shame, destruction and death on our own. We are born separated from God and we are born as slaves to sin. But God, who is rich in love and mercy and who is perfect in power, sent Jesus to rescue us. Oh, friends, Jesus came on a search and rescue mission, and guess what? He was successful. His righteous sacrifice on the cross paid the price for the sins of humanity so that we could go free from those eternal consequences and so that we could move through the doorway of death into eternity in Heaven with Him. This morning, if you are a Christian, you can
- Thank God for bringing you out of the bondage of sin.
The fifth thing I will mention is that you can
- Thank God for sticking with you in the wilderness moments.
Verse 16 speaks to this. The Israelites didn’t always obey perfectly. They didn’t always get it right. It cost them years in the wilderness, but God didn’t leave them to fend for themselves. In those moments when they were straying, He was still taking care of them. Anyone know what I am talking about this morning? Anybody here had a few wilderness seasons? Anybody do some dumb stuff? Anybody disobey God and get yourself into a situation? Thank God we have a Savior not just for salvation, but He is our Savior when we get ourselves into wilderness situations! Guess what? Our God knows the way through the wilderness.
I need to move to point six quickly. This Psalm tells us we can
- Thank God for taking care of our enemies. I am referencing verse 24 here.
Satan is your enemy. Jesus has triumphed over Satan through His death, burial and resurrection and has forever sealed Satan’s fate. The devil’s time is limited, and his doom is sure. Death was your enemy as there was the possibility that you would be separated from God forever in an eternity in Hell, but if you are a believer, there is no threat of that anymore. Death and anything it claimed over you, has been destroyed. As for earthly enemies. You will face those. Just remember, while they may pose as humans you encounter, our enemies aren’t flesh and blood, but they are the principalities and powers of this world, evil spirits that tempt and lure people into ways of behaving that bring complications and challenges to attempt to thwart the Kingdom of God. Trust me. They are no match for Him.
No weapon that is used in an attempted assault on your life will be successful, Isaiah 54:17. God will guard you and when needed, God will vindicate you. God will deal with your enemies.
The seventh reason you can give thanks to God that I see here, is that you can
- Thank God for daily provision.
Verse 25 says He gives food to every creature. God looks after His Creation. He looks after you. He provides for you. He is in the details. I didn’t want to ask Bobbi Jo too many questions when I visited on Thursday. I was aware that the ventilator is anxiety-producing enough, so I didn’t want to stress her. But I did ask her this question, “Do you sense God’s peace with you right now?” She emphatically said, “Yes.” Listen, there is no way she could have manufactured that kind of peace. She was testifying, in that moment, to the God who gives us what we need in the most difficult of circumstances. Pastor Brenda would tell you the same. During these past couple of years, while facing hardships and challenges and questions and Kelly’s declining health and red tape and medical needs and practical needs and financial needs and emotional needs and mental fortitude, she saw God provide what was needed day after day as she helped usher Kelly into Heaven.
Finally, Psalm 136 offers an eighth reason why we can give thanks to God this season.
- Thank God because His love endures forever! God’s love is indestructible.
Nothing can separate you from His love, Romans 8:39. Nothing you have done or will ever do will change the way God feels about you. You can’t out-sin God’s love for you. You can’t remain in sin and avoid the consequences that come with it, but you can’t sin beyond where God’s love can redeem you. His love for you is everlasting. It is unconditional. He won’t reject you if you come to Him with a confession or need.
Everyone in this room is blessed and highly favored to have access to God. We have so many reasons to be thankful. These 8 reasons to give thanks flow from a heart that is in a relationship with our loving God. Start this holiday season by giving thanks with me to the One from whom all blessings flow.