Who are we?

In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.

Wednesday, 28 January 2015

Psalm 136 - Who is our God?

This psalm obviously focuses on the steadfast love of God as we can see from the refrain in each verse. The clear deduction we can make from the contents of the psalm is that all that happens in life is connected to his love as far as his people are concerned. A wide variety of situations are mentioned, yet each happened because God is love.

We can see in this psalm a pattern for how we should praise our God. Basically we praise him for who he is and for what he does. Both his character and his conduct should be central in our praise. And our praise should be marked by thanksgiving and by intelligent appreciation of what he has done.

Regarding the character of God, the psalmist first mentions that God is good. God’s goodness is the expression of his love. Then the author mentions God’s sovereignty, that he is in control of all other rulers. The third attribute of God that the psalmist focuses on is that the Lord can do great wonders. In a sense, this is a definition of God. In our praise we should mention his wonderful acts. Worship in a real sense is repeating to God his own greatness. We demean God when we do not mention his dignity, and an essential part of his dignity is his ability to work wonders.

The psalmist also considers three features of God’s conduct. First, he is the almighty Creator who brought everything into existence. Second, he is the great Redeemer of his people who delivered them from bondage in Egypt. Third, he is the God of providence who provided his people with food. We can apply those three features to ourselves – the Lord is our Creator, Redeemer and Provider.

An incident that took place in Alexandria in Egypt on February 8th, 358. One of the leaders of the congregation there was Athanasius, a theologian who is remembered today for defending the doctrine of the eternal sonship of Jesus. He had many enemies, both religious and political, and they got the civil authorities to attack him and his congregation. So the government sent soldiers to the church while a meeting was taking place. The worshippers were frightened. But Athanasius announced that they would sing Psalm 136 and the soldiers were astonished as they heard the congregation sing the refrain twenty-six times that God’s love endures forever. The cruelty of the soldiers had not been confined to the church and many living in its vicinity had been killed. Athanasius and many of his flock did not perish that night and they always remembered afterwards that their God is good. And we should do the same.

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