Scripture: Psalm 136
You know, I’ve been thinking about this a lot. I think there are a lot of lonely people out there. In our society there are so many people who are cut off from others. Some are lonely because they aint from around here. Some are cut off from friends and relatives because of choices they have made. Some are lonely because they stepped out on a limb to follow a dream only to have that limb fall out from under them. They took a risk, and it didn’t pan out. I think there are a lot of lonely people out there who feel cut off and broken from the world, really. With that thought a quote from the late great Wilson Picket comes to mind, “Everybody Needs Somebody to Love.” I wonder if the idea everybody needs somebody to love wasn’t on the Psalmist’s mind as they wrote Psalm 136. There is a question hanging out there who will love me when I don’t have anybody to love? Psalm 136 seems to be answering this question. God loves you; and because God’s steadfast love endures forever God has always, and will always love you. Amen? Amen! Look to your lives and recount the ways the Lord has dealt kindly with you that we might respond with gratitude to the Lord. How has God served you? How has God offered us God’s self? What reasons do we have to lift up the Lord in gratitude?
From the very beginning God has carefully cared for God’s creation. God has created everything with great and awesome wonders. God made the heavens and the earth. God made the sun to govern the day and the moon and stars to govern the night. God alone struck down the first born of Egypt when Pharaoh would not let God’s people go. There on the shore of the Red Sea when there was no hope of escape with Pharaoh’s army coming down on them God made a way for God’s chosen people to escape. With a strong hand and an outstretched arm the Lord parted the waters of the Red Sea so Israel could pass through on dry land. When Pharaoh and his army pursued Israel, God removed God’s hand and the crushing walls of the Red Sea swallowed Pharaoh and his army. God continued to provide for Israel when Israel wandered through the wilderness. When kings rose up against Israel, God struck them down. God struck down great kings; Sihon, the king of the Amorites, and Og, the king of Bashan. God gave their land over to Israel as an inheritance. When Israel was lowly and mistreated in Egypt God remembered them, as God remembers us today. For, God remembered Israel when they were enslaved in Egypt. God defeated Israel’s enemies, and provided for their livelihood. God’s love endures forever.
Now, without a doubt there are some here this morning who are thinking God helped those people a l-o-n-g time ago. How can this preacher stand up there and declare God is still at work today? How can the preacher say with good conscience God’s love endures forever? Sisters and brothers I can say God’s love endures forever because I know it to be true; in my mind, in my heart and in my experiences. And I am certain you can too.
Let’s start at the beginning. When Adam and Eve were cursed for committing the first sin, and disobeying God by eating of the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil God started working to put things back to right. God said to the serpent, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head and you shall bruise his heel” (Gen 3:15). We shall not always lose the battle to temptation. God has seen to it we will have some victories. This is God’s covenant with Adam.
When the world had all but stopped looking or fighting for victories against temptation and sin God was set to destroy the world by flood. Then God found one man who was blameless. Noah walked with God (Gen 6:9). God spared Noah and his family. When the terrible work of the flood was done and Noah’s family was spared God set God’s bow in the heavens and promised never to destroy the world again by flood (Gen 8:20-22). We call this God’s covenant with Noah.
When some time later God chose for God’s self an aged man with a barren wife God made a new covenant. God told Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen 12:1-3). This is God’s covenant with Abraham. Just as God set man to tend and care for creation as creation’s stewards God would continue to work through Abraham’s descendents to bless the whole world.
Then there arose a man after God’s own heart. David sought to build a house for the Lord where the people might come and honor God, but what does God need with a house built by human hands? I believe God intended to always be present with Israel wherever they went. God was the one who had been with David as a boy serving his father’s sheep. Now God had caused David to rise from being a shepherd boy, to being the king of Israel. God knew David’s heart was insecure about his future and the future of his kingdom in Israel. However, because of God’s faithfulness and steadfast love, God made a covenant with David. God would provide all the protection and prosperity Israel would need. God would not depart from David’s family line as God had departed from Saul. And when the Davidic kings of Israel sin before God, God will discipline them with the stripes of men. God will allow other kingdoms to conquer Israel, but God’s love will never depart.
In the fullness of time God sent God’s only Son, Jesus Christ to humble Himself to be born like one of us. When the time had come Jesus went down to the Jordan River to see his cousin John the Baptist and was baptized in water for purification and consecrated by the power of the Holy Spirit. Jesus preached, “Repent for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt 4:17). Jesus lived and taught God’s love and grace. Jesus set the example for us all to follow. And then, just before He died Jesus told His disciples, “I tell you the truth; it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you. But if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no longer; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged” (John 16:7-11).
After Jesus Christ was betrayed, arrested, falsely accused and convicted; beaten, spat upon, caned, scourged, mocked and had a cruel crown of thorns shoved into his head – after Jesus had been crucified dead and buried God raised Jesus from the dead. Our chains of sin and doubt were broken. We were freed from original sin that we might turn to Jesus and believe with our whole heart, with our whole mind, with our whole strength, and with our whole soul. With the chains broken Jesus ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father Almighty. All of our past mistakes are washed away, and we are clean. All the guilt, all the pain, all of the miss steps and mistakes have been washed away. The question is, what about now? What happens now?
What happens now is the Great Helper, the Holy Spirit has come. Acts Chapter two tells the story of the arrival of the Holy Spirit as tongues of fire giving the Apostles the ability to share the good news of Jesus Christ with people of every tongue and tribe. The Holy Spirit equips God’s people to fulfill the great commission to, “[g]o therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,” (Matt 28:19).
Sisters and brothers God created us. God created us with a purpose in mind so we would know what to do with ourselves. When our love fails God’s love remains steadfast. God sent God’s only Son to free the world from the chains of sin and doubt. And then God sends God’s Holy Spirit to enable us to do the work we were created to do. We have tons of reason to glory and honor to God! Why shouldn’t we sing God’s praise?! Why shouldn’t we sing with hands raised high? Why shouldn’t we love others without care for age, race, creed, economic status or nationality? God has done so much for us. Shouldn’t we share God’s love with others? The way I see it God has given us two hands, two feet and a brain. I think God expects us to use them to spread the good news of Jesus Christ with others. Let’s give glory and honor to God by serving those who need to hear the Gospel most. Let’s let everyone know God’s steadfast love endures forever.
In the name of Jesus Christ – Amen.