Psalms 135-140
(His Love Endures Forever)
June 27th

Produced by The Listening for God Ministry
copyright 2016

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Please refer to one or more Bible versions of your choice to read this section. We recommend that you read at least two versions for added understanding. For your convenience, we have provided six links below, each of which takes you directly to today's chapters in a specific version:

Key Verse

For it was you who formed my inward parts;
    you knit me together in my mother’s womb.

- Psalm 139:13 (NRSV)

Summary of Chapters

The Psalms in this group are a mix of praise, lament, and a cursing imprecatory Psalm.

Psalm 135 begins the group with praises for the LORD’s goodness, his power over nature, and his defeat of the Egyptians and other world powers. The author declares that “Your name, O LORD, endures forever (135:13 - NIV)”

The 136th Psalm picks up on the theme of divine perpetuity by concluding every verse with the refrain, “His love endures forever (NIV),” or " His love never quits," in the translation found in the The Message. The first part of each phrase reiterates the praise topics from the previous Psalm, such as goodness, dominion, and victory.

Psalm 137 is an imprecatory Psalm in which the author laments the time spent in exile in Babylon. The people wept with longing for their home as their captors taunted them to sing their happy songs. He concludes with what appears to be a curse stating the Babylon is “doomed to destruction (137:8 - NIV)” for what it has done to Israel.

The 138th and 139th Psalms are attributed to David and restart the praise motif. The 139th stands out for illuminating the many ways that the LORD knows us. Whether we sit or rise or travel around the world, he knows what we are doing and anticipates our actions, wherever we go:

    Where can I go from your Spirit?
        Where can I flee from your presence?
    If I go up to the heavens, you are there;
        if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
    If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
        if I settle on the far side of the sea,
    even there your hand will guide me,
        your right hand will hold me fast.

    - Psalm 139:5-10 (NIV)

This Psalm also includes an oft-quoted verse regarding the beginning of God’s knowledge of us: “For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; (139:13-14).”

This beautiful poetry of God’s knowledge seems to end somewhat abruptly as the psalmist shifts gears to ask God to slay the wicked for they have been disrespecting the LORD. He concludes the psalm by inviting God to search his own heart and lead him “in the way everlasting (139:24 - NIV).”

The 140th Psalm is also attributed to David and calls for rescue from the evil men who use their hands and tongues against him. He finishes by declaring that the “LORD secures justice for the poor and upholds the cause of the needy (140:12 - NIV)” and then observes that the righteous will praise the LORD.

Reflection and Application

Our God is a forever God. His name endures forever, as noted in Psalm 135. Since his name lasts forever, he is the natural source of wisdom. If we want to understand how something works, we might either seek out the creator or someone who has been around the thing for a long time. God is both.

Our God's love endures forever, as repeated in Psalm 136. He knows us and loved us before we were born and sacrificed his Son before we were named. His love is everlasting. The love we find among humans can be fragile, hence the many songs and stories of broken hearts. But God’s love is unbreakable. We need to confess our sins to restore our side of the relationship, but he never breaks up with us.

Our God is forever with us. Psalm 139 reminds us of this fact and is a good one to read over and over. It reinforces for us how well God understands us and makes clear that he travels with us wherever we go. God is a constant companion – always available for a connection with us. He does not depend on satellites, cell phone towers, wi-fi hotspots, electricity, batteries, solar panels, or anything made by man. We can converse with him when we are on the ocean, high on a mountain, or underground on a train. Even when astronauts are in space, God is with them. He is forever, he is omnipresent throughout the universe, and yet he is intimate enough to have made each one of us.

Our God's willingness to listen to us lasts forever, even when we complain and curse our enemies. You may relate to the lamentation expressed at the beginning of Psalm 137, but may by troubled by the graphic prophecy near the end: "Happy (emphasis added) is the one who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks (137:9 - NIV)."

Is this some type of a mistake? It seems out of character for the Bible. In the book of Proverbs we will read advice telling us not to rejoice when our enemies fall (Proverbs 27:17 - NIV). In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus tells us to "pray for those who persecute you (Matthew 5:44)." So, did Jesus disagree with this Psalm? If so, then he also disagreed with Psalm 109 that we recently read and also Psalm 71, 70, 69, 68, and many others brimming with curses. Even Biblical experts have confessed to not fully understanding the purposes of all of these curses. The modern martyr, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, once said:

    No section of the Psalter gives us greater difficulty today then the so-called imprecatory Psalms. With shocking frequency their thoughts penetrate the entire Psalter (1).

We must believe that there is a purpose for these Psalms. One consideration is that these verses represent the honest feelings of the author. He is showing his respect for God by unloading his feelings to him instead of acting out unhealthy urges. In an explanation on this topic, Eugene Peterson said that "Our hate needs to be prayed, not suppressed...In this process God may change our heart (2)." Bonhoeffer also noted that "the imprecatory Psalm leads to the cross of Jesus and to the love of God which forgives enemies (3)." We can seek our own forgiveness at the cross and seek help to forgive others the way we have been forgiven. In this way, we leave the judgment to the ultimate Judge.

The author of Psalm 137 may have been remembering that God has and will carry out thorough punishment on those who deserve it. Remember the book of Exodus, which we read a few months ago? God killed all the first-born of Egyptian families while passing over the Israeli families in order to finally persuade Pharaoh to let his people go. In the New Testament, Jesus offers forgiveness, but reminds his audiences that there is an eternal fire and much gnashing of teeth expected for those who do not accept the offer.

That's a lot to ponder, so let's celebrate with some music inspired by Psalm 139: "He Knows My Name," sung by The Maranatha Singers:

"He Knows My Name," performed by The Maranatha Singers

Questions and Prayers for Further Reflection

    Related Questions
    1. What is your earliest awareness of the existence of God?
    2. Where have you gone, if anywhere, to try to flee from God?
    3. Where is your favorite place to talk to God?

    Recommended Prayer
    Father in Heaven we know you are a forever God. Help us to bring our troubled hearts to you and accept your love as we leave our troubles at the cross.

    Suggested Prayer Concerns
    War victims


    (1) Sire, James W, Learning to Pray Through the Psalms, Inter-Varsity Press, Downers Grove, IL, 2005 , p149
    (2) IBID, p165
    (3) IBID, p166

    Looking Ahead

    Tomorrow's reading: Psalms 141-150 (The Final Psalms)

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