The first three of these Psalms, 135-137 seem to also come from the time of the Babylonian captivity like the songs of ascent. They retell Israel’s history, as is common throughout the Psalms. They always seemed to try to find hope for their future based on what God had done and promised in their past. Even when it looked most hopeless, when it seemed God had completely abandoned them. Think about the time of Jesus birth. The nation had not heard anything from God for over 400 years, yet the Scripture was faithfully read and believed. God would not abandon Israel forever.
Psalm 136 has the phrase, “His love endures forever,” repeated 26 times, once after each line recounting some event from Israel’s past. What has continually stood out to me is how they affirm here and throughout the OT God as creator. That is the foundation of all other things he can accomplish, obviously, but how often do our churches affirm God as maker of heaven and earth? In 135 they are reminded that the gods of the nations are but “silver and gold.” The contrast that the god’s of the nations are idols of literally nothing and God is the creator of the universe is a constant theme upon which Israel places it’s hope. From there God chooses and works to prosper and defend Israel against its enemies. The challenge for them was the word forever. Somehow they had to know whatever it was, it was beyond this veil of tears.
138 is another Psalm of David, and it fits nicely in with the theme of the previous three. It is at once a Psalm of confidence in God’s future vindication, and prayer that this confidence will not be in vain. At the heart of our faith is the realization and embrace of God’s honor above all:
2 I bow down toward your holy temple
and give thanks to your name for your steadfast love and your faithfulness,
for you have exalted above all things
your name and your word.
At hear heart of the nature of sin is the desire to be God, to determine for ourselves meaning, truth, right and wrong. Those who follow him must let him interpret reality according to his revelation to us, and must yearn for him to be glorified above all because, as obvious as it is, he is above all. We are then only acknowledging the state of things as they actually are. We can only know him when we take our rightful place:
6 Though the Lord is high, he regards the lowly,
but the proud he knows from afar.
Human pride is a strange thing because we really have so little reason to be so. Not only are we wretched sinners who don’t even live up to our own standards, let alone the perfect standards of God, but we are finite and contingent in every way. We have an infinite number of reasons to let God be God, and rejoice in it.