Psalm 136: The Gracious Love of God Will Never End

Sorry I haven’t been posting regularly lately. Sometimes the music business gets in the way of the music itself…

I’m back with a new Psalm. This draft has been in my idea folder since 2020 when I read that Psalm 136 was something of an addendum to the Songs of Ascents (Psalms 120-134). You’ll remember that I set all 14 of those Psalms to music in my Pilgrim Psalms project. At the time I jotted down some ideas for the song, put it in my idea folder, and promptly forgot about it. But this week I stumbled across it and decided it was time to complete it.

You’ll remember that Psalm 136 is a long Psalm with the repeated refrain, “His love endures forever.” That suggested to me a call-and-response style song, with a leader singing the bulk of the text and the people responding. While “his love endures forever” gets the job done, the Hebrew is much richer. The word “love” encompasses loving-kindness, grace, mercy, and compassion. I arrived at a repeated refrain of “The gracious love of God will never end.”

The Psalm is divided into five sections: a prelude of thanksgiving, creation, salvation (from Egypt), leading (through the wilderness), and final praise. This is represented in the song’s five verses. (Purists beware: I left out the bits about God killing Og, king of Bashan, etc.)

Musically, it is similar to many of my Pilgrim Psalms; it is a simple call-and-response that could be led without music. It is music for the journey. And we could all use a little encouragement on the journey, couldn’t we?

Give thanks to the Lord. Give thanks to the Lord.
The gracious love of God will never end.

1. Give thanks to the Lord. Our God is good!
Give thanks again to the God of gods–
the God of gods and Lord of lords–
for God alone works wonders.

2. The heaven’s expanse was God’s design.
God’s hand rolled out earth o’er the ocean wide;
created the sun, marking days with its light;
the moon and the stars, keeping watch over our nights.

3. Our God visited us in our misery,
and broke the chains of captivity.
God’s mighty hand pushed back the sea,
and led us through. God set us free!

4. Through weary years in the wilderness,
the light of God shone upon our path.
Dangers and foes, without, within;
God’s love became our promised land.

5. The humble and poor are God’s delight.
God sees our need and hears our cry.
All creatures are sustained by God’s loving-kindness.
All earth gives thanks to our God on high!

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