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A new look at a boring Psalm

January 16, 2009

Pictures do it for me. They make things come alive, make sense. Describe for me the way a sunset looked behind the mountains, that’s worthless. Show me the picture you took, and I can get lost in it.

The same thing happens when I read Scripture. When I read, I see the story in my head. I imagine the feelings, the pain, the laughter, the horror, the amazement on people’s faces when God comes through, again.

I had to prepare a Scripture reading for a service. I spent some time flipping around the Psalms, trying to find one that said what we were trying to communicate. I came to Psalm 136, which says, “His steadfast love endures forever” no less than 26 times. And I skipped over it.

I came across it again, and turned the page. That Psalm is so repetitive. It’s so, look out for the lightning, boring!

But for some reason I parked there. I decided to read the Psalm, skipping the refrain, and what I found shocked me.

It’s a powerful picture of how God created everything around us. It’s a beautiful reminder of what God did for Israel. And it contains what is now one of my favorite images in Scripture. Verse 10, 11 and 12 say this:

(Give thanks) to him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt
and brought Israel out from among them with a strong hand and an outstretched arm.

What does it mean to bring them out with a strong hand? An outstretched arm? I had never thought about it, but I was awestruck when I did. Let me explain it to you this way.

A dad is at a mall, black Friday. (Evidently dad is an idiot, but I digress.) He brought his 9 year old little girl with him for a daddy date. (Further proof of his incredibly low IQ.) They go into FYE to buy Mommy her favorite oldie movie. While they are in the back of the store, an announcement is made throughout the mall that they are selling IPOD’S for 50% off for the first 100 people that purchase them. The store becomes a madhouse. People are piling in the doors, the store fills to capacity, with more trying to cram in. The temperature is climbing, and it seems oxygen is at a premium.

And there is Dad and the little girl, now being pressed on from every side, stuck in the back of the store. Dad realizes that they need to get out. So you know what he does?

He grabs her hand, and tells her that he will NOT let go, and he begins pushing through the crowd, with one hand grasping his daughters with a death grip, and the other hand in front of him, shoving people, toppling displays, plowing over employees, knocking everything out of the way. Why? Because he is leading her out of that store unharmed. No one will get to her, and no one is going to stop them.

With a strong hand he holds her. With an outstretched arm he paves the way, until they finally reach the safety of the mall parking lot.

That’s what God did. Do you see it? Can’t you see it in Exodus? Numbers? Deuteronomy? Joshua? He will NEVER let go, and He will NOT be stopped. You know why?

Because His steadfast love endures forever.

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