I realized something a few weeks ago, that made me change the way I read the Bible. I used to read several chapters a day, simply because I love the Word. But one day I realized that I needed to slow down, and instead of just reading a chapter, I decided to actually meditate on it. What is the author trying to convey, what is being said between the lines, or perhaps even by the lines, what is the obvious and often what is the not so obvious? I decided that as I read each chapter of a book, I would ask the Holy Spirit to give me understanding, to give me wisdom, to show me the mysteries, the hidden things that are not obvious to my western eyes. Truthfully, I was amazed at what I began to see. I want to show you what I mean, so follow along with me as I unpack some of the things the Holy Spirit began to show me this morning as I read Psalm 136.
The very first thing I noticed is what could perhaps be the most obvious, but I had never considered before. There are 26 verses in this Psalm and every single one of them ends the same way, “for His steadfast love endures forever”. It was like I saw the significance of this phrase for the first time and suddenly realized that the author was making a series of statements which to my western eyes should not have included that phrase! He was talking about calamity, death and devastation, and yet, he was telling us that these things happened because God’s love endures forever. As I pondered on that thought, I couldn’t help but think about the verse in Deuteronomy 32:4, “The Rock, his work is perfect, for all his ways are justice”. If all His ways are justice then I am also reminded of the verse in Isaiah 55:8-9:
“For my thoughts are not your thoughts,neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
If all His ways are justice and His ways are not my ways, then perhaps I have to rethink my ways? Perhaps, instead of believing in the thoughts that I have, I have to sit at the Lord’s feet and ask Him what His thoughts are. I’m not asking a question here. I’m making a suggestion to myself, and maybe to you as well.
Another thing that I noticed was also astonishing to me. Verses 7,8 and 9 say the following:
to him who made the great lights, for his steadfast love endures forever; the sun to rule over the day, for his steadfast love endures forever; the moon and stars to rule over the night, for his steadfast love endures forever;
You might have noticed this, but I hadn’t. The sun rules, or has dominion over the day, and the moon and stars rule or have dominion over the night. Ok, I’ve known this, but I’ve never actually thought about what that means. How can a bunch of chemicals, gases and rocks have dominion? And then it hit me. When you obey God, and do exactly what He tells you to do, what He created you to do, even a rock can cry out and praise Him! Even a rock can have dominion! Hello.
And that took me to even another rabbit trail, if you will. I began to think of the scripture in Ezekiel 36:26,
And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.
As I pondered on this particular scripture, I couldn’t help but think that we have a choice while we are on this earth. We can choose to allow Him to take our heart of stone and give us a heart of flesh, or we can choose to continue in our own ways, thinking our own thoughts. I couldn’t help but think about the thing that Jesus said to His disciples in Matthew 7:21-23:
Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
Could it be that the reason He never knew them, is because they had a heart of stone? Could it be that He never knew them, because they “honored Him with their lips, but their hearts were far from Him”? (Matthew 15:7-9)
What started out as a simple Psalm, repeating a simple phrase, “for His steadfast love endures forever”, turned into a much deeper understanding of who He is and what obedience can bring about. Yes, even the rocks will praise him. If I have a heart of stone, then my heart will still praise Him, but it will be standing before the judgement seat of Christ. If I allow Him to take my heart of stone and give me a heart of flesh, a heart that can love Him and obey Him, then I will praise Him both in Heaven and on the earth. What an amazing promise, a God who knows who we are, understands our sin, yet, sent His Son Jesus, to die on a cross for our sin, and if we are willing, will give us all that we need to love and honor and obey Him. Truly, His steadfast love endures forever!