Psalm 136 is a call to worship, and one of the more majestic corporate worship songs in the entire Bible. It is a psalm about celebrating the breadth of God’s redemptive work in history. It begins with a general call to God’s goodness and covenant love – then quickly moves to a narrative retelling of God’s redemption in the life of Israel – from creation, to bringing Israel out of Egypt and leading them through the wilderness, to giving them victory over those who opposed them as they took the Promised Land. It is such a powerful call to God’s greatness that the congregation is compelled to interject between every single line “For His steadfast love endures forever.”
How many of our worship songs call us to remember God’s mighty acts in history? How many of our songs help us to remember and recall each situation where God was present to save and redeem? From the graceful act of creation to the redemption on the cross?
challenge: I would love to read/here a song that takes the model of Psalm 136 and applies it in a broadbrush stroke to the life of Christ. Suggestions?
Below is a versification of Psalm 136 by Nathan Partain, music arts director at Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Indianapolis. When we recorded this song a few years ago for ‘Mid All the Traffic we took the opportunity to explore how the music could reinforce the storytelling. Our favorite part was utilizing some noise guitar to echo the Shekinah-glory hovering over the Israelite’s in the wilderness.
1. The LORD is all that’s good. He is the Power of powers.
He is the Beauty of beauties. He is the Fear of fears.
2. He alone is the Author of wonders. His thoughts are like the universe.
His care spread the earth on the water.
He’s the Truth of the day. He’s the Hope through the night.
His love endures forever. He is steadfast. He is faithful.
His love endures forever. He is a fortress. He is more than able
(1st chorus) To make us stand pure in his sight.
(2nd chorus) To make us like stars in the night.
(3rd chorus) To raise us from death unto life.
3. He crushed the head of death, Delivered us from the reach of his hand.
With his mighty arm he made us a path,
A way through the deep, we walk on dry land.
4. While Pharaoh is damned to darkness, He guides us through the wilderness.
He breaks every scepter, makes low every name.
In us he has planted his kingdom, his flame.
5. He never forgets our weakness. He spares us from the enemy.
He strengthens our soul with the breath of his mouth.
Give thanks to the Lord of heaven. Cry out!
words and music: Nathan Partain, 2000,2001
image: Alexander Master, c 1430. A History Bible of Utrecht