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Can You Hear Me Now?

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Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever (Psalm 136:1).

In the iconic Verizon cellular phone commercial that aired in the US a number of years ago, the actor playing the Verizon service technician repeatedly asks, “Can you hear me now?” It was an effective message that made its point through the continued repetition of its tagline.

The repetition of “Can you hear me now?” in this commercial always reminded me of Psalm 136, a unique psalm of twenty-six verses, each of which ends with the same statement: “His love endures forever.” That’s a lot of repetition. The only other psalm that comes close to it is Psalm 118, which repeats the same expression four times. But with twenty-six repetitions, Psalm 136 is truly the “Can you hear God now?” psalm.

More than repetition

But Psalm 136 is more than just the simple repetition of a phrase. Its repeated “tagline” ties into an important lesson. The psalm carefully catalogs the many different areas where God’s love may be seen — some of which we may not often think about.

The composition begins with a statement about God’s goodness (v. 1) and continues through its first section with expressions of God’s powerful nature and creative deeds (vv. 2-9). These are things we may usually think of as being reasons for praise, but not aspects of God’s love. The psalmist clearly saw the connections, however, and we can, too, if we think about them.

For example, can we see that God’s refusal to misuse His great power is based entirely on His love? That is only a single instance of how God’s love continually determines every other aspect of His nature.

Even more obviously connected with God’s love, the psalm’s second section catalogs many of His saving actions in rescuing and helping His people, guiding them and giving them freedom and a land of their own (vv. 10-24). The psalm ends with the statement that God gives food to every creature (v. 25), reminding us that God’s love is shown not only to His people but to all of His creation.

Examples of love

Each of the themes covered in Psalm 136 is broken down into specific areas — specific examples of things God has done that show His love. Many of them are taken from the early history of Israel. The psalm actually quotes Genesis, Exodus, and Deuteronomy a number of times.

For instance, in verse 15 the psalmist uses an unusual expression. He says that God “swept,” or literally “shook off,” the Egyptians in the middle of the sea — the exact Hebrew expression used in Exodus 14:27 to describe the drowning of Pharaoh’s army in the Red Sea. But if many of the examples in the psalm are firmly rooted in the history of ancient Israel, they could just as easily represent ways we today have been given freedom and every blessing, both nationally and individually.

Why does Psalm 136 repeatedly connect the things it catalogs with the love of God? The answer is that it is all too easy to see God’s love in His obvious and tangible gifts. Without a broader awareness and understanding, we may not see God’s love — or we may even question it — in situations where God allows us to experience bad things rather than good.

That is why we are told, “Give thanks” for such things four times in the psalm (vv. 1-3, 26) and implicitly throughout it. The psalm reminds us that every one of the Old Testament stories it alludes to, or quotes, involved fears, frustrations, and failures for the Israelites before the final positive outcome. In seeing God’s love in results, we must also come to see His love in the steps along the way to those outcomes.

Recognizing His love

Only when we look more deeply at life and the Word of God do we see that the love of God is actually at work in a myriad of aspects of creation and events of history — and in every aspect of our lives.

If we think about the ongoing repetition of “His love endures forever” at each point throughout the “Can you hear God now?” psalm, we, too, can hear God — everywhere.

Give thanks to the God of heaven. His love endures forever (v. 26).

R. Herbert
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R. Herbert holds a Ph.D. in ancient Near Eastern languages, biblical studies, and archaeology. He served as an ordained minister and church pastor for a number of years. He writes for several Christian venues and for his websites at http://www.LivingWithFaith.org and http://www.TacticalChristianity.org, where you can also find his free e-books. R. Herbert is a pen name.