Give thanks unto the LORD for He is good:
for His mercy endures forever."
His mercy endures forever ... that is a familiar and comforting refrain for us Christians. And it is a repetitive honor sung throughout Psalm 136 to the glory of our Lord... twenty-six times to be exact. And perhaps it is repeated so often in the Psalm because Israel knows, from their history, that God takes great pleasure in being recognized for his continual love and mercy.
They can recall the Temple being filled with the presence of the Lord in a cloud, when the trumpeters and singers joined in unison, accompanied by cymbals and other instruments, and as with one voice, gave praise and thanks to the LORD, raising their voices in praise to Him and singing: "He is good; his love endures forever" (2 Chronicles 5:13). Or perhaps they remember, in Jehoshaphat's time, when God gave them victory over the invading armies of Ammon and Moab after Jehoshaphat appointed men to sing to the LORD and to praise Him for the splendor of His holiness as they went out at the head of their army, saying: "Give thanks to the LORD, for his love endures forever." (2 Chronicles 20:21-22).
Notice that the entire Psalm gives a very convincing picture of who our LORD is, and why we should not only give Him thanks, but recognize that "His mercy endures forever". We thank Him because He is great and good in Himself (verses 1-3); He is the Creator of the world (verses 5-9); He is Israel's God and Savior (verses 10-22); He is our Redeemer (verses 23-24); He is our Provider and the God of Heaven... and His mercy endures forever (verses 25-26).
Obviously, this mercy is to be acknowledged and praised. But what exactly is "mercy"? The Hebrew word is cheçed, and suggests God's strength, steadfastness and love; His generosity and loyalty. God remains committed to His promises and Covenant, but retains His freedom toward the manner in which He will extend those promises (through both discipline and redemption). But it endures forever! His mercy is permanent, and it is reliable.
It has been clear that God responded to the praise and honor given to Him in the Old Testament. The Chronicles of the Bible record not only His appearance, but the victories that are possible when His people raise their voices in praise, and remember His faithfulness and perpetual mercy. For us, in the 21st Century, the final implementation of God's mercy is eschatological -- it is the goal and end of all salvation and history! Because of His enduring mercy our hearts will be full as we enter into His Heavenly presence, and His mercy will be the subject of our praise for all eternity. I can hardly wait!