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Psalm 136

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. – His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. – His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the Lord of lords: – His love endures forever.

To him who alone does great wonders, – His love endures forever.
Who by his understanding made the heavens, – His love endures forever.
Who spread out the earth upon the waters, – His love endures forever.
Who made the great lights – His love endures forever.
The sun to govern the day, – His love endures forever.
The moon and the stars to govern the night; – His love endures forever.

To him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt – His love endures forever.
And brought out Israel from among them – His love endures forever.
With a mighty hand and an outstretched arm; – His love endures forever.
To him who divided the Red Sea asunder – His love endures forever.
And brought Israel through the midst of it, – His love endures forever.
But swept Pharaoh and his army into the Red Sea; – His love endures forever.

To him who led his people through the wilderness. – His love endures forever.
To him who struck down great kings, – His love endures forever.
And killed mighty kings – His love endures forever.
Sihon king of the Amorites – His love endures forever.
And Og king of Bashan – His love endures forever.
And gave their land as an inheritance, – His love endures forever.
An inheritance to his servant Israel. – His love endures forever.

He remembered us in our low estate – His love endures forever.
And freed us from our enemies. – His love endures forever.
He gives food to every creature. – His love endures forever.
Give thanks to the God of heaven. – His love endures forever.

If you haven't known me for very long, you might not know that when I was younger – in high school or so – I was a very poor student. Especially near the end of my high school career was getting lower grades than I had ever had before. While the reasons why are plentiful and need not be recounted here (suffice it to say that I was more interested in “recreation” than in homework or attending class); looking back, what I know to be true about my life at that time is: 1) Jesus had not gotten a hold of my heart quite yet – more accurately, I stubbornly refused to let the hold Jesus had on my life have any real impact; 2) I had not yet discovered a love for school, a love for learning.

I have said before that the opposite of love is not hate, but apathy. It's not that I just didn't like school; it's not that I hated school. It's that I just didn't care. My apathy grew to the point where, in my senior year of high school, I only passed one of the eight classes I took. And the only reason I passed that class is because, as a math class, I wasn't graded on homework and I got the concepts right away and would simply write all the tests; doing really well on them.

And so, even though I was a relatively intelligent student. Even though I often knew what the right answer would be. I just didn't care enough to do the work. There was no connection between that knowledge in my head and my heart for learning, or my love for the material.

Jump forward a couple of years: I'm now a university student on my way towards a degree in history, and eventually a Masters Degree in Divinity Studies, and I am in love with learning. I can't get enough of it: I read whatever book comes in front of me; I work diligently at all of my studies; I love writing papers and taking exams… At this point in my life, I am singing the praises of university education and I am evangelizing anyone who will listen of the importance of reading and learning. I still do this.

What is the difference between me at 18 verses me at 23? In sum, knowledge of the world had become more than just lists of facts to be memorized; instead, learning provided a chance to experience and see beauty in the depths of creation and the majesty of the world God created for us. In the end, God got a hold of my heart by going through my mind

I have said before that all good theology (the study of God) ends in doxology (words of glorifying). Psalm 139 is an example of that straight line. Every line in Psalm 139 can be traced (or sourced) to a different part of the Bible: from the wonders of creation to the story of Israel in Egypt and her exodus; to the stories of her wandering in the wilderness and the conquering of the Promised Land; great battles won by the Lord, and promises spoken by prophets and fulfilled in God’s name. This is the recounting of the providence and sovereignty of God. This is the recounting of what it means to be his chosen, his special possession. This is the revelation of his absolute goodness (vs. 1), his utter transcendence (vs. 2), and his almighty power (vs. 3).

But doctrine, however true and good on its own, is not enough. It must be turned to praise. Even your obedience in response is not enough. At best, being a “good person” reduces relationship to God to morality. At worst, the emphasis on right living leads to hypocritical legalism. Knowing God calls forth a response not just for your mind and will, but also from your heart.

Most Bible scholars agree that the repeated refrain in Psalm 136, “His love endures forever” is the response of the people to the worship leader as this Psalm is recited in tabernacle, temple, or synagogue. The truth of the doctrine calls forth a worshipful response from the people. Learning about God leads to praise of God. Theology leads to doxology.

Individual churches and denominations, perhaps even certain points throughout history, have tended to emphasize one side of this coin or the other. Perhaps the strict rationalism of the Enlightenment era tended to reduce a person’s experience of faith to propositional statements. And perhaps now that has shifted to the other side where the experience of, and engagement with, faith is centred upon one's feelings.

The better way forward, however, will include both sides: It's not enough to have all the right answers, to know the doctrines and the categories of faith. We must turn our hearts towards worship. Similarly, it's not enough to long for or expect a particular experience or feeling. The refrain, “I just don't get anything out of it” is no longer good enough. We must study, we must learn, and we must expect others in the church to do the same.

Informed worship is worship that transforms (cf. Rom. 12:1-2).

His love endures forever.” Think about that. Reflect on that. “His love endures forever.” There is only one God about whom we can say that. And that truth is worth singing about.

Lord God, connect my head, will, and heart in worship today. Help me to know you more and by that to worship you more every day. In Jesus’ name, Amen!