To him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt His love endures forever. Psalm 136:10
When Walt Disney’s Bambi was re-released, moms and dads relived childhood memories with their sons and daughters. A young mother, whose husband was an avid outdoorsman with an impressive trophy room, was one of those parents. With her little ones at her side, she experienced with them the gasp and groan of the moment when Bambi lost his mother to a hunter. To this day she’s reminded at family gatherings of her embarrassment when, in all innocence, her little boy shouted out in the theater, “Nice shot!”
In time, we laugh at the embarrassing things our children say. But what are we to say when the people of Psalm 136 do something similar? Israel, God’s chosen and rescued people, celebrate a love that endures for all creation and for themselves—but not for their enemies. The psalm sings the praises of “him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt” (v. 10; see also Exodus 12:29–30).
Doesn’t that sound a bit like a shout of “nice shot” at the expense of someone else’s mother, sister, father, brother?
That’s why we need the rest of the story. Only when the lights come up in the resurrection of Jesus can the whole world be invited into the joy of one family’s stories, tears, and laughter. Only when we receive Jesus as our Savior and are made alive in Him can we share the wonder of a God who loves everyone—at His own expense.
What reason is given twenty-six times for this song? What lyrics show that the heart of God reaches beyond those who sing the words?
Unseen Father, thank You for giving me reasons to believe that Your vision and love for all are better and wider than my love for myself and my own.
Psalms 135 and 136 share several similarities. Both praise God for His amazing creation (135:6–7; 136:4–9). Both outline God’s role in preserving His people when the Israelites escaped slavery in Egypt (135:8–9; 136:10–15). And both recall Israel entering the Promised Land and God’s hand in eradicating the pagan kings who opposed the Hebrews (135:10–12; 136:17–22). The overarching theme of these psalms is that God alone is the one true God (135:5, 13; 136:1–3, 26), and He alone merits our praise.
Psalm 136 is antiphonal; that is, part of the congregation was to sing the first line while the other half responded with “His love endures forever.” The pattern repeats itself in every verse of the psalm. Singing of God’s goodness to us—especially with other believers—reminds us of His character and inclines our emotions to reflect our gratitude to Him.