Revive Our Hearts Podcast

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A Repeated Refrain

Dannah Gresh: You know what? God loves you! Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth says we need to remember that His love is forever!

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth: We’re prone to forget that; we’re prone to doubt that it’s true. We get into life’s circumstances that make us think, Maybe God doesn’t really love me. And that’s why we need to counsel our hearts according to the truth again and again and again.

Dannah: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemth, author of Choosing Gratitude, for November 16, 2020. I’m Dannah Gresh. 

You know, Nancy, there aren’t a lot of things in life that are truly permanent. 

Nancy: Yes, Dannah, I’m thinking of these amazing Lake Michigan sunsets we get out here near where I live. I’ve got probably thousands of pictures of them on my phone, but if you’re out there seeing it live, it disappears way too quickly! You wish you could just get it to stay up there forever!

Dannah: And I feel small because, why am I thinking of hair color? (laughter)

Nancy: It’s called a “permanent!” 

Dannah: Yes, no, but it’s not! 

Nancy: Sometimes there are things we wish would last forever, and they don’t! Even things like friendships, they don’t always stand the test of time.

Dannah: Sad but true! This week we’ll hear about something that will endure forever.

Nancy: Yes, I can’t tell you how grateful I am—especially in this crazy year—for the steadfast love of the Lord! That does endure forever, no matter what is going on around us. And the series we’re going to be listening to this week and next was actually recorded last February, just before the pandemic hit, and just before Robert’s first cancer diagnosis.

We had no idea what lay ahead, but the Lord knew. He had planned to plant me in this passage just before we got all that news.

Dannah: God surely did know, Nancy, that all of us would be going through what we’re going through this year. That’s why I feel like this series based on Psalm 136 is just so timely. The truths we’ll explore are even more precious as we move toward the end of this very unusual year. Let’s listen. 

Nancy: I want to spend this week and next with you, soaking in my new favorite psalm (and whatever one I’m studying at the time is usually my favorite; this is my new favorite psalm). So let me encourage you if you’re where you can actually turn in your Bible or scroll on your phone, to find Psalm 136.

We’re just going to camp in this passage this week and next week, right up until Thanksgiving Day. This is a hymn in the Old Testament Jewish hymnal, the psalm book. It opens, as we’re going to see in a minute, with a call to give thanks to the Lord.

And then through the body of this psalm, it highlights God’s wonderful works in nature, His wonderful works in redeeming His people, and His wonderful works in preserving His people. He goes back through Israel’s history and shows the wonderful acts of God on behalf of His people.

And then as we come to the end of this psalm, as we will next week, it reminds us that not only did God show His steadfast love to the children of Israel back in the Old Testament days, but that we too, today, are objects of God’s steadfast love! And then it ends with one more call to give thanks to the Lord.

You may be here in the United States listening to this passage taught, so you’re thinking about Thanksgiving, but maybe you live in South Africa or South America or southern Ireland or somewhere else, and it’s not Thanksgiving where you are. Or maybe you live in the United States, but you’re listening to this podcast some time other than Thanksgiving season.

That’s okay, because this passage is a great one for any season, for any geographical location. It’s one that whether it’s summer, winter, spring, or fall is an important passage in our lives. The psalm has twenty-six verses, and in the next few minutes you’re going to memorize half of this psalm! (laughter) You are!

That’s because each verse has the same repeated refrain. In my Bible it says, “For His steadfast love endures forever.” There are some different translations, but that’s the one we’re going to use, the English Standard Version: “for His steadfast love endures forever.” And you’ll read that twenty-six times in this psalm. 

So by the time we’re done reading the psalm, you’re going to have half of it memorized. “For His steadfast love endures forever.” Can you just say that phrase with me? (ladies repeat)

Now this psalm was probably recited or sung antiphonally in the temple worship. What does “antiphonal” mean? It means one side says or sings a part and then the other side responds with the next part.

So maybe a group of priests would say the first part of each verse, and then another group of priests who were maybe on the other side of the courtyard would respond, “For His steadfast love endures forever.” Or maybe a worship leader would lead out and then the people who had come to worship would join in the refrain.

So we’re going to a moment here at the outset of this series to read the entire psalm together, at the end of which you will have half of it memorized. I’m going to encourage you to stand just as we give honor to the Word of God. I’m going to read the first part of each first, then I want you to be the choir and join me on the second part.

So let’s practice your line together: “For His steadfast love endures forever!” So let’s begin with Psalm 136, verse 1. This is the Word of the Lord!

Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever. 

Give thanks to the God of gods,
for his steadfast love endures forever. 

Give thanks to the Lord of lords,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
to him who alone does great wonders,
for his steadfast love endures forever; 

to him who by understanding made the heavens,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
to him who spread out the earth above the waters,
for his steadfast love endures forever; 

to him who made the great lights,
for his steadfast love endures forever;

the sun to rule over the day,
for his steadfast love endures forever; 

the moon and stars to rule over the night,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
to him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt,
for his steadfast love endures forever; 

and brought Israel out from among them,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
with a strong hand and an outstretched arm,
for his steadfast love endures forever; 

to him who divided the Red Sea in two,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
and made Israel pass through the midst of it,
for his steadfast love endures forever; 

but overthrew Pharaoh and his host in the Red Sea,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
to him who led his people through the wilderness,
for his steadfast love endures forever; 

to him who struck down great kings,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
and killed mighty kings,
for his steadfast love endures forever; 

Sihon, king of the Amorites,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
and Og, king of Bashan,
for his steadfast love endures forever; 

and gave their land as a heritage,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
a heritage to Israel his servant,
for his steadfast love endures forever. 

It is he who remembered us in our low estate,
for his steadfast love endures forever;
and rescued us from our foes,
for his steadfast love endures forever;

he who gives food to all flesh,
for his steadfast love endures forever. 

Give thanks to the God of heaven,
for his steadfast love endures forever. 

Amen! This is the Word of the Lord! You may be seated.

And so, Father, I ask that You would open our ears and our eyes and our hearts to the amazing gift of Your forever steadfast love! I pray it in Jesus’ name, amen.

Do you have a favorite worship chorus that you sing in your church? Maybe it’s one you sing a lot. You go to different churches, and there are different ones that they sing. There are some choruses that we sing in our church repeatedly, and I enjoy many of those.

Well, the “chorus” of Psalm 136, which we’ve just read together, is one of those favorites in the worship of the Old Testament Jews. It’s one they sang frequently. So the verse we just read in Psalm 136, verse 1, ”Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever,” is found many other places in the Old Testament. Let me give you several examples.

When David placed the Ark of the Covenant in a tent—the Tent of Meeting—1 Chronicles 16:7 tells us that, “David . . . appointed that thanksgiving be sung to the Lord by Asaph and his brothers.” Those were the worship leaders. Then there’s a whole passage that gives us the song that was sung in the worship, and as the sacrifices were offered up each morning and each evening.

And how does that song end? 1 Chronicles 16:34: “Oh give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for his steadfast love endures forever!” 

And then, when the ark was moved from that temporary tent to the newly constructed temple, 2 Chronicles 5:13 tells us that, “It was the duty of the trumpeters and singers to make themselves heard in unison in praise and thanksgiving to the Lord.” And what did they sing? “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.” 

And then comes that passage in 2 Chronicles 7:1 when Solomon’s temple was dedicated. Do you remember that, “Fire came down from heaven . . . the glory of the Lord filled” that house? 

That passage tells us,“They bowed down with their faces to the ground on the pavement and worshiped and gave thanks to the Lord” (v. 3). And what did they say? “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever.”

And then you come to 2 Chronicles chapter 20. You may remember this passage, when Jehoshaphat was the king of the southern nation of Judah, and the Ammonites were coming up against the Isrealites. The Israelites were hopelessly outnumbered!

They said to the Lord, “We have no idea what to do!” So God says, “Here’s a novel battle plan (this is my paraphrase): Put the choir at the front of the army!” How would you like to be in that choir?! (laughter) And the Scripture says that Jehoshaphat, “. . . appointed those who were to sing to the Lord and praise him in holy attire, as they went before the army” (v. 21).

And what song did they sing marching into that battle? “Give thanks to the Lord, for his steadfast love endures forever.” And as they praised the Lord, as they worshipped Him, as they gave thanks to Him, the Lord came down and supernaturally overcame those Ammonites in a massive defeat. The Lord gave the victory. It was impossible! But the Lord did the impossible!

You come to Jeremiah chapter 33, and the prophet Jeremiah here is talking about the destruction that Israel has suffered at the hands of the Babylonians. But he said that after the captivity, there’s going to be a return to the land and there’s going to be a restoration of the land. So he puts this hope before the people of God, that this captivity is not forever. There will be restoration! 

And then in Jeremiah 33, verse 10: “Thus says the Lord: In this place of which you say, ‘It is a waste without man or beast,’ in the cities of Judah and the streets of Jerusalem that are desolate, without man or inhabitant or beast, there shall be heard again the voice of mirth and the voice of gladness . . . the voices of those who sing, as they bring thank offerings to the house of the Lord.”

And what is the worship chorus Jeremiah says they will sing in that day? “Give thanks to the Lord of hosts, for the Lord is good, for his steadfast love endures forever!” See, this was a familiar chorus to the Old Testament Jews. 

I think about Ezra chapter 3 when the exiles returned to Jerusalem, as God had promised they would. And one of the first things they did was set out to rebuild the temple that had been destroyed. And when the foundation of the temple—the new temple—had been laid, Ezra 3:11 tells us, “They sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the Lord.” And what did they sing? “For he is good, for his steadfast love endures forever toward Israel.” 

Ladies, this is a chorus for the people of God on all occasions! It’s intended to be affirmed, proclaimed, shared, sung, and most importantly, believed—not just individually, but corporately. This is our song, not just their song!

Now, each of these twenty-six verses repeats that chorus, “His steadfast love endures forever.” And if we could read the minds of some people when they first hear this psalm, it might be that their initial reaction is, “Wow! That’s a lot of repetition! Is all that repetition necessary?” 

And when you’re reading the Scripture and you come to a passage like this that has a repeated phrase over and over and over again, what’s the tendency? To kind of skip over it, to gloss over it, maybe even to think, This is kind of boring!

Well, the other day I got an email from a friend who knew I was getting ready to teach on this psalm and this friend wrote and said to me (and I’m sharing this with permission from my friend), 

There was a time when I pridefully made fun of a certain genre of worship songs. I thought they were too repetitive. I jokingly referred to them as, “7-11 songs. We sing the same seven words eleven times!

I started reading my Bible more carefully. I realized that God repeats Himself . . . a lot! I realized that He frequently tells me not to forget things. I remembered that I do forget things. I realized that even heavenly worship involves repeating over and over, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty!”

Do you remember in Revelation 4:8 it says day and night they cease not to say this? That’s pretty repetitive! This friend said, 

I realized that sometimes it takes saying or singing something seventeen times (or in the case of Psalm 136, twenty-six times!—many times) before it starts to sink into my thick skull!” [I didn’t say that about him; he said that about himself.]

As I read the book of Psalms, the only truly Holy Spirit inspired hymnal, I found many places where a phrase or a concept is turned over and over, like examining the facets of a sparkling diamond!

[He ended by saying,] To me, the recurring refrain in Psalm 136 captures the beauty of worship-filled, meaningful repetition like no other psalm does—with the possible exception of Psalm 119, where almost every verse refers to the Word of God.

I stopped making fun of repetition in worship songs, choosing instead to focus my own heart on the task at hand . . . not critiquing a song, but extolling my Creator!” 

I thought that was such a good word!

You know, repetition is an important and powerful learning tool. That’s how you teach your children, right? That’s how they learn their multiplication tables; that’s how they learn to read; that’s how they learn to remember important things. You tell them over and over and over again. Repetition is important.

This psalm tells me that we need to keep reminding ourselves that the steadfast love of the Lord endures forever. Why do we need to keep reminding ourselves? Because we forget! We’re prone to forget that; we’re prone to doubt that it’s true. 

We tend to get into life’s circumstances that make us think, Maybe God doesn’t really love me. That’s why we need to counsel our hearts according to the truth again and again and again, and Psalm 136 reminds us of that: “The steadfast love of the Lord endures forever!”

This week and next we’re going to soak in this passage verse-by-verse, looking at it from every different direction, over and over from many different angles, as you would a precious jewel. And by the end of this time, by the end of this series, my hope is that this chorus—“The steadfast love of the Lord endures forever”—will be indelibly imprinted, branded, on your mind and in your heart; so that you will bring it up in the various circumstances and situations that you face in your life today and tomorrow, and the next day and next week and next month and next year. . .and for the rest of your life! “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His steadfast love endures forever!” 

When you look at a beautiful sunset, when you see the stars filling the night sky, when you gaze up at a full moon, I want you to remember this chorus: “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His steadfast love endures forever!”

I want this to become your last thought when you pillow your head at night and your first thought when you wake up in the morning (or as I often do, in the middle of the night). And what’s that thought? “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His steadfast love endures forever!”

When there are times that you may doubt your salvation or when you sin—again—or when you’re struggling with a temptation or when you feel unloved or you’re acting unlovable, I want this chorus to recalibrate your heart! Say it with me: “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His steadfast love endures forever!”

And when you’re wondering how you’re going to buy groceries next week or pay your mounting medical bills or put your kids through college, let this become your go-to response: “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His steadfast love endures forever!”

When you’re elated and celebrating a momentous occasion and when you’re anxious or depressed or in despair and your eyes are filled with tears, I want you to sing this chorus: “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His steadfast love endures forever!”

And when your son or your daughter or grandchild is away from home blowing his or her mind on drugs, and when your marriage is hanging by a thread or when you feel that you will never have a marriage and that you may always be alone,I want you to cling to this verse: “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His steadfast love endures forever!”

When you’re trying to console a friend whose world is falling apart, this is the perspective I want you to have deep in your heart: “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His steadfast love endures forever!” 

We’re going to say that a lot of times over these next days. You’re going to hear it a lot of times, you’re going to say it a lot of times with me. 

If you’re not in this room today—you’re listening to this podcast or this broadcast, maybe down the road, I want you to join with us in making this your chorus: “Give thanks to the Lord, for He is good; for His steadfast love endures forever!” Would you pray with me?

O Lord, You are good and Your steadfast love does endure forever! This is our anchor; this is our hope; this is our hope in the midst of every storm. And this is the chorus that will keep our minds and our hearts at peace when despair threatens to overwhelm us. 

So burrow these words, burrow these truths deep down into our hearts as we meditate on them, as we counsel our hearts according to this truth. May they change our lives and lead us to a thankful life—a life of thanksgiving—for You are good and Your steadfast love endures forever! We pray it in Jesus’ name, amen!

Dannah: Amen! Remembering the focus of Psalm 136 changes the way we view all of life’s circumstances. “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; for His steadfast love endures forever!” That was Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth starting off our series with an overview of this passage of Scripture we’ll be examining this week and next.

Nancy: And throughout this program, you heard some women who were in the audience that day joining me in affirming this steadfast, permanent truth. Now, we recorded this series of messages earlier in 2020 before the social distancing days, when we were still able to record with a live audience.

On that cold Michigan day in February, as we joined together in that room, there was no way we could have known how challenging 2020 was about to become!

Dannah: And Nancy, for some in the Revive Our Hearts family—like you—there have been personal difficulties beyond the challenges that we’re facing as a world, together.

Nancy: Yes, as I mentioned earlier, Robert has had two different, unrelated, cancer diagnoses this year. And he’s in the middle of chemo treatments as we head into this holiday season. But what a blessing it is, now, to be reminded again that God’s steadfast endures forever!

Dannah: Nancy, you and Robert truly have demonstrated that you believe that truth, and I have had a front row seat to that, as have many of our friends who are following you on social media. In this series you talk about why our hearts need to be reminded over and over again about the truth of God’s Word.

It turns out, repetition can be really good for us! Speaking of which, you say this phrase pretty often: “Heaven rules!”

Nancy: I sure do! Robert and I have said that to each other and to others hundreds—probably thousands—of times this year. We’ve looked at the news during the political season, during the pandemic, through our own health challenges; we keep looking at each other and saying, “Heaven rules. Heaven rules!” And that truth has been such an anchor for our hearts in this stormy year!

Dannah: Those two simple words can surely change the outlook on every situation once it gets ingrained in our minds and in our hearts. And this year, the 2021 calendar from Revive Our Hearts will help us do just that. With the theme of, “Heaven Rules!” you can intentionally remind yourself that God is in control of every part of your life!

What seems like a hopeless situation or a difficult future, no plan of His can be thwarted. He is on the throne! Each month of this calendar we’ll provide you with a quote from Nancy and a coordinating Scripture to dwell on.

Nancy: This year we decided to put the theme “Heaven Rules!” on every page of the calendar! So every day throughout the year, this will be a visual reminder in front of your face—in front of your family—that heaven rules! I’m holding this calendar in my hands. It is gorgeous! In fact, I think this is my favorite calendar of all the ones we’ve produced over twenty years!

You’re going to love the artwork that my friend, Ginny Graham, did for this calendar—the calligraphy, the design. You can check out the designs for every month at ReviveOurHearts.com. Dannah, I would love for every one of our listeners to have this calendar hanging in their home throughout the year ahead, as I think it’s going to be a great source of encouragement for whatever 2021 may bring.

Dannah: We would sure love to send you this calendar! It’s our way of saying “thanks” when you support the ministry this month with a donation of any size. And let me remind you that when you support the work of Revive Our Hearts, you’re making it possible for us to continue reaching women all over the world with the truth of the gospel.

Visit ReviveOurHearts.com to make your donation or call us at 1–800–569–5959 and be sure to ask for the 2021 wall calendar.

Nancy: Do you ever have a hard time believing that God really is good? Tomorrow we’ll talk about giving thanks to the Lord even when you can’t see His goodness! Please be back for Revive Our Hearts.

Revive Our Hearts with Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth wants to remind you of God’s steadfast love! It’s an outreach of Life Action Ministries.

*Offers available only during the broadcast of the podcast season.

About the Speaker

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through Revive Our Hearts and the True Woman movement, calling them to heart revival and biblical womanhood. Her love …

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