Psalm 136 (Psalms on the Trail)

Psalm 136

“Give thanks to the Lord of Lords, for God’s mercy endures forever; 

who alone does great wonders, for God’s mercy endures forever, 

who brought out Israel from Egypt’s midst, for God’s mercy endures forever, 

who  divided the Red Sea in two, for God’s mercy endures forever;

and made Israel to pass through the middle, for God’s mercy endures forever….”

Psalm 136: 3-4, 11-14

When the AT traverses these rocks on a narrow ridge surrounded on either side by a curve of the Susquehanna River, I walk over history—more like geological history since I can’t imagine many hunters or native peoples of the last dozen or so centuries have spent much time up here unless checking out bear dens in the crevices of these ancient boulders.  In its more recent 75 year history, these stones have born the scrambling (and cursing) of AT hikers suffering through the infamous Pennsylvania rocks.

This ancient psalm recounts God’s work in creation and then Israel’s history in the Torah while, after each new recounting, it invites the people to respond “for God’s mercy endures forever.”  Call and response.  Simple music.  Everybody gets involved.  The Hebrew people sing and learn what God has done in their history.

While I appreciate this psalm as it is, I want to add my experience to it,  to join in with what more we know that God has done in history.  Give thanks to the God of gods, (“for God’s mercy endures forever”), whose healing grace reaches me through Jesus Christ (“for God’s mercy endures forever”).  Who conquered death through Christ’s resurrection (“for God’s mercy endures forever”).  Whose Spirit  dwells within me through baptism into Christ (“for God’s mercy endures forever”). Who calls me  to share the good news, loving God and neighbor through word and deed (“for God’s mercy endures forever”).

Or let’s get more personal.  Give thanks to the Lord of Lords (“for God’s mercy endures forever”), who breaks through my fear on these rocks (“for God’s mercy endures forever”), who gives me courage to move forward (“for God’s mercy endures forever”), and gives me humility to ask for help (“for God’s mercy endures forever”), who fills me with wonder for creation (“for God’s mercy endures forever”) and joy in being alive (“for God’s mercy endures forever”); who nudged me to walk in a LGBTQ vigil-march for the people in Orlando (“for God’s mercy endures forever”); who guides strangers in the coffee shop to come up to me and ask for prayer (‘for God’s mercy endures forever”).

Now it’s your turn.  What would you add to this psalm? Write your own verses.  I know you have ideas….we’ve wrestled with 136 of these psalms now.  They are beginning to belong to us.  Only 14 left to go.


1. Read the verses and reflect on their meaning for you.  What difference does it make that Christ chose you rather than the other way around?

2. Or read Psalm 136 and see how these verse fits into the whole.

3. Or comment with a photo of your own that is a window of this psalm’s meaning for you.

The next post will be on Psalm 137.

Starting January 1, 2016, for 150 days I am posting a daily psalm verse with a photo that is a visual meditation on the text for me.  Each day a verse from the next psalm is chosen until all 150 psalms have been featured.   To participate you may subscribe to my blog at or “friend” me on Facebook and watch for the daily links to blog posts.  Disclaimer:  I am not a photographer and most of the photos are from a cell phone or small camera while hiking the Appalachian Trail or the C&O Canal/Great Allegheny Passage Trail.