Psalm 136:16

 

EXPOSITION

Verse 16. To him which led his people through the wilderness. He led them into it, and therefore he was pledged to lead them through it. They were "his people", and yet they must go into the wilderness, and the wilderness must remain as barren as ever it was; but in the end they must come out of it into the promised land. God's dealings are mysterious, but they must be right, simply because they are his. The people knew nothing of the way, but they were led; they were a vast host, yet they were all led; there were neither roads nor tracks, but being led by unerring wisdom they never lost their way. He who brought them out of Egypt, also led them through the wilderness. By Moses, and Aaron, and Jethro, and the pillar of cloud he led them. What a multitude of mercies are comprehended in the conduct of such an enormous host through a region wherein there was no provision even for single travellers; yet the Lord by his infinite power and wisdom conducted a whole nation for forty years through a desert land, and their feet did not swell, neither did their garments wax old in all the journey.

For his mercy endureth for ever. Their conduct in the wilderness tested his mercy most severely, but it bore the strain; many a time he forgave them; and though he smote them for their transgressions, yet he waited to be gracious and speedily turned to them in compassion. Their faithfulness soon failed, but his did not: the fiery, cloudy pillar which never ceased to lead the van was the visible proof of his immutable love --

"For his, mercy, changing never,
Still endureth, sure for ever."

 

EXPLANATORY NOTES AND QUAINT SAYINGS

Verse 16. Led his people through the wilderness.

When Israel, of the Lord beloved,
Out of the land of bondage came,
Her father's God before her moved,
An awful guide, in smoke and flame.
By day, along the astonished lands,
The cloudy pillar glided slow;
By night Arabia's crimsoned sands
Returned the fiery columun's glow.

--Sir Walter Scott, 1771-1832.

Verse 16. He led his people through the wilderness. It was an astonishing miracle of God to support so many hundreds of thousands of people in a wilderness totally deprived of all necessaries for the life of man, and that for the space of forty years. --Adam Clarke.

Verse 16. He led his people through the wilderness, etc. It is a very sweet truth which is enunciated in this verse, and one which I think we need very much to realize. His own people, his peculiar people, his chosen, loved, and favoured ones, whom he cherished as the apple of his eye, who were graven on the palms of his hands, and loved with an everlasting love, even these he led through the wilderness; and all this because "His mercy endureth for ever." In another Psalm it is said, "He leadeth them beside the still waters, he maketh them to lie down in green pastures"; but the barren wilderness has no green pastures, the parched and arid desert has no still waters. And yet "in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert, and an highway shall be there; and the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads." "Who is this that cometh up from the wilderness, leaning upon her beloved?" It is one of the Lord's sweet truths that so perplex those that are without, but which are so full of consolation to his own children, that the wilderness and mercy are linked together of God in indissoluble union here. "I will allure her", saith the Lord, "and bring her into the wilderness, and speak comfortably unto her." -- Barton Bouchier.

Verse 16. Who led his people. Note that in what precedes this, in this verse itself, and in what follows, God's three ways of leading are set forth. He leads out, he leads through, and he leads into; out of sin, through the world, into heaven; out by faith, through by hope, into by love. --Michael Ayguan (1416), in Neale and Littledale.

 

HINTS FOR PASTORS AND LAYPERSONS

Verse 16.

  1. Personal care: "To him which led."
  2. Peculiar interest: "His people."
  3. Persevering goodness: "Through the wilderness."

Verse 16. Led through the Wilderness.

  1. God's people must enter the wilderness for trial, for self knowledge, for development of graces, for preparation for Canaan.
  2. God leads his people while in the wilderness. Their route, their provision, their discipline, their protection.
  3. God will bring his people out of the wilderness.

--C.A.D.