In its beginning and ending, the focus is on the transgressions, the godlessness, pride, corrupt and deceitful speech, and evil plotting of those who oppose God. A "dark" perspective of spiritual conflict in a fallen world frames this worship poem. Worship does not, like Polyanna, ignore or fantasize away the reality of evil. Nor should we be afraid to talk about it in frank terms. Too many who call themselves believers simply avoid the subject. The Book of Psalms will not allow that option.
However, in the central portion of the psalm is an entirely different point of view.
Your steadfast love, O Lord, extends to the heavens,Note the strong words that fill this section of Psalm 136: steadfast love, faithfulness, righteousness, judgments, refuge, abundance, delights, life, light, salvation. In the middle of this flawed and broken world, there is another reality--a light that shines in the darkness and enables us to see light. These words do not take us OUT of brutal reality. They sustain us in the midst of it. Furthermore, they send us out into its midst, that we may exhibit and proclaim these truths.
your faithfulness to the clouds.
Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains,
your judgements are like the great deep;
you save humans and animals alike, O Lord.
How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
All people may take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house,
and you give them drink from the river of your delights.
For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light we see light.
O continue your steadfast love to those who know you,
and your salvation to the upright of heart!
As you mark Advent, may you find that bright center amidst the darkness.