PSALM 114 TALK: HALLELUJAH – GOD LEADS HIS PEOPLE OUT OF BONDAGE BY HIS POWERFUL PRESENCE

PSALM 114 TALK:  HALLELUJAH – GOD LEADS HIS PEOPLE OUT OF BONDAGE BY HIS

                                                                      POWERFUL PRESENCE

 (This Psalm is part of a series of Psalms that are called The Hallelujah Songs and this Psalm is one of two, 113 and 114, that were said or sung before the Jewish Passover Festival and the two following, 115 and 116 were said and sung after the passover festival. This Psalm does not contain the Jewish word “Hallelujah” but it is a word of praise that features how God intervened in history with his special powerful presence to lead his people out of bondage in Egypt and into the Promised land of Israel).

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INTRODUCTION

 In January 1936, a school girl named Phyllis wrote a short letter to Albert Einstein, who is probably one of the greatest scientific minds of the 20th century. Phyllis asked Einstein “Do scientists pray, and what do they pray for?

Albert Einstein’s reply is as follows,

Dear Phyllis, 

 I will attempt to reply to your question as simply as I can. Here is my answer:

 Scientists believe that every occurrence, including the affairs of human beings, is due to the laws of nature. Therefore, a scientist cannot be inclined to believe that the course of events can be influenced by prayer, that is, by a supernaturally manifested wish.

 However, we must concede that our actual knowledge of these forces is imperfect, so that in the end the belief in the existence of a final, ultimate spirit rests on a kind of faith. Such belief remains widespread even with the current achievements in science. 

 But also, everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that some spirit is manifest in the laws of the universe, one that is vastly superior to that of man. In this way the pursuit of science leads to a religious feeling of a special sort, which is surely quite different from the religiosity of someone more naive. 

 With cordial greetings, 

 your A. Einstein

Einstein is said to have had what is called a Deist view of God and this has been explained to me by a woman named Catherine Giordano who wrote an article in June 2017 entitled, “What was Einstein’s Religion? Deist? Pantheist? Humanist? Atheist? she writes quoting Albert Einstein first and then explaining what he is saying,

“I believe in Spinoza’s God who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with fates and actions of human beings.”

 Spinoza’s god was a deist god, a “God of Nature,” a “Prime Mover,” who set the universe in motion, but then no longer concerned Himself with it. Einstein often speaks of a “cosmic religion”—he describes himself as religious because he is in awe of the universe and the spirit that he perceives to have created it and is imbued in it”.

 The Deist view of God is very popular today and so too is the Atheist view which is to argue that there is no God and that all we see and know and even don’t know about the life and the universe came about by a miraculous accident of evolution.

Psalm 114 speaks directly against these two false views of God as Psalm 114 presents clearly that God is there and that he has concerned himself with the fates and actions of human beings because he got involved in human history and led his special people, Israel out of their bondage in Egypt and successfully into his promised land for them known originally as Canaan but became known as Israel.

God achieved this by using his great and almighty power to do things like divide the waters of a sea so his people could cross, made a mountain tremble and smoke as he came close to it, made water come out of a rock to provide water for his people in a desert and stopped the waters of the river Jordan so his people could cross to go into his promised land and conquer it.

Allan Harmon sums up what this Psalm has to say and how it was composed by saying,

“This Psalm uses vivid poetic images to show how the creator used the forces of nature to achieve his purposes”.

 Psalm 114 and 113 are said to be part of the “Hallelujah Songs”  (Psalms 111 – 118) and also part of the Egyptian Hallel Psalms (113 – 116) used as part of the Passover celebrations and 114 and 113 have been sung by Jews for centuries before the Passover meal and 115 and 116 sung after the Passover meal.

Psalm 114 does not contain the Hebrew word “Hallelujah” but it is still a praise of the Hebrew God who is called “Yahweh” particularly when he used Moses to lead his people, Israel out of Egypt and up to the Promised land and then under the leadership of Joshua into the Promised Land.

Psalm 114 tells us very clearly that God is there and he is, has been and will be involved in our world. As Christians, we will see what I call parallels between the Jewish Passover, God leading his people out of slavery in Egypt and into his presence in his Promised land in Israel and The Lord Jesus Christ through the Easter message leading us out of the slavery of sin and into his presence ultimately into his eternal dwelling place called heaven.

Leopold quotes Martin Luther’s application of this Psalm with these words,

“We on our part sing this psalm daily to praise Christ, who leads us out of death and sin, through the midst of the raging’s of the world, the flesh, and the devil into life eternal”.

 It is not a coincidence that Jesus died for our sins on the cross at the time of the Jewish Passover celebrations as his death and resurrection is God’s direct involvement in human history like the original Passover to lead those who put their trust in his son and what he has done for them out of the slavery of sin and into his eternal presence which is heaven for all true believers.

We do not know when this Psalm was first written although the special reference to Judah becoming God’s sanctuary places its composition after Israel became divided into two Kingdoms, Israel in the north and Judah in the south. However, we know that this Psalm was placed in the fifth and final book of Psalms after the return from exile. The Psalm would have spoken to the Jews of that time on a number of levels.

Similar to God leading his people out of the bondage of slavery in Egypt they had recently saw how God acting through actual history of their times and led them out of cruel captivity in Babylon and back into the Promised Land of Israel.

The Psalm would also had given the Jews of the post Babylonian exile hope and more reasons for faith as they struggled back in Israel to re-establish their Land and Jerusalem their holy capitol. It was not an easy time for the post Babylonian captives in Israel as they faced the hardship of local non – Jewish opposition and a land and city of Jerusalem totally smashed and destroyed by the Babylonian invasion but their God is high and mighty and is described in verse 7 this way,

“Tremble earth, at the presence of the Lord at the presence of the God of Jacob”.

 With the theme of Praise the God (Hallelujah) who leads his people out of bondage of slavery by his powerful presence my outline for this Psalm follows the simple four, two verse structure of this Psalm:

  1. (1 – 2)      OUT OF EGYPT AND INTO GOD’S PRESENCE
  1. (vs. 1) Out of Egypt’s bondage
  2. (vs. 2) Into God’s Presence
  1. (3 – 4). GOD’S PRESENCE MADE THE SEA AND RIVER FLEE AND THE MOUNTAINS

                         LEAP

  1. (vs. 3) God’s presence made the sea and river flee
  2. (vs. 4). God’s presence made the mountains leap
  1. (5 – 6) WHY DID THE SEA, RIVER FLEE AND THE MOUNTAINS LEAP?
  1. (vs. 5) Why did the sea and river flee?
  2. (vs. 6). Why did the mountains leap?
  1. (6 – 7) GOD’S PRESENCE IS POWERFUL
  1. (vs. 7) God’s presence makes the earth tremble
  2. (vs. 8) God’s presence is powerful and provides his people’s needs
  1. (1 – 2)      OUT OF EGYPT AND INTO GOD’S PRESENCE
  1. (vs. 1) Out of Egypt’s bondage

 This Psalm considered to be part of the “Hallelujah Songs” neither starts with “Hallelujah” or finishes with it yet it vibrates with reasons for praise all through it.

It starts with the words,

“When Israel went out of Egypt.”

 Spurgeon aptly writes,

“The song begins with a burst, as if the poetic fury could not be restrained, but overleaped all bounds. The soul elevated and filled with: a sense of divine glory cannot wait to fashion a preface, but springs at once into the middle of its theme”.

 Israel could only come out of that bondage of that all-powerful super power of its day because a far greater super power enabled it to. Allan Harmon points out that the expression,

“Out of Egypt”

 “Was almost a standard expression”

 He then gives us six times we find this expression in the early books of the bible, four in Deuteronomy, 4: 45 – 46 / 22: 4 / 24: 9 and 25: 17 and two in the book of Joshua, 2: 10 and 5: 45.

The infant nation of Israel called here Jacob, as Jacob who became Israel was this nations founder was called out of Egypt a nation much larger and greater who the Israelites found spoke a,

“foreign tongue”

 This implies that the Egyptian language was unintelligible to the people of Israel and God had to work a small miracle for their future leader Moses to be brought up in Egyptian culture and language so that Moses in his later life could converse with Pharaoh to ask him to let his people go and when he did not comply tell him what God would do to his land and eventually to his family.

I recently returned from Myanmar where many different languages are spoken and know first-hand the difficulties one has when trying to communicate to people who don’t speak your language and you don’t speak theirs.

One day I got dropped off in a local market near where I was staying and when I tried to catch a bus back to my hotel I could not find anyone who could speak English and I ended up getting in a taxi and went the opposite way to my hotel. Once I realised I was lost and could not communicate to the taxi driver I prayed to God for help.

Soon after I prayed the taxi driver stopped at a taxi stand in a small town and got out and spoke with some other taxi drivers. I had an iPad picture of my Hotel and one of the other taxi drivers put the name of the hotel in his phone and through the help of google maps he took me back to my hotel safely still unable to speak to me I thanked him but he probably didn’t even know I was thanking him such is the problem of not speaking the local language.

I thought after my 2 hour trip that should have only taken 15 minutes if I was going the right way that as Christians Peter tells us we are living as foreigners and exiles in this world, 1 Peter 2: 11 and therefore, spiritually we are not thinking and at times speaking the same as the general population who don’t know the Lord and his word and therefore like I felt in that taxi in Myanmar, lost and frustrated by my inability to communicate, so I often we feel the same when living for the Lord in this spiritually foreign or alien world that is speaking, spiritually a foreign language.

Peters advice of how we should live in this fallen Godless world is the next verse, 1 Peter 2: 12,

“Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us”.

 So, God’s people needed God’s power intervening for them to be able to come out of the land of slavery called Egypt in which they lived as aliens and strangers not even able to communicate to them because they spoke a different language and believed in a different view of God, so unlike the multi God views of their Egyptian slave masters.

As I said in my introduction the Passover is linked with the work of Christ’s salvation through his death on the cross which is the central message of Easter celebrated at the same time as the Jews celebrate Passover.

All the New Testament writers saw the significance of Christ death for our sins on the cross and how that act of the power and love of God in real time history freed us from what Paul calls the law of sin and death, he speaks powerfully of this in Romans 8: 1 – 4,

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death. For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit”.

 So, I will remind you again of how Martin Luther saw how this Psalm relates to the Christian,

“We on our part sing this psalm daily to praise Christ, who leads us out of death and sin, through the midst of the raging’s of the world, the flesh, and the devil into life eternal”.

  1. (vs. 2) Into God’s Presence

 Where did God lead them to when he brought his people out of Egypt the land of bondage and slavery?

The answer to that question is contained in verse 2,

“Judah became God’s sanctuary, Israel his dominion”.

 Alan Harmon points out that this Psalm,

“Gives a very condensed account and telescopes events together that happened many years apart”.

 Here in verse 2 we have an excellent example of this as this verse speaks of not only the Exodus but the conquest of Canaan and the setting up of the sanctuary in Jerusalem all in the simple verse of,

“Judah became God’s sanctuary, Israel his dominion”.

 The place God led his people to when he leads them out of the bondage or slavery of Egypt was ultimately the promised land of Israel which the verse calls,

“His dominion”

 But more than that it looks forward from coming out of Egypt to the conquest of the land of Canaan to become Israel and then setting up of God’s sanctuary in Jerusalem given to the tribe of Judah, with the words,

“Judah became God’s sanctuary”

 God gave Moses the law on Mount Sinai and in giving this law he set up with Israel a covenant of love which he told Moses to explain to the people this way in Exodus 19: 4 – 6,

“You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.”

 The nation of Israel living in the land of Israel will be a nation of priests as God will dwell with them in a special way on earth. In Jerusalem in Israel which is part of the tribe of Judah was a special place called “The Sanctuary” later to become “The Temple” and from there God will tell them and the world his word as there he dwelt or is present with his people. We know from many other bible verses that from Jerusalem God will send out his message of love and salvation to the world, as we read in passages like Isaiah 2: 2 – 3,

“In the last days, the mountain of the Lord’s temple will be established as the highest of the mountains; it will be exalted above the hills, and all nations will stream to it. Many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the temple of the God of Jacob.

He will teach us his ways, so that we may walk in his paths.” The law will go out from Zion, the word of the Lord from Jerusalem”.

 Again, it is not just a coincidence that Jesus died and rose and ascended in Jerusalem and he sent his disciples out from Jerusalem with the saving Gospel message to the world. In Acts 1: 8 Jesus gives his disciples this charge,

“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.”

Note how the power to fulfil this great charge does not come from themselves but from the indwelling of God’s special presence in the person of the Holy Spirit in his disciple.

In AD 70 God worked through the Roman invasion of Jerusalem to destroy the Temple in Jerusalem to never be built again.

Paul taught even before AD 70 that we are now God’s Temple the Church and we are all kind of mini Temples or places of God’s special dwellings moving out and living in all the world, 1 Corinthians 6: 19 – 20,

“Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; 20 you were bought at a price. Therefore, honour God with your bodies”. 

  1. (3 – 4). GOD’S PRESENCE MADE THE SEA AND RIVER FLEE AND THE MOUNTAINS

                         LEAP

  1. (vs. 3) God’s presence made the sea and river flee

 The book of Exodus speaks of God going before his people in power and might this is again condensed in this Psalm as Allan Harmon says,

“Telescoped events together that happened many years apart”.

 The Psalmist also uses the poetic devise of personifying inanimate objects in nature that God caused to do miraculous things through in order to save his people and lead them out of Egypt and into the land of Israel. Sea, river, mountains are spoken of as though they are living people with legs to run away and leap like rams.

In verse three the writer personifies the red sea and the river Jordan and writes,

“The sea looked and fled, the Jordan turned back”

 The book of Exodus makes it clear that God’s presence went before his people day and night as he led them out of Egypt as we read in Exodus 13: 21 – 22,

“By day the Lord went ahead of them in a pillar of cloud to guide them on their way and by night in a pillar of fire to give them light, so that they could travel by day or night. 22 Neither the pillar of cloud by day nor the pillar of fire by night left its place in front of the people”.

 So, verse 3 of Psalm 114 now speaks of the first great specific intervention of God the Creator of the Universe getting involved in this world and changing the natural laws that govern our universe to bring about salvation for his people.

This miraculous event is the parting of the red sea that is described poetically in Psalm 114 verse 3a as,

“The sea looked and fled”

 The Exodus account speaks of this miracle this way in Exodus 14: 15 – 16,

“Then the Lord said to Moses, “Why are you crying out to me? Tell the Israelites to move on. 16 Raise your staff and stretch out your hand over the sea to divide the water so that the Israelites can go through the sea on dry ground”.

 Moses of course raised his staff and that staff, I believe represented the very presence of the God of the universe and the sea obeyed his command and parted. If the sea was a person, the Psalmist says it got up and ran away from the presence of God.

I will always remember the first time i saw the movie, The Ten Commandments and that amazing scene in the movie when Charlton Heston, a very convincing Moses, stands on a large rock at the edge of a sea and raises his staff and the sea divides in half and the Israelites walk through the gap in the sea to the other side.

I was around 17 or 18 and had backslidden from the Lord and was in a car with someone my non- Christian mates at a drive-in theatre. My mates had fallen asleep as we had come to the drive-in theatre straight from the beach that day and we were all very tied. Somehow, I was wide awake and yelling out to my mates, “wake up, wake up you have got to see this, it is amazing”.

Even as a backslidden Christian I was caused to think thoughts of wonder that  if this actually happened what a powerful God the God of the bible must be. Of course, modern scholars even so called Christian ones argue this is a made-up story and that archaeology and modern reason says this is nothing more than a fairy-tale. Yet Israel still exists today and their history is one of a series of amazing so called powerful fairy tales that has helped preserve what has always been humanly speaking a tiny insignificant nation.

Like the Atheist view that everything came out of nothing by accident the only reasonable explanation for Israel a tiny nation that came form so called nowhere is that God interviewed in human history and made and saved this people so that through them he could send his Son to save people from every nation on earth from the consequences of their sins.

 Then verse 3 says,

“The Jordan turned back”

 Again, an inanimate object, the river Jordan is personified and given a body that now is said to have turned back. The miracle of the blocking of the waters of the Jordan obviously upstream from where the people of Israel crossed happened not in the quiet and peaceful time of the rivers cycle but at a time of floods as Joshua 3: 14 – 16 says,

“So, when the people broke camp to cross the Jordan, the priests carrying the ark of the covenant went ahead of them. 15 Now the Jordan is at flood stage all during harvest. Yet as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, 16 the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away, at a town called Adam in the vicinity of Zarethan, while the water flowing down to the Sea of the Arabah (that is, the Dead Sea) was completely cut off. So, the people crossed over opposite Jericho”.

 Note the perfect timing of this miracle as it was as the priests carrying the ark of the covenant feet touched the water’s edge the river stopped flowing. The Ark of the Covenant is a symbol of the presence of the Lord so the river in verse 2b of Psalm 114 turned back or stopped flowing in the presence of the Lord of the universe.

Many miracles in the bible could be explained by natural phenomenon but even if God used natural phenomena to perform the miracle it is still a miracle because of the timing as the river turned back or stopped flowing when the feet of the priests carrying the Ark of the Covenant stepped on the edge of the river.

Modern thinkers, like even Albert Epstein do not believe the laws of nature can be changed so that miracles can happen but I argue that why can’t the one who invented and set in place those laws of nature not alter or change them if he so desires to do so.

It would seem that God generally works through the laws of nature he has set in place but sometimes God does intervene in this world and our lives to perform what we call a miracle. I know personally many people who have been told by doctors that nothing humanly speaking can be done for them when they were very sick or badly injured but in some cases the doctors have said all you can do now is pray.

Pray they did and it turned out that God does intervene sometimes to save and heal people even the doctors had to admit that their recovery could only be explained by a miracle of God.

I saw this in the case of a young man named Vince who mocked his brother Peter years ago for being a Christian when I attended a youth fellowship group Peter was part of.

Vince was smashed up in a terrible car accident in which his young fiancé was tragically killed. Vince’s right leg was so badly broken the doctors gave him no chance of keeping it but his brother Peter and our young fellowship group prayed for a miracle.

Vince’s leg was in plaster and within 3 months his leg healed up as though it was only basic brake and this led Vince to the Lord and he became a strong and committed follower of the Lord.

Sceptical non-believers will say this is impossible but we must remember the words of our Lord when he said in Luke 18: 27,

“What is impossible with man is possible with God.”

 So, I say to the sceptical unbeliever to have faith in God and take up the challenge David gives us in Psalm 34: 8a,

“Taste and see that the Lord is good”. 

  1. (vs. 4). God’s presence made the mountains leap

 Then this personification of inanimate objects continues with mountains leaping in verse 4,

“The mountains leaped like rams, the hills like lambs”.

 I like part of Spurgeon’s explanation of this verse,

“Men fear the mountains, but the mountains tremble before the Lord. Sheep and lambs move lightly in the meadows; but the hills, which we are wont to call eternal, were as readily made to move as the most active creatures”.

 Verse 4 is an obvious poetic reference to the coming of the Lord of the universe on Mount Sinai recorded in Exodus 19: 16 – 19,

“On the morning of the third day there was thunder and lightning, with a thick cloud over the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast. Everyone in the camp trembled. 17 Then Moses led the people out of the camp to meet with God, and they stood at the foot of the mountain. 18 Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the Lord descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, and the whole mountain trembled violently. 19 As the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and the voice of God answered him”.

 The description here says that when the God of the universe descended on the mountain it not only was covered in smoke and fire but it, “Trembled” meaning it shook violently and this is what the writer calls the mountain, leaping like a ram or a sheep. I have seen on my occasional trips to the country sheep leaping and for the people of bible times this would have been a powerful poetic image.

God is presented here as being so powerful that seemingly immovable objects like mountains just tremble or leap around in the presence of the Lord.

This again fly’s in the face of the Deist who says that God is distant and not involved in our world now. God is active and alive in this world as Psalm 95: 3 – 5 declares,

“For the Lord is the great God, the great King above all gods. 4  In his hand are the depths of the earth, and the mountain peaks belong to him. 5  The sea is his, for he made it, and his hands formed the dry land”.

 God is mighty and powerful in creation and in upholding the earth and the entire universe and so is the mighty in salvation as Psalm 96: 1 – 6 declares,

Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. 2 Sing to the Lord, praise his name; proclaim his salvation day after day. 3 Declare his glory among the nations, his marvellous deeds among all peoples. 4  For great is the Lord and most worthy of praise; he is to be feared above all gods. 5 For all the gods of the nations are idols, but the Lord made the heavens. 6 Splendour and majesty are before him; strength and glory are in his sanctuary”.

We as Christians proclaim a great message that can and has changed this world and it does this by influencing and changing the individuals in this world who accept the Gospel meagre of Jesus Christ and turn to him as Paul speaks of in 2 Corinthians 2: 14 – 17,

“But thanks be to God, who always leads us as captives in Christ’s triumphal procession and uses us to spread the aroma of the knowledge of him everywhere. 15 For we are to God the pleasing aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing. 16 To the one we are an aroma that brings death; to the other, an aroma that brings life. And who is equal to such a task? 17 Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, as those sent from God”.

 The leaping of the mountains, those seemingly immovable objects of nature remind me of the story of the lame bigger who asks Peter for money and Peter heals through the power and presence of the Lord Jesus Christ at one of the Temple gates and we read this in Acts 3: 6 – 10,

“Then Peter said, “Silver or gold I do not have, but what I do have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, walk.” Taking him by the right hand, he helped him up, and instantly the man’s feet and ankles became strong. He jumped to his feet and began to walk. Then he went with them into the temple courts, walking and jumping, and praising God. When all the people saw him walking and praising God, 10 they recognised him as the same man who used to sit begging at the temple gate called Beautiful, and they were filled with wonder and amazement at what had happened to him”.

 Sceptics again might say this simply does not happen today but remember my true story of Vince who God healed his right leg miraculously and he was a modern example of how faith in the Lord Jesus Christ can heal us and cause us to leap or jump in praise of our Lord who is active in our world with power and love.

  1. (5 – 6) WHY DID THE SEA, RIVER FLEE AND THE MOUNTAINS LEAP
  1. (vs. 5) Why did the sea and river flee?

 The writer of Psalm 114 then uses another poetic device namely three rhetorical questions. A rhetorical question is a question with an obvious answer and the first of these three rhetorical questions is in verse 5a.

“Why was it, sea that you fled?”

 Note how the writer continues the personification of the innominate object of the sea and speaks directly to the sea asking why it fled from the presence of the Lord.

The obvious answer from the context of the Psalm is that it fled or in reality parted because the Lord of the Universe is so powerful that when he wants something to happen no human or earthly power can stand in his way.

Psalm 93 presents the idea that sometimes nature or this world is like us in rebellion to God so it says in verse 3,

“The seas have lifted up, Lord, the seas have lifted up their voice; the seas have lifted up their funding waves”.

 This verse could be a poetic image of the mighty Babylonian nation lifting up its power to challenge Israel and its God and in fact the seas lifting up here could be translated the flood waters lifting up and raging across the dry land of Israel in destruction and devastation.

However, verse 4 of Psalm 93 proclaims,

“Mightier than the thunder of the great waters, mightier than the breakers of the sea – the Lord on high is mighty”.

 Yes, the Babylonians conquered Judah as an act of God’s judgment on his sinful disobedient people but God is mightier than the Babylonians as 70 years after they took the people of God into captivity he raised up and even mightier nation called the Persians and they overran and destroyed the Babylonians and allowed and encouraged the people of God, the Jews to return to the Promised land of Israel.

So, God has power even over the chaos of the universe represented many times in the bible by the sea or the ocean and Jesus showed he had power over the sea when he stood up one day on a turbulent stormy sea of Lake Galilee and said to the storm and the sea, “Be Quiet” and immediately the sea or lake was calm, Mark 4: 36 – 41.

Even hardened and experienced fisherman like Peter and his fisherman fellow disciples knew what Jesus did was simply amazing as we read their reaction to what Jesus was able to do in verse 41,

“They were terrified and asked each other, ‘Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

 So, the obvious answer to the question in verse 5a of,

“Why was it, sea that you fled?”

 Is because God told the sea to part and the sea obeyed the word of the powerful creator God and parted or as it says in the poetic image, “you fled”.

Likewise, the answer to the rhetorical question in verse 5b of,

“Why, Jordan did you turn back?”

 This same, God told the river to stop running or for the rocks to fall that caused a temporary blockage of the river Jordan and it obeyed him.

The answer to these rhetorical questions also points to the power of the word of God as it was by his powerful word that the world was created, as we read in Genesis one a number of times the words,

“And God said”

 And immediately different things were created.

So, powerful is the word of God that the writer to the Hebrews describes it this way in Hebrews 4: 12,

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart”.

 We can trust in the wonderful powerful word of God as through it God has a purpose that cannot be thwarted as Isaiah proclaims in Isaiah 55: 11,

“So is my word that goes out from my mouth: It will not return to me empty, but will accomplish what I desire and achieve the purpose for which I sent it”.

 So, the powerful word of God parted the red sea and stopped the river Jordan flowing and on Galilee Jesus word to the storm calmed it immediately and his word primarily found in the message of the Gospel transforms lives through faith in him as Paul declares in Romans 10: 17,

Consequently, faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word about Christ”.

 So as Paul calls us in the previous verses in Romans 10 to preach and teach the Gospel message we to can see the power of God’s word if we follow his advice and proclaim it.

  1. (vs. 6). Why did the mountains leap?

 The final rhetorical question concerns the power and might of God seen on Mount Sinai when God descended down to speak to Moses and give him his word wrapped up then in the law of God.

The rhetorical question of verse 6 goes like this,

“Why, mountains, did you leap like rams, you hills, like lambs”.

 Again, the obvious answer is because the Lord of the universe came close and spoke his word and when God is close and speaks, wonderful things happen.

This is spoken about all through the bible, that God is not the remote distant God of the Deist like Albert Einstein believed in. No God is involved in this world and has descended down to it as the previous Psalm stated in verse’s 5 and 6,

“Who is like the Lord our God, the One who sits enthroned on high, who stoops down to look on the heavens and the earth”.

 In my last Psalm talk I spoke of the present day popular atheist Richard Dawkins who stated in a debate that.

“Christians believe that the so-called creator of the vast and limitless universe could not think of a better way to deal with the problem of sin than to descend to this small spec of cosmic dust called earth to be tortured and executed so that he could forgive himself.

 Dawkins says this is:

 “profoundly unscientific and does not give justice to the grandeur of the universe and is petty and small minded”.

 What Dawkins sees as petty and small minded is seen by those who believe it as what God has done which is both amazing and wonderful. Dawkins is hitting at the heart of the Christian belief and attempting to deride and ridicule it but what he does not realise is that what he is ridiculing is in fact the message that saves and transforms the lives of those who believe in it.

God did come down with his holy and powerful presence on Mount Sinai and make that mountain and the mountains surrounding it tremble or as it is expressed poetically in Psalm 114, leap like rams and sheep.

Equally and in a greater way God did come down to this cosmic speak of dust we call earth in the person of his Son to save us from our sins as the famous verse, John 3: 16 declares,

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life”.

 This is not small minded and petty but is both mind blowing and amazing and deserves our praise that we should express is service as Paul declares in Romans 12: 1,

“Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship”.

 I pointed out earlier in this Psalm talk that this Psalm along with the one before it was said or sung at the times of the Passover celebration. The Passover was celebrated to help the Jewish people remember what God did to save the Nation of Israel out of slavery in Egypt.

As Christians, we are reminded every Easter of the death and resurrection of Jesus that the Passover story is only a shadow of. The Jews were saved from the bondage and slavery of Egypt but through Christ death on the cross we are saved from the bondage and slavery of sin.

However, Jesus does not want us to remember his death on the cross just at Easter but he instituted on the night he was betrayed a perpetual remembrance service of his death for us which we call today, “The Lord’s Supper”.

Paul gives us a summary of how Jesus wants us to remember his act of powerful salvation for us on the cross in 1 Corinthians 11: 23 – 26,

“For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.” 25 In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” 26 For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes”.

 So, God descended on Mount Sinai and the mountains trembled and when Jesus descends to earth the second time not only will mountains tremble but the whole earth will tremble at the coming of the Lord and we read of mountains being removed or changed and the sky and heavens being changed as well. Revelation 6: 12 – 14,

“I watched as he opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, 13 and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as figs drop from a fig tree when shaken by a strong wind. 14 The heavens receded like a scroll being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place.

 In Revelation 6: 15 – 17 we read of how some influential people will seek to hide in mountain caves when the Lord returns. But Revelation 6: 15 – 17 tells us how no one will be able to hide from this coming of the Lord in great power and might,

 15 Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and everyone else, both slave and free, hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. 16 They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us[a] from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! 17 For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can withstand it?”

  1. (6 – 7) GOD’S PRESENCE IS POWERFUL
  1. (vs. 7) God’s presence makes the earth tremble

 Some see verse 7 as the key to the whole message of Psalm 114 but I see it as the natural follow on to what we have just been reading of in the previous verses. Three rhetorical questions have just been asked why nature acted in a different and miraculous way in God leading his people out of their slavery in Egypt and into the Promised Land of Israel and the obvious answer is because the Lord of the Universe had come down and was near and spoke his powerful word and so verse 7 says,

“Tremble earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob”.

 This is the climax of what the Psalm has been saying that God’s presence with his people caused miraculous things to happen.

The red sea acted abnormally to help save his people out of slavery. The river Jordan had its water flow stopped and before that Mount Sinai shook and trembled as God’s presence came near to it. So, the writer of Psalm 114 calls the whole earth to,

“Tremble earth, at the presence of the Lord”.

 The Cambridge Bible commentary for schools and colleges nails down clearly what the author of Psalm 114 is seeking to say here with these words,

“It was at Jehovah’s presence that earth trembled then; but instead of a formal answer the poet’s words take a wider range, and he bids earth tremble still at the presence of its Lord, who proves His sovereignty by transforming its most stubborn elements for the benefit of His people”.

 Deist believers like Albert Einstein cannot see how nature can be changed by the God who made it as their view of God is limited by only what they see day after day in their scientific study, that this universe runs on strict laws that seem immovable.

However, we know from the Bible and the history of God’s dealings with his special people Israel that the God who invented and installed the laws of nature can and has altered them to intervene for the purposes of salvation and this is even more startling in the case of the coming of the Lord in the person of Jesus Christ.

He came via virgin birth a change of the laws of biology, he came to be both God and man, a change in the makeup of a normal human being and he was able to perform miracles which represent changes in the laws of nature to do things only the force or person who created those laws could achieve.

C.S. Lewis argued in the 1930” is that there are only three alternatives to who Jesus actually was. Jesus claimed to be God in a number of places in the Gospels, like  John 10: 30,

“I and the Father are one”.

 This verse comes from a passage were Jesus points to his miracles as proof that he is God and his promised Messiah, John 10: 22 – 30

“Then came the Festival of Dedication[b] at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was in the temple courts walking in Solomon’s Colonnade. 24 The Jews who were there gathered around him, saying, “How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Messiah, tell us plainly.”

25 Jesus answered, “I did tell you, but you do not believe. The works I do in my Father’s name testify about me, 26 but you do not believe because you are not my sheep. 27 My sheep listen to my voice; I know them, and they follow me. 28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand”. 30 “I and the Father are one”.

 So, C.S Lewis says that Jesus claim to be God gives us only three alternatives and they are either Jesus is a Liar, Lunatic or The Lord.

Jesus teaching and actions discount the first two alternatives, Lair or Lunatic so the fact that Jesus could perform miracles, deeds that change the normal laws of nature point to Jesus being The Lord. The reaction of the Jews who heard Jesus make the claim of,

“I and the Father are one”

 Tells us they knew Jesus was claiming to be God in the flesh as we see from verses 31 – 33,

Again, his Jewish opponents picked up stones to stone him, 32 but Jesus said to them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?”

 33 “We are not stoning you for any good work,” they replied, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.”

 This claim of Jesus being God led to his death on the cross and that might have been the end of the Jesus story but three days after his death another truly remarkable miracle occurs as Jesus rose from the dead which is a change from the normal law of nature that says once you’re dead your dead.

So, returning to our verse 7 of Psalm 114 the New Testament says that Jesus will cause all mankind to tremble or revere him as the Lord when he returns as Paul declares in Philippians 2: 9 – 11,

“Therefore, God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name,

10  that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father”.

 The final part of verse 7 of Psalm 114 says that this trembling before the Lord is in the presence of,

“The God of Jacob”

 I have given a lot of thought in the past to how the Psalms interchange the name of the Jews from Israel to Jacob and of course Israel and Jacob are the same person. One of Abraham’s grandson’s is Jacob whose name means “supplanted” as he was a rebellious character who sought to pull down the birth right of his twin brother Esau and eventually in his later years he has a special encounter with God and after wrestling with God’s Angel gets an injury to his hip and is given a new name, Israel.

We read this story in Genesis 32 and we read the vital part of this story in verses 24 – 30,

So, Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak.25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man.26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.” But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.” 27 The man asked him, “What is your name?” “Jacob,” he answered. 28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.” 29 Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.” But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there. 30 So Jacob called the place Peniel, saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”

So, I believe the name Jacob indicates more the humanity of God’s people, their weakness to sin and not go God’s way and so here in Psalm 114,

“The God of Jacob”

 This is the God of the fallen yet chosen people who God turned in Israel which is literally means, “In whom God prevails” and so we tremble or fall down in worship before the God who has saved us from the slavery of sin through his Son Jesus Christ who one day will return and then all mankind and creation will fall down in worship before him.

As we read about in the book of Revelation like chapter 11: 15 – 18,

“The seventh angel sounded his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, which said: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Messiah, and he will reign for ever and ever.”16 And the twenty-four elders, who were seated on their thrones before God, fell on their faces and worshiped God, 17 saying: “We give thanks to you, Lord God Almighty, the One who is and who was, because you have taken your great power and have begun to reign. 18  The nations were angry, and your wrath has come. The time has come for judging the dead, and for rewarding your servants the prophets and your people who revere your name, both great and small— and for destroying those who destroy the earth.” 

  1. (vs. 8)  God’s presence is powerful and provides his people’s needs

 This God of Jacob is not some kind of vague and remote force as the Deist like Albert Einstein believe in but is a God who is deeply involved in his chosen people helping them again sometimes in a miraculous way as the last verse of the Psalm suggests, verse 8,

“Who turned the rock into a pool, the hard rock into springs of water”.

 It seems God performed this miracle of providing water in a waterless place like a desert twice for his people, the descendants of Jacob when he led them out of slavery in Egypt. The first  was early in their wanderings in the desert areas in Exodus 17 and then later in their wanderings when they should have been ready to enter the promised land in Numbers 20.

Both times the Israelites sinned and failed to trust in their God who they had seen was able to perform great miracles for them like divided the red sea to create a path for them to safely cross and make a mountain smoke, fire and tremble when their God came close to Mount Sinai.

He had even provided miraculous food for them yet the people grumbled and lacked faith when water became dangerously low. They even suggested to Moses and through him God that they were actually better off in Egypt as slaves where they had food and water, probably in short supply but they had it.

Even after all this God still performed the miracle of turning a rock into water such is the love and faithfulness of their God. Of course, this continued disobedience and lack of faith on the part of this wilderness generation who also did not believe God could help them conquer the land of Canaan led God to not let them enter his Promised Land and it was their children and two older men, Joshua and Caleb who trusted in God who entered the promised land after 40 years of wandering in the wilderness.

The New Testament tells us in many places that this same God of Jacob or Israel is a God who provides what we need now through the Lord Jesus Christ who through his death and resurrection has called people from every nation on earth to now be his chosen people.

The apostle Paul uses the story of this rebellious wilderness generation and even the incident of the rock into water as a warning to us as Christians in 1 Corinthians 10: 1 – 6,

For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. They were all baptised into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. They all ate the same spiritual food and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered in the wilderness.

 Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did”.

 We have a God who through Christ as Paul says, is our spiritual rock who provides all we need and more as Jesus promises in Matthew 6: 33 -34,

“But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own”.

 God provides all we need and more and I love how the closing words of Jude, 24 – 25 puts it,

“To him who is able to keep you from stumbling and to present you before his glorious presence without fault and with great joy— 25 to the only God our Saviour be glory, majesty, power and authority, through Jesus Christ our Lord, before all ages, now and forevermore! Amen”.

 The “him” these verses refer to is of course The Lord Jesus Christ who we tremble before or worship because he is our Lord who we can turn to in prayer at any time and know that he will intervene in our daily lives to save and help us always.

CONCLUSION

 I started this Psalm talk with the little girl’s letter to Albert Einstein in 1936, the little girl named Phyllis asked the great man,

‘Do Scientist pray”

Albert Einstein gave what I called a Deist view of God answer,

“Scientists believe that every occurrence, including the affairs of human beings, is due to the laws of nature. Therefore, a scientist cannot be inclined to believe that the course of events can be influenced by prayer, that is, by a supernaturally manifested wish”.

 Which becomes clearer in the next thing he wrote to the little girl,

“But also, everyone who is seriously involved in the pursuit of science becomes convinced that some spirit is manifest in the laws of the universe, one that is vastly superior to that of man. In this way the pursuit of science leads to a religious feeling of a special sort, which is surely quite different from the religiosity of someone more naive.”

 The some naive are of course Christians who believe God does intervene in human life and history and answers prayer.

Psalm 114 has shown us that the bible clearly presents a God who is real, powerful and willing and able to get involved in the lives of his people, those who have turned to his Son in faith as Jesus told his disciples on the night before his death for our sins in John 14: 11 – 14,

“Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the works themselves. 12 Very truly I tell you, whoever believes in me will do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. 13 And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it”.

 The scientist who is a Christian and there are many of them would have given Phyllis a different answer and their answer would have gone something like this,

Scientists believe that every occurrence, including the affairs of human beings, is due to the God of the bible who usually works through the laws of nature but sometimes he works outside of those his laws of nature to bring about his saving purposes.

 This God sent his Son Jesus Christ to this so called insignificant spec of cosmic dust to die for our sins on the cross.

 Faith in God’s Son brings to us the miracle of God’s forgiveness which opens up a way back to this creator supreme God who we are learning more about through our study of science and his word daily.

 So, through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ I pray and he answers me sometimes intervening in my day to day life to provide his help and provisions as he promises he will in many parts of his word the bible”.

 I close as usual with an original poem and a prayer:

OUT OF SLAVERY WE NOW COME

(Based on Psalm 114)

 Out of Egypt God called his flock

Out of slavery they came

To be his special nation

To proclaim his wonderful name.

 

Out of Sin we now come

Through the cross we are given

The gift of God’s forgiveness

That leads us now to heaven.

 

Chorus:

 

Hallelujah God sent his only Son

Who died for our sins

So out of slavery we could come.

 

God divided the sea for them

So, his people could walk free.

Stopped the water of the Jordan

Now the Promised land they could see.

 

God gave his Son out of Love

To die on the cross for us

Given us a place in heaven

And all we have to do is trust.

 

Chorus:

 

Hallelujah God sent his only Son

Who died for our sins

So out of slavery we could come.

 

Tremble before the Lord above

For he has demonstrated his power

By making the mountains leap with fear

As his presence came in power.

 

Turn to Christ our rock and hope

Who is God’s eternal Son.

Who provides our every need

As out of slavery we now come.

 

Chorus:

 

Hallelujah God sent his only Son

Who died for our sins

So out of slavery we could come.

 

By: Jim Wenman

 

 

PRAYER:

 I thank you Father in heaven for how you sent your Son to die for our sins on the cross. We now have been freed from the slavery of our sin so that we can now serve you Lord and one day be with you in heaven. Help us to always tremble before you in worship and praise as we realise who you really are and what by love you have done for us. May we worship you in sacrificial service knowing that you promise to provide our every need and answer our every prayer. In Jesus Name, we pray Amen.

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