PSALM 114: We are God’s People

Psalms 113—118 form a special group of “liturgical psalms” known as Hallel Psalms, or “The Egyptian Hallel” psalms because they have reference to the the Exodus. These psalms served a very distinct purpose; they were used at the Feasts of Passover, Pentecost, Tabernacles, and Dedication. This is the psalm that Jesus and the disciples would likely have sung before they entered the Garden of Gethsemane.

Psalm 114 is a clear call to praise the God of deliverance. In Psalm 113, He is the God who creates, sustains, and redeems. Here He is the one who delivers His people or sets His people free. Because God does this for His people, they are to praise Him. The theme of Psalm 114 is that God redeemed His people because He made a covenant with them and because He dwells with them.

The Exodus from Egypt was the most significant event in the life of Israel; little wonder they sung this hymn every year! Each generation was to recall what God did for previous generations and praise Him! Even if that person had never experienced God’s deliverance, they were to praise Him because He did it for others. God’s mighty acts are so wondrous and so life-changing, that they transcend time! You can be transformed by hearing about what God has done for others. This is the power of the Word of God! It is also why sharing your faith with others is so important. As you tell other people about what Jesus has done for you, they will be touched by your testimony. Remember the words of Psalm 107:2—

Let the redeemed of the LORD tell their story…

People who know the Lord will be encouraged when they hear your story, and that same story will cause unbelievers to think and consider:

[S]o 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. (Isaiah 55:11)

So, never be afraid to “tell your story” of deliverance! All Christians have been delivered from a fate worse than Egypt; we have been delivered from the power of death, hell and the grave, and that is the story we are to tell.

I will sing of the LORD’s great love forever; with my mouth I will make your faithfulness known through all generations. (psalm 89:1)

1. We are a covenant people, 114:1, 2

When Israel came out of Egypt, Jacob from a people of foreign tongue, Judah became God’s sanctuary, Israel his dominion.

This psalm begins like a bullet shout of a gun! The Exodus, the “birthday of Israel,” begins this Hallel psalm. God’s people were miraculously set free from “a people of foreign tongue” because God had made a covenant with them. Throughout the Old Testament, this single event is seen as the very foundation of Israel’s faith in the redemptive power of God. Just as God had redeemed or delivered His people out of Egypt, so He would continue to deliver them from all their enemies. You cannot help but notice how often that theme is repeated in the Old Testament. But redemption is also a theme that spans the Testaments, for Christ’s redemption of sinful man is the central tenet of Christianity and the essence of the Gospel. The great “scarlet cord of redemption” is what ties the Old and the New Testaments together! It’s why they can’t be separated.

The sequence of events in the life of Israel is fascinating to consider. When God first called Abraham into the Promised Land, Abraham was a stranger in the very land God had given him. In time, Abraham’s descendants had to temporarily leave that Land of Promise and go down to Egypt, where they would become a nation. Israel became a nation, not in their homeland, but in a foreign land—a land of bondage, anti-Semitism, and ungodly beliefs—where they suffered hardships and persecution. Eventually, God delivered them from Egypt in a most miraculous way on account of the covenant He made with Abraham. God never forgot that covenant; He never forgot His people even though it must have seemed like it to them. And it was after they left Egypt that He took up residence with them.

Israel became God’s “sanctuary.” In this Psalm, Israel and Judah simply denote all of God’s people, all 12 tribes. These were God’s special people, and He chose to live with them as He led them.

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.” (Exodus 19:5, 6)

Did you know that exact same promise was given to the Church? It’s not that God has forgotten Israel, or that He has thrown them over in favor of the Church; it’s that what God had done for Israel practically He has done spiritually for us!

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:9, 10)

What a great blessing! But what a great responsibility: we are to “declare the praises of him who called us out of the darkness.” We are to tell our story.

2. What nature saw, 114:3—6

This group of verses is very poetic, and of course we don’t parts of it literally. What the psalmist is illustrating is that God’s election and deliverance of Israel had a powerful and lasting effect on the world at large. So great was what God did for His people, that even nature noticed.

The sea looked and fled, the Jordan turned back; the mountains leaped like rams, the hills like lambs. Why was it, sea, that you fled? Why, Jordan, did you turn back? Why, mountains, did you leap like rams, you hills, like lambs?

The children of Israel crossed both a sea and a river when God set them free; literally nothing could stop them when God was leading them. But it wasn’t Israel per se that caused nature to sit up and take notice, it was the awesome display of God’s power. It was the Lord who was victorious over the power of sea. Nature opened a wide path for God’s people because God was with them. As we read this series of rhetorical questions, we see that all nature responds to the power of God in two ways: fear and joy. This is how the world always reacts to God, incidentally. Either they gladly accept Him and His Word or reject Him in fear, and sometimes that fear in manifested as anger. As to why the world reacts to God’s presence as it does, the words of John might provide the answer:

[B]ut every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world. You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. (1 John 4:3, 4)

The world can recognize a child of God because God’s presence is in you just as He was with the children of Israel.

3. God is with us, 114:7, 8

Tremble, earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob, who turned the rock into a pool, the hard rock into springs of water.

Verse 7 begins with the word “tremble,” but the Hebrew means literally, “be in pain.” The word is used to describe acute, sharp pain, like the pain of childbirth. This how the earth reacts at the presence of the Lord. Verse 8 references an incident in Exodus 17:6 and Numbers 20:8—11, where God miraculously provided water for His people.

There are a couple of powerful lessons to be learned from these two verses. First, notice the repetition of “at the presence of the Lord.” It’s important for the Bible reader to take special note of repetition, especially in the Psalms. If something is repeated, it is for emphasis. In this case, the phrase is repeated because it is the climax to the entire psalm and it is the only answer to the questions the psalmist raised in verses 5 and 6:

Q: Why did the sea stop and flee?
A: Because of the presence of the Lord.
Q: Why did the Jordan turn back?
A: Because of the presence of the Lord.
Q: Why did the mountains leap like rams and the hills like lambs?
A: Because of the presence of the Lord.

Passages like this demonstrate forcefully that the Lord is truly master over all! He is the Sovereign Lord of all the universe; He is the master over all nature. And this all powerful God has chosen to freely associate with His people.

Secondly, verse 8 not only shows God’s mastery over nature, but it shows that the wonders of God never cease. The God who was able to make water flow from a rock to quench the thirst of His people still draws from nature all the blessings His children still need. There is no situation that is so hard and so inauspicious that God cannot pull a blessing out of it for a faithful believer.

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

“All things” means “all things!” Not only the good things, but “all things” can be turned into a blessing for the one who faithfully serves God. The key is to remember that God is with you no matter what, and instead of seeing only the “all things,” you need to focus on the reality that God’s presence is a force to be reckoned with in your life. He, not you, has the power to give you victory in any and every situation. Sometimes, all it takes a the right perspective to make a confession of faith like Joseph did:

You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good to accomplish what is now being done, the saving of many lives. (Genesis 50:20)

Nature knows what God can do. Do you?

(c)  2011 WitzEnd
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