When Israel came out of Egypt,
Jacob from a people of foreign tongue,
Judah became God’s sanctuary,
Israel his dominion.
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?
Tremble, earth, at the presence of the Lord,(Ps. 114:1-8 NIV)
at the presence of the God of Jacob,
who turned the rock into a pool,
the hard rock into springs of water.
Psalm 114 is a poetic account of the historical event of the Exodus Passover event.
Albert Barnes says that this poetic account in Psalm 114 of the Passover event, is an animated, elevated, cheering Psalm, and is proper to be used at all times to make the mind rejoice in God, and to impress us with the feeling that it is easy for God to accomplish his purposes.
Look at how the Psalm just breezes through the whole account of God bringing about the Exodus. In this whole event we see the total control that God has over all creation. God makes the creation dance in order to facilitate his people. This Psalm gives us a very condensed account and compresses events together that happened over many years. The Psalm is divided into four stanzas of two verses each.
The first two verses tell us what God has done for his people.
Verses 1-2 speak of the coming out of Egypt, and separating from the people of a foreign tongue. Out of bondage, that is the negative side of the work, but verse 2 gives us the positive aspect of salvation, they are brought away from that which is foreign to be made into be His sanctuary, His dominion.
The NIV misses the point here of what the Psalmist is doing. In verse 2 the translators add the name God, but in Hebrew it is His sanctuary, His dominion. The name is deliberately withheld until the Psalmist will reveal it in the final stanza in v.7 after the questions are asked in verses 5 and 6.
Verses 3-5 tell us of the impact that this has had on creation.
The sea looked and fled, the Jordan turned back; the mountains leaped like rams, the hills like lambs.NIV Psalm 114:3-5
What did the creation look at, why did the sea run away? The creation looked at what God had done, at the people of God on the march. What made this paltry band so significant was that God was in the midst of them. As we remember back to the details of that account, the people of God were running for their lives. They were hemmed in by the sea and the mountains on either side, and pursued by the fury of an outraged Egyptian army. ‘Why did you bring us out here to die in the desert?’ The word of the Lord came to them through Moses, ‘stand still and see the salvation of God’. Here in Ps 114 the poet presents the inanimate creation as though they had an ability to see clearly what the people of God could only barely see. The sea took one look at the people of God with God in the midst and fled. The mountains with their impressive grandeur; giving everyone the impression that they were solid and immovable for an eternity; were caused the indignity of being made to leap like rams and the hills to leap like lambs.
In verses 5-6 the poet directly speaks to creation and asks why it was frightened. ‘Explain your behaviour, what did you see that made you act so?’
Why was it, O sea, that you fled, Why Jordan, did you turn back, Why mountains, did you leap like rams, you hills, like lambs?NIV Psalm 114:56
Then in verses 7-8 the psalmist reveals what we already know. It was the presence of the Lord that made the difference. But it was the presence of the Lord with his people, they were his sanctuary, that’s where God is present. God is presenting the case that the obstacles were removed in the face of the people of God. God presents his people as the instrument, an invincible body of people because God was with them.
Verses 7-8, just as the whole creation trembled in the past, now O earth tremble again, because God continues to be present with his people. That is the lesson for the future, we are that future people of God. Therefore, let us see the might that we have when God is with us. Greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. If only our eyes could be opened and we could but see the army that is encamped around us.
Can you see how Ps 114 presents the whole Exodus event as just a ‘breeze through’ for God. The cost of the Exodus was paid in the shedding of the blood of the lamb. The building of the church continues apace, the materials have already been paid for in the death of Jesus Christ. The Lamb of God shed His blood upon the cross, a certain victory cry is made by Christ, ‘I will build my church’. Gathering in of the elect, the building of a people – all seems hard work to us. But quietly, the God of the whole creation is moving the powers of creation. The might of the nations unknowingly react to his bidding as God brings everything into place.
God has not become tolerant of false religion; God is not hemmed in by ungodly nations. Western culture may well have turned its back on God. Britain may become as spiritually bankrupt as the rest of Europe. That place which was the seedbed of Reformation recovery has now little sign of spiritual life. But in other places they’re coming to Christ in their hundreds. Every time you preach you expect souls to be saved. Whatever God plans to do with our nation we don’t know, but we need to pray for spiritual recovery. The question is will we remain faithful, will we seek to be in a state of spiritual health? It would be no problem for God to turn this nation around into a nation that knows the Lord.
The church is the instrument that God is pleased to use. But are we aware of his presence? Throughout the Scriptures God speaks of His presence being with His gathered people. Let’s look again at the purpose of the Exodus as we find it in verse 2:
Judah became (his) sanctuary, Israel his dominion.NIV Psalm 114:2
The work of the slain lamb had to be applied to the people of God. They were redeemed for a purpose and that purpose is realized as God makes them into a sanctuary, His sanctuary, a dominion or kingdom, His kingdom.
The NT realises this dimension of the work of God in Jesus Christ. He is the lamb slain on the cross.
The saving work of Christ has to be applied to our hearts and lives by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the efficient agent in the application of redemption. We are saved, not through the righteous things that we have done, but through renewal by the Holy Spirit. As Christians we live by the Spirit. Jesus himself told his disciples that the Spirit gives everlasting life:
The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you – they are full of the Spirit and life.NIV John 6:63
As the one who applies redemption to our hearts and lives, the Holy Spirit lives or dwells with us and in us. The chief role of the Holy Spirit in the process of our salvation is to make us one with Christ. Paul expresses this very clearly in 1 Cor. 12:13:
For we were all baptised by one Spirit so as to form one body–whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free–and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.NIV 1 Corinthians 12:13
This one body is the body of Christ. The Holy Spirit is making us part of the community, part of God’s sanctuary, part of God’s dominion, His kingdom, the place where His rule is acknowledged.
It is the Holy Spirit who unites us to Christ. The Holy Spirit is called the Spirit of the Lord, the Spirit of Christ. The Spirit of Jesus Christ, or the Spirit of God’s Son. When we participate in Christ, we participate in the Spirit. To be in Christ and to be in the Spirit are not two different things, but the same thing.
That process of making us the sanctuary of God is called salvation. The Holy Spirit is often referred to as the author of the major elements of the process of salvation. Regeneration, or what we often call that new birth, is said to be the work of the Holy Spirit. When we speak of conversion, we mean the turning to God. We usually think of repentance and faith. Both repentance and faith are described in the Bible as gifts of the Holy Spirit.
The work that God begins in us is a work that will be completed when Christ returns. We, as the people of God, are made a sanctuary onto the Lord. We know that we are only a poor reflection of what we ought to be and that one day the fulfilment of that promise to be a sanctuary will be fully worked out when God takes up residence in the midst of his people. He will own us as His people and declare that He is our God.
Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.NIV Revelation 21:1
Lord we thank You that You have made us the people of God, adopted us into Your family. Others may have shunned us or made us feel like outsiders, but You have redeemed us and made us children of God. We worship You because You have given us a new song to sing. What praise there will be when Your people from the beginning of time and all the generations of the redeemed will join together to praise Your great name. Lord our hope is in Christ, in whose name we pray and praise. Amen.