Psalm 114

Posted by Worldview Warriors On Monday, September 30, 2019 0 comments

by Katie Erickson

“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, at the presence of the God of Jacob, who turned the rock into a pool, the hard rock into springs of water.” (Psalm 114)

Psalm 114 is one of the 6 psalms (113-118) that are called the Egyptian Hallel psalms. Hallel is the Hebrew verb for praise, and it’s where we get our word “hallelujah” from. (Adding the “-jah” at the end makes it more emphatic in Hebrew.) Additionally, Psalms 120-136 are called the Great Hallel, and Psalms 146-150 are called the Concluding Hallel psalms. The Egyptian Hallel psalms are called such because they feature prominently in the Passover celebration. Traditionally, Psalms 113-114 were read before the meal and 115-118 were read after it. So, these psalms praise God for His leading Israel out of Egypt.

Psalm 114 starts out retelling the event of the exodus from Egypt in verses 1-2. The idea that they were delivered from a “foreign tongue” implies that they were in slavery in that land. They lived as foreigners, not as people who were accepted as citizens. God chose Israel to be His “sanctuary” and “dominion.” Even though the nation was later divided into two kingdoms (Judah in the south and Israel in the north), they were all still God’s chosen nation. God made a covenant promise to dwell among the whole people, all twelve tribes, and he brought all of them out of slavery in Egypt.

Verses 3-6 are interesting because they tell us of nature’s reaction to Israel as God’s chosen people. “The sea looked and fled” is clearly a reference to God parting the waters of the Red Sea so that the people of Israel could cross it on dry land (Exodus 14). Similarly, “the Jordan turned back” refers to Israel crossing the Jordan River on dry land (Joshua 3). The references to mountains and hills likely refer to God giving His commandments to the people on Mt. Sinai (Exodus 19-20).

The questions we see in verses 5-6 seem to indicate that the psalmist is calling on nature to bear witness to the mighty power of God. The Red Sea, the Jordan River, and Mt Sinai were all witness to spectacular events of God in our world. The answer to all of these “why” questions is, of course, because God has power and dominion over all His creation.

This answer is echoed in verse 7, where the earth is called to tremble in God’s presence. The phrase “at the presence of” is repeated, which shows that this is the climax of the psalm: everything else builds up to the mighty power of God! The Lord is the mighty God over all creation, and He identifies Himself as the God of Jacob, the God of His people of Israel.

The psalmist concludes in verse 8 with one more example of God using nature to fulfill His purposes and show His power: getting water from the rock (Exodus 17:1-7). This may also reference the prophecy in Isaiah 41:18.

So what does all this mean for us today? It’s great that God led Israel out of Egypt, but how does that affect us living in the modern world of 2019? Well, God is the same God today as He was back at the time of Exodus. God never changes. Since God did miracles like that for the people of Israel, how much more will He continue to pour out blessings and miracles for us today! He is the same God, and now His chosen people are everyone who has faith in the sacrificial death and resurrection of His Son Jesus. All of us who follow Jesus are God’s chosen people, regardless of nationality. Nature still bears witness to the power of God today. Are you watching for God’s almighty power in your life?

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