If you have your Bibles, please turn with me to Psalm 114. This psalm is a remarkable recounting of the redemption of God, of His people, in the exodus. And it's marked by exuberance. I dare say that the exuberance of the text of this psalm is every bit the match for Miriam and the women on the shores of the Red Sea. If you look at the two poems which are sung on that occasion or the song that's sung on that occasion and compare it to this psalm, you’ll see the same kind of exuberant delight in God's deliverance. But this psalm is not only characterized by exuberance, it's characterized by poetic imagery that is almost over the top. You recognize everything that is being described in the psalm as you read along, but there is almost hyperbole at every turn. Exaggerated, poetic pictures are painted of the earthquakes and of the Red Sea dividing and of the Jordan opening up before the children of Israel.
But there's also something else interesting in this psalm. This is one of the only psalms that I know in which there is trash talk. Now, men in the room will be familiar with trash talk. You know, trash talk is when you are jawing at the opposing team, but in this case, Israel is trash talking the mountains and the Red Sea and the Jordan because they are so exuberant in their confidence in and their glorying in God and His power, that even the mountains and the sea and the river have quaked and opened before Him. So there's trash talk, and you don't find many psalms with trash talk and this is one of them. In fact, we're exhorted in this psalm to speak in this kind of exuberant way to the mountains and to the river and to the sea. And I want to look at this psalm with you tonight very briefly. Well, let's look to God in prayer before we read and hear it.
Heavenly Father, thank You for Your Word. Thank You for this psalm. Just as we have been reminded tonight in the baptism of a believer of the story of Your redemption in the life of an individual, so also in this psalm we are reminded of the story of Your redemption of Your people and what You have made us in Christ, and we are supplied with material for praise and for thanksgiving and for worship. We pray that You would teach to each of us the lessons of this psalm and that we would give to You glory in the words of this psalm sung and read and meditated upon with our lips and our lives. In Jesus' name, amen.
This is the Word of God. Hear it:
“When Israel went out from Egypt, the house of Jacob from a people of strange language, Judah became his sanctuary, Israel his dominion.
The sea looked and fled; Jordan turned back. The mountains skipped like rams, the hills like lambs.
What ails you, O sea, that you flee? O Jordan, that you turn back? O mountains, that you skip like rams? O hills, like lambs?
Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob, who turns the rock into a pool of water, the flint into a spring of water.”
Amen, and thus ends this reading of God's holy, inspired, and inerrant Word. May He write its eternal truth upon all our hearts.
This psalm recalls the redemption of Israel out of Egypt and calls upon present worshipers in Israel in their worship to remember the redemption that God had accomplished for them. It is an important thing for believers to remember the day of their salvation. It is an important thing for believers to take note and mark the days of grace and mercy that God has wrought in their lives, whether it be that first day when He brought us home from our wandering and our rebellion by the grace of His Holy Spirit back into His forgiveness and into His family, or whether it is days along the way of our journey when, in extraordinary ways, He has protected us, built us up, grown us, spared us, blessed us, and made His favor known to us. It is important for us to remember those things and this psalm is about that. And I want you to see three or four things in the psalm as we look at it together tonight.
REMEMBER OUR REDEMPTION
First of all, taken as a whole, all the verses together, from verse 1 all the way to verse 8, this psalm reminds us to remember our redemption. It's a psalm that recounts in poetic form, God's redemption of the children of Israel out of Egypt. And the whole purpose of the psalm is to call upon Israel not to forget God's grace in that day of mercy, to recount it in worship to God. And this is a very important thing for us to do. Sometimes, God deals with us in such amazing ways that we think that we never will forget it, but we do unless we work at remembering. And so it must be something that we purposefully do to remember His days of grace to us.
This past August, my brother Mel wrote me a note on one particular day, and that note simply said, “I'm wondering if you remember that on this day, forty-one years ago, you made a public profession of faith before your local church and were received as a communing member into that congregation.” As a matter of fact, I did not remember what that day was. I knew the month and I knew the year, but my brother is the historian for our local church and he had been looking through the records, and that day also, incidentally, was the day of his baptism and he had found it and thought that it would be an encouragement to me to send it on. It was an encouragement to me. And I can remember other dates like that in my life in which the Lord dealt me either by conviction or by mercy. And those dealings were so real and so powerful that I thought I'd never forget them, but if they are not remembered and rehearsed, we forget blessings that we don't need to forget. And this whole psalm is exhorting us as a people to remember that day, not only the great work of God in Jesus Christ, not only the great work of redemption in the Old Testament, but the great work of God in our own lives when He first brought us home to Him and when He began to work in us by His grace. Remember your redemption — that's one of the grand messages of this psalm.
REALIZE WHAT GOD HAS MADE US
The second thing I want you to see though, and you’ll see it especially in verses 1 and 2. The psalmist begins with, “When Israel went out from Egypt, the house of Jacob from the people of a strange language, Judah became his sanctuary, Israel his dominion.” Now that second verse is quite remarkable, isn't it? That is language that you don't expect to read until the New Testament. When you pick up Paul, and in Corinthians he tells you that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, you hear language like that. When you turn to 1 Peter chapter 2 verse 5 and learn that you are living stones being built up into a living house, a living temple for that Lord, and all of the glorious language of being a royal priesthood and a chosen people and nation that go on in that passage in 1 Peter chapter 2, you recognize the fullness of the work of the Spirit in the new covenant in the individual believer and in the totality of God's people, but here that language is used just as powerfully, isn't it? When God brought the children of Israel out of Egypt, He made them a sanctuary. He made them His dominion, and this my friends, even in Old Testament language, reminds us what God is doing in us when He saves us. His purpose is not only to spare us from the condemnation of sin, though praise God it is His purpose in Christ by faith through the shed blood of Jesus Christ, and His grace towards us received by faith in Him to spare us from the condemnation that we deserve from our sin, but it is His purpose also to build us into His sanctuary, to make us to be His dominion, that we might be His living stones in this house that He is building, a multitude that no man can number, from every tribe, tongue, people, and nation, which will be the people of His habitation.
And it's so important for us to remember what God has made us in redemption, and that's what the psalmist is saying here. When you think about redemption, realize what God has made you. He's not only made you a forgiven sinner, He's not only made you an adopted child, He has made you His sanctuary. And there are some very, very precious passages to us about this in the New Testament. Let me turn you to one.
Turn with me to Ephesians and the prayer in Ephesians 3 where Paul says to the Ephesians, “This is what I'm praying for you.” Verse 14, “For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, for whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name, that He would grant you according to the riches of His glory to be strengthened with power through His Spirit in the inner man, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith and that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth and to know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled up to all the fullness of God.” And there's the apostle Paul saying that you are now indwelt by the Holy Spirit, like he says in Corinthians, and that what the Spirit is doing is He is making your heart to be a suitable habitation for the Lord Jesus Christ, that you are indwelt by Christ, that he has taken up residence in you.
And you can go on. You can look at John 17 and see Jesus praying this way about us about our communion with the Father and His indwelling us and us Him. You realize what God has made you in redemption and this psalm is reminding us of that. When the Lord redeemed His people out of Egypt, He didn't just bring them out of the house of bondage and out of the land of slavery, He made them a sanctuary. You know, one of the great themes of the book of Exodus is that the children of Israel were saved to worship. And when I was a younger Christian, I used to think that all of the language that Moses spoke to Pharaoh about “Let us go so we can go out into the wilderness to worship,” I used to think that was a trick that Moses was playing on Pharaoh. “Yes, please, let us go out to worship and we’ll come back” — sort of a trick, a ruse, a ploy. And the more and more I read the book of Exodus I realized, “No, that's the whole purpose.” The reason that God brings His children out of bondage is so that they can worship. But isn't this beautiful — it's not only so that you can worship, but so that you become the sanctuary, you become the temple, you become the place of the holy of holies, you become the manifestation of His dominion. This is what God has made you to be by His grace.
REJOICE IN GOD’S POWER
Third, if you look in verses 3 and 4, the psalmist here exhorts us to rejoice in God's power, not only to remember our redemption, not only to realize what God has made us, but to rejoice in God's power. And listen to the language of it — “The sea looked and fled, Jordan turned back, the mountains skipped like rams, the hills like lambs,” and you catch easily what's being said in verse 3. The dividing of the sea and of the river in front of the children of Israel as they crossed over on dry land.
But you may wonder what the imagery of verse 4 is. It's a picture of rams and lambs moving in groups across the hillside and undulating, and it's a picture of mountains quaking. You know, as you see these flocks of sheep moving across the hillocks, they’re going up and down and bouncing around like this and they’re saying, “That's what the mountains are doing in the presence of the Lord.” It's a rejoicing in God's power. If you look at Exodus 19, God has to warn the children of Israel not to get too close to Mt. Sinai. If you look at the end of Exodus 20 after God has spoken from Mt. Sinai and there have been the earthquakes and the thunder and the lightening, you find that Moses and the leaders of Israel have to go get the people and bring them back to Mt. Sinai because they’re so scared. And that's when the people say, “Moses, could you just make sure that He never speaks to us directly again? Whatever message He has for us, would you just pass that on to us?” because they were awestruck by the power of God displayed in the trembling of Mt. Sinai and the thunder and the lightening. And here it's the same kind of rejoicing in God's power in the dividing of the sea and of the river and in the quaking of the hills, they rejoice in God's power.
You know, this language is picked up in the New Testament as well, and especially by John in the book of Revelation. The heavens and the seas what? They flee at the coming of the Lord in the book of Revelation. We even sing about that in one of the Christmas carols. One of my favorite carols is, “In the Bleak, Mid-Winter,” and I love the stanza that goes like this — “Our God, heaven cannot hold Him, nor earth sustain. Heaven and earth shall flee away when He comes to reign.” And this is the picture of the power of God that's being pointed to in verses 3 and 4. Do you rejoice at the awesome power of God? That's what the psalmist is calling on you to do.
REJOICE IN THE LORD’S PROVISION
But there's one last thing. There's not only to remember our redemption and to realize what God has made us and to rejoice in His power, there's this final exhortation that you see in verses 7 and 8 and back in verses 5 and 6 — to rejoice in the Lord's provision. This powerful God who makes the earth to tremble, provides for His people. Listen to what is said in verses 7 and 8. “Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob.” So here again is an emphasis on God's awesome power and an emphasis on the need to tremble in awe in His presence, and then we're told — what does He do? “He turns the rock into a pool of water, the flint into a spring of water.” In other words, He provides for His people first. They’re in the wilderness, they’re in the desert, they need water. This awesome God, that causes the world to tremble before Him, is caring for His children like a mother cares for hers. He's providing them water because they need water or they’re going to die of thirst, and so He can make water even come from a rock.
So it's a picture of power but it's a picture of power that's focused on providing for our needs. I love what Derek Kidner says about this passage. “The psalm ends like its predecessor on the note of God's quiet creativity and care. He is powerful, but His power is directed to the point of need, transforming what is least promising into a place of plenty and a source of joy.” A rock would not be a promising place from which to get a supply of water to take care of all the people of Israel, but God brings water from that rock and it becomes a place of plenty. And so His power is used to provide for His people. Do you believe that? You know, in whatever your lacks are tonight, the things that you so desperately want supplied and you’re beginning to wonder whether they will be supplied, do you believe that He has the power and the purpose to provide for you?
This psalm is exhorting you to believe and it does that to the point that it exhorts you to trash talk the mountains. Did you see it? Go back and look at verses 5 and 6. “What ails you, O sea, that you flee? O Jordan, that you turn back? O mountains, that you skip like rams? O hills, like lambs?” In other words, it's exhorting you to speak into those trembling mountains and into that dividing sea and river and saying, “What’cha so scared of? What’cha running from? You’re running from my God because He's that powerful!” And if He's that powerful, He's powerful enough to provide for you. And that's what we struggle to believe so much of the time or else we forget it. And so this psalm, it sets before us a memorial to God's redemption and it says, “Remember that, remember what He's done for you in His grace.” And then it calls us to realize what He has made us to be — a sanctuary for Him. It urges us to rejoice in His power and then to recognize that His power is deployed for us as His provision and to call on the earth to tremble before Him in power as an act of fueling the furnace of our own belief so that we can really believe that in His purpose and in His power He will provide for us.
Heavenly Father, thank You for our evenings in the Psalms. Thank You that we can end Your day being reminded over and over and over again of things that You want us to sing back to You, things that we're so apt to forget, things that we're so apt to struggle to believe, and You know that. You know that already. And so You’re so kind to us that You make us sing them over and over so that we can't forget. Lord, work these words deep into our hearts as we sing them and as we read them and as we meditate upon them and then help us to believe that You are the God who provides and so worthy of all our praise and worthy of the awe of this whole earth. We ask these things in Jesus' name. Amen.
Would you stand for God's blessing?
Peace be to the brethren and love with faith through God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, until the daybreak and the shadows flee away. Amen.