1 When Israel went out of Egypt, the house of Jacob from a people of strange language;
2 Judah was his sanctuary, and Israel his dominion.
3 The sea saw it, and fled: Jordan was driven back.
4 The mountains skipped like rams, and the little hills like lambs.
5 What ailed thee, O thou sea, that thou fleddest? thou Jordan, that thou wast driven back?
6 Ye mountains, that ye skipped like rams; and ye little hills, like lambs?
7 Tremble, thou earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob;
8 Which turned the rock into a standing water, the flint into a fountain of waters.
This poetic Psalm expresses the seemingly effortless power of God in the deliverance of His people.
We enjoy a deep sense of security in knowing that God has made us His special people. We are enthralled by His powerful acts of judgment and His commitment to save His people. It is one thing to know that you are special, but it is quite another to know that you are jealously protected by the omnipotent, sovereign God over all creation.
When God delivered His covenant people from the powerful Egyptian empire, He provided the ultimate picture of redemption for His people, both then and now. It was the most spectacular event of redemption in the Old Testament period, and it is a picture of salvation from a tyrannical slave state. Worse than that, God’s people were enslaved to a foreign power that spoke a different language, worshiped different gods, and exhibited different customs, morals, and culture. Wherever Christians are surrounded by the world, there is culture clash, competing value systems, and different forms of communication. Power, sex, and money are the chief motivators. Rebellion and dishonor proliferate. In Christian apostate nations, the ungodly take God’s name in vain almost without respite. There is no rest and little freedom for the Christian who must work under an ungodly system of values. This was the scenario God’s people faced in Egypt. To come out of this bondage and oppression into a land where everybody speaks the same language and holds to the same values is a huge blessing. In one sense, this is what happens with the Christian who meets with the church on a regular basis. There should be some respite and joy in the gathering of the saints.
God owned Israel. Some of them may have forgotten Him while they sojourned in Egypt, but He did not forget them. His people are His people, and as such they enjoy His special favor and protection. In this verse, there are two important words that describe God’s special relationship with His people: sanctuary and dominion. While maintaining His distance from the rest of the people in the world, God considers His people a place for His intimate presence. He dwells with them as in His sanctuary, and He rules over them in a special way. The rest of the world is not all that interested in submitting to His laws. What should characterize God’s people, though, is a desire to submit to His commands. Therefore, He will hold them to a tighter account, expecting that they will submit to higher standards of church discipline. If a holy God will dwell with His people, then they must be a holy people. That is why the New Testament church is referred to as the “Hagios,” or the “Holy Ones.” Speaking of the New Testament local church, Paul writes, “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are” (1 Cor. 3:16, 17). God’s people must always see themselves as those who are set apart from the world, called to a life of repentance and holiness.
This is a beautiful poetic description of the power of God’s work in the redemption of His people. All of nature is at His command. Every force of nature and of the supernatural is at His beck and call. Every physical, causal force may be employed to aid in the salvation of His people. Every water molecule, the motion of the globe, the wind patterns, earthquakes, and the minds of every human on earth - all things are ordered to bring about God’s plan of redemption.
Here, the Psalmist relates the parting of the waters at the Red Sea and at Jordan (verse 3). Both were amazing demonstrations of God’s sovereign power as He accommodated His people in their escape from Egypt and transition into the Promised Land. The Christian life is a journey, and we will witness the miracles of God all along the way, though perhaps of different character.
Later, in the Gospels, the Lord Jesus uses the same metaphor of moving mountains to accomplish redemptive purposes (Matt. 17:20, 21:21). This is what it takes to convert nations and crack demonic strongholds in the discharge of the Great Commission. What is needed is men who will expect great things from God, and attempt great things for God, because they believe in God. If nothing is impossible for God, then nothing is impossible for us! (Matt. 17:20, Lk. 1:37).
The language here presents seemingly effortless action as God tosses mountains around and moves oceans to accomplish His purposes. Powerful governments and demonic forces can do a few things, but they cannot control the movements of the oceans and planets. For God, this is mere child’s play. In poetic form, the psalmist taunts the seas as if they could, of their own volition, oppose the sovereign purposes of God. God works His will in the hurricanes and the earthquakes that rock this world. “The LORD is slow to anger and great in power, and will not at all acquit the wicked. The LORD hath his way in the whirlwind and in the storm, and the clouds are the dust of his feet.” (Nahum 1:3).
1. It is important that we see ourselves as the holy sanctuary of God. Therefore, we should be conscientious about keeping the sanctuary “cleaned up” for God’s presence. Moral corruption in the church yields a leavening effect on the body, so let us be about the business of confessing sin and repenting of it.
2. Amidst the challenges we face, it is always fair to say that we lack faith. The failure of kingdom endeavors generally lies here. If we only had more faith in the power of God, if we had higher expectations of God’s power, then we would overcome the world. First, we must look to history and see what God has done in the past, in the deliverance of His people. Then, we make a list of the mountains facing us in our day as we proceed to disciple the nations and convert the world to Christ. It is one thing to say that God can do this or that, and it is another thing to believe it. Faith is an expectation that God can do the impossible. As we present the possibility in our own minds and sit in wide-eyed wonder with these expectations in mind, often God will do something even more amazing than the thing we had conceived!
Worship includes a celebration of the power of God in salvation. Those who lead in worship stir up the spirits of God’s people to see the power of God in bringing about a mighty salvation for His people. Sometimes stories of God’s redemptive power should be related in the services. When the fearsome serial killer in New York, “Son of Sam,” came to a saving knowledge of Christ in a maximum security prison, David Berkowitz began a ministry that has already spanned twenty-five years. His story is earthshaking. Suffice it to say that the power of God and the grace of God can break through the darkest evil this world has ever known, and the stories of God’s redemption will be told for eternity. May our worship services be filled with glorious shouts of praise and worship for God’s great power in redemption!
1. What two events from Israel’s redemptive history are referred to in this Psalm?
2. What are the two terms that define Israel (or the church), in its relationship to God?
3. What does the word “hagios” mean in reference to the New Testament church?
4. Why was it a blessing that Israel was delivered from Egypt?
5. Give several examples of Faith Psalms.
1. How might God control the physical elements to bring about our salvation? What does He have to sovereignly ordain to see to it that we (or people from other nations), hear the Gospel and respond to it?
2. Give several examples of how God has moved mountains in our times.
3. Where is your faith? Are you willing to step into the waters, assuming that God will either part the waters or enable you to walk on the waters? What expectations do you have of God’s powerful work in your own life?