1 When Israel came out of Egypt, the house of Jacob from a people of foreign tongue. 2 Judah became God’s sanctuary, Israel his dominion.
3 The sea looked and fled, the Jordan turned back; 4 the mountains skipped like rams, the hills like lambs. 5 Why was it, O sea, that you fled, O Jordan, that you turned back, 6 you mountains, that you skipped like rams, you hills, like lambs?
7 Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob 8 who turned the rock into a pool, the hard rock into springs of water.
Psalm 114 – The Exodus remembered
(Verses 1-2) Psalm 114 refers to Israel’s leaving Egypt, known as the ‘Exodus’, which you can read about in the book of Exodus chapters 12-14. God’s plan was first to take Israel out of Egypt, and then to take the influence of Egypt (especially its idolatry and ungodliness) out of Israel. So the southern tribe of Judah, including Jerusalem, was to be God’s dedicated ‘sanctuary’. The ten northern tribes of Israel were also to be under God’s control (‘His dominion’). After their cruel slavery in Egypt, God brought out His people on that first Passover to know and follow Him.
This also is a valuable picture and principle for those of us who have been set free from the penalty and power of sin through the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ. He was judged and punished on the cross for our sins, and then rose from the dead to conquer death as well as sin. As we are forgiven and freed from the slavery, caused not by Egypt but by our sins, we too are bidden by God to live holy lives. ‘Holy’ means being ‘set apart’ for God. We are already counted as holy: by His grace and help we must now live in a holy way. We do not belong to ourselves: Jesus has bought us to be His. The Bible says, in 1 Corinthians 6:19, ‘Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your body’.
(Verses 3-6) Nature itself responds to the greatness of God’s power and authority. He parted the Red Sea to let Israel out of Egypt. Forty years later He parted the Jordan to allow them to enter Canaan’s Promised Land. The God who takes the Christian out of sin’s dominion also leads him into a place of blessing for all who follow Jesus, daily read and obey the Bible and keep a prayerful walk with the Lord, and, especially on the Lord’s day, seek fellowship with others saved by faith in Christ. The earthquake described may be that on Mount Sinai when, in awesome circumstances, God revealed His law, the Ten Commandments. If the Creator God wants to get attention by earthquakes, He can make mountains skip ‘like rams’ and hills ‘like lambs’, which run and jump.
(Verses 7-8) When God shows His majestic and powerful presence in our small part of His created world (earth is very tiny part of His universe) the least the earth can do is to quake! We too need to recognise His dazzling holiness and His hatred for and judgement on sin. Yet He is also ‘the God of Jacob’. Jacob was the father of the twelve tribes of Israel, but also a man who often failed: his name means ‘supplanter’ or ‘twister’. God still deals with sinners who trust but fail Him – just like Jacob, me and you. At Meribah (or Massah) God twice brought water from the flinty rock. Jesus is our Rock: He quenches our thirst for reality and for God, now and eternally, and for all who repent and trust Him. Have you repented? Do you trust in Christ?