Praise to Our Great God of Redemption

a brief study of Psalm 114, adapted from PCC Prayer Meeting Exhortation on 11 Nov 2010


Psalm 114 is part of what is known as the “Egyptian Hallel” to the Jews. This collection of psalms comprises Psalms 113-118. A Hallel is a psalm of praise. The “Egyptian Hallel” is so called because of its allusions and references to the exodus of God’s people from Egypt. This might not be very clear in Psalm 113, but it is quite obvious in Psalm 114, which begins with the words, “When Israel went out of Egypt…

Indeed, the whole of Psalm 114 is a celebration of the greatness of God as revealed in the redemption of His people. We may entitle it: “Praise to our Great God of Redemption.” It has a very simple structure. The first six verses is a dramatic call to remembrance of what the LORD did for His people. The last two verses is a compelling call to the world to acknowledge and fear the LORD.


1. A Call to Remember

The events surrounding the exodus of God’s people from Egypt are well-known. But there are many ways to describe it. The book of Exodus described it in prose, but almost everywhere else it is described in poetry. In Psalm 105 and 106, for example, the exodus is described in a kind of poetic narration.

In Psalm 114, however, it is not only described in poetry, but described with such a dramatic personification that everything seems to come alive!

It begins with a description of why the Exodus was important:

1 When Israel went out of Egypt, the house of Jacob from a people of strange language; 2 Judah was his [i.e. God’s] sanctuary, and Israel his dominion.

The Exodus is not merely about a people making an exit from a captor nation. It is about the redemption of God’s people from slavery. Israel, Jacob and Judah are different names to describe God’s people.

God was redeeming His people because He has chosen Judah to be His sanctuary. The word translated ‘sanctuary’ (קדשׁ) may also be translated as ‘holiness’ or ‘holy thing’ as in ‘holy place’ or ‘holy possession.’ God has set apart Judah for Himself. He would, as it were, dwell in the midst of Judah.

God has also chosen Israel to be His dominion. He is King over the entire world, but He has chosen Israel to rule over in His love that they might experience His kingly blessings.

This explains all the special favours that Israel experienced in the whole exodus event. So greatly was Israel favoured by the LORD that all creation, as it were, responded with deference to Israel for the sake of the LORD.

3 The sea saw it, and fled: Jordan was driven back. 4 The mountains skipped like rams, and the little hills like lambs.

What a beautiful description of the parting of the Red Sea and the River Jordan; as well as the mountains shaking. The Red Sea parted for the people when they first left Egypt (Ex 14:21ff). The River Jordan parted 40 years later when they were about to enter the Promised Land finally (Jos 3:15ff). The mountains shook when God spoke to the people to announce the Ten Commandments on Mount Sinai (Ex 19:18).

Why did all these happen? Let’s ask the Red Sea, and Jordan and the mountains and hills.

5 What ailed thee [What troubled 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?

What would these mighty sentinels of God’s Creation say in answer to our query? No doubt, if they could speak, they would say: “We fled, and were driven back, and quake because the Great God our Creator was with His beloved people!”

Says the Red Sea: “I could do no other but flee when the LORD my Creator said to me, ‘make way, be parted, let my people cross!’”

Says the River Jordan: “Cheerfully, I held my flow when the LORD my Creator said to me, ‘Hold still, wait, let my people cross yonder first.’”

Says the mountains and the hills: “The LORD descended on Sinai and spoke to His people. How could we not tremble at His mighty voice?”

The LORD God the Creator of the heavens and the earth was with His people, nothing in this world could be so mighty as to stand in the way. Nothing could stand so proud that it does not serve the Lord and His people!

Today the Exodus is history, but God is still with His people as they march towards the Celestial City.

Therefore, the Spirit of Christ would have us sing in unison to call upon the world to fear and serve the LORD.


2. A Call to Fear the LORD

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.

The earth as a planet is an inanimate object. But the earth represents all its inhabitants rational and irrational. All the earth ought to respond to the LORD’s almighty power. But especially, man, created in God’s image, ought to respond to Him with fear and reverence.

God almighty has demonstrated His power. He parted the Red Sea, stopped the River Jordan, and made the entire mountain range to shake. But not only so, for the sake of His people, He brought a fountain of water out of dry flinty rock. Nothing is impossible with the LORD!

Tremble, thou earth, at the presence of the LORD. Fear the LORD, you inhabitants of the earth. Rich and poor, young and old, men and women, boys and girls, let us fear the LORD. The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom. Let us humble ourselves under His mighty hand and confess our reverence and need for Him.


Conclusion

Psalm 114 is a short Psalm with a simple message. It reminds the world that the LORD our Redeemer is also the creator and governor of the earth. Therefore all the more we must revere Him and serve Him gratefully.

All the earth must fear Him and serve Him because He is the Creator. How much more we, who are not only His creatures, but also His redeemed and adoptive sons and daughters.

We should serve Him with awe and reverence as our Creator. But we should serve Him with love and gratitude as our Redeemer in Christ who laid His life down for us.

And we must not stop, for we must desire for the world to acknowledge who He is and to worship Him with us with the same loving fear that most greatly glorifies our Great God. Amen. Ω