By Ross Freeman
When Israel went out of Egypt,
The house of Jacob from a people of strange language,
Judah became His sanctuary,
And Israel His dominion.
The sea saw it and fled;
Jordan turned back.
The mountains skipped like rams,
The little hills like lambs. What ails you, O sea, that you fled?
O Jordan, that you turned back?
O mountains, that you skipped like rams?
O little hills, like lambs?
Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord,
At the presence of the God of Jacob,
Who turned the rock into a pool of water,
The flint into a fountain of waters.
Please take the time to read and meditate on these verses before embarking on the poetic journey into this wonderful Psalm.
This short Psalm brings to our attention the nearness of God and the power He is exerting upon us.
1. His dwelling place in us:
Judah was his sanctuary (v2). God dwelt in Judah, in the sense in which He dwelt nowhere else in the world according to the Israelite mindset of the day.
That was where His manifested presence was and that was where the tribe came when they wanted to offer sacrifices and make supplications. To them it was the place of His abode.
But as we know today God dwells not only with but also in His people. We are the habitation of God through the Spirit and our hearts are His earthly home.
“How much more will your Heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him.” (Luke 11:13)
2. We have His energizing presence:
What was it that moved the mountains, that rolled back the river, that made the water of the sea part? It was the operative presence of God Himself; it was the working of the unseen hand.
So what is it now that make the tides of the oceans keep their time, the streams and rivers to fertilize the soil through which they flow, the seed to germinate in the soil, the corn and the fruit to ripen in the sun? When we have tried everything we can, when we have come to the only conclusion we can, we still will not have obtained the answer or explanation we are looking for. Then we finally come to the awesome fact of God’s presence as the energizing power which He supplies, without which there could be no life, no growth, no motion and no result.
The answer to these questions, how and when is this, “the presence of the Lord.” Without the presence of God nothing can be created, nothing can be made without Him. The Lord of Hosts is with us.
3. We have His coveting power: (v8)
The turning of the rock into a pool of water was a divine and wonderful action. But the spiritual and supernatural are as divine as the miraculous. Equally as miraculous is the transformation of the hardened flinty heart into the water of repentance, and into the fountain of purity.
God is doing daily in His churches that which He calls the loudest song of praise. His greatest work is not of rock, soil, sea or river, but on the hard tablet of human hearts and on the sinful habits of human life.
1. The soul's exodus:
This psalm is wonderfully vivid and a beautiful description of the deliverance of God’s people from Egypt.
In all the ages of the church, this has been looked upon as a pattern and type of the soul’s deliverance by the redemption of Christ and we are shown that here.
2. From where the soul was set free:
The soul of man was set free from Egypt, the true nature of the world - at first Egypt was so pleasant, so prosperous, so free from care, a life so easy and secure, but eventually the true character is revealed: they are a strange and tyrannical people and the redeemed soul has found them out.
3. What happened at this exodus:
There was the indwelling of God, the soul became His shrine. He was worshiped, loved and trusted day by day. There was willing obedience, God was the Lord of their life, and the soul became the domain of God.
The impossible happened. The sea, a symbol of power of Spiritual death, recognized this and retreated. It is a true picture of what takes place at the real conversion of a soul. Old things pass away.
The streams and the course of life come to a standstill as was the Jordan. (Josh 3:16) So it is with the soul, until redemption comes and there is a conversion; a complete turning around in the aims, principles and motives of life, the fixed habits and propensities – fixed like the mountains and hills of Sinai – the pride, unbelief, selfishness, love of sin, all which seemed firmly settled in our nature, are shaken, and plucked up by the roots.
The rock like heart, flint like, barren and lifeless, becomes transformed into a standing water, a fountain of waters (John 7:37-38). The soul is blessed and becomes a blessing.
4. How is all this explained:
Men will ask and try to discover this, but, they will not find the answer other than it is the presence of the Lord. (v5-7)
1. Man is God’s temple, Judah becomes his sanctuary:
This Psalm clearly belongs to the returned exiles, when the remaking of the nation was the matter most prominent in the interests of the people.
It’s quite a natural thing to compare the remaking of the nation with the first making of it; and to get the comforting assurance that God was presiding over the remaking, by understanding in a very positive manner as possible, how He has presided over the original making.
In the original making there had been very remarkable and miraculous outward and visible signs of the divine presence – the dividing of the red sea in the beginning, the quaking mountains at the early stages, the smitten rock and flowing water in the latter stages and the divided Jordan at the end.
2. God’s presence and power were the glories of the nation from the beginning
This truth was evidenced by the wonders that were performed in connection with the deliverance of God’s people from Egypt.
The plagues were judgments; but they were valuable teachings, sanctifying impressions made upon the people of Israel. This knowledge taught them about God, and helped them realize what God with them would involve. The truth was impressed on them by such signs as the dividing of the red sea. This fully illustrated God’s presence as the ruler, rewarder, and judge of the people.
From all the material signs of the divine relations, we need to be aware of and discern the far more important moral signs; God Himself molding the national life; God Himself directly ruling the moral and religious life of the nation.
3. God’s presence and power were glories of the restored nation:
God’s moral advances were made when men could discern God’s working in ordinary everyday situations, no longer needing miracles of atonement!
To the restored exiles everyday situations became signs of direct workings on their behalf and their thinking here was the correct one.
4. God’s presence and power are the glories of the church today:
We have risen above the reach of the restored exiles. To us God is present and working – not in miraculous acts, nor specifically in everyday situations, but in the spiritual indwelling of the Holy Spirit.
Verses 3 and 4
1. Nature made to serve God’s purpose:
These verses are poetical representations of three actual facts, which are recorded in the history of God’s people. We may see facts in their bare bald nakedness, or we may see them with the color of which only poetical genius can express. It may be disputed whether past history or suggestive poetry is really truer to nature or truer to life.
So the poet in this Psalm tells us what nature says. In these verses we are led to understand that the sea felt God working in it and surrendered to His touch. The Jordan felt God working in it and stopped flowing. Sinai felt God working in it and responded with trembling of reverence, even holy joy.
The response of nature is a lesson for man. God worked in His highest powers and in His highest spheres; and His response should be more prompt than the pounding waves, more complete than the halting of the rivers flow, and more joyous than the trembling of the divine touch of the Master’s hand on the hills of Sinai.
2. Psalmist was the moral teacher of his time:
The Psalmist’s point here may simply be that nature does respond to God and serves His purposes, so too should man, because man is part of nature and should be in harmony with God’s creation. But man is a higher being; we are a being with a will, a being in God’s image.
This is God’s willing response; it is His loving and obedient outworking of the divine purpose, which He asks of the restored exiles, and of us.
1. Spiritual exodus:
We make our escape from a state of bondage – Egypt – a life of sin is a life of spiritual bondage (Rom 6:16). This life of bondage brings us into strange and unnatural relations (v1). Egypt was not the home of the Israelites, nor is this world the home of the Christian.
2. The spiritual exodus brings us into our true or divine relations (v2):
We become consecrated temples for the indwelling of God (v2). Judah was His sanctuary. We are kingdoms over which God reigns. We are His domain.
3. The exodus is accomplished by great excitement:
There is an awesome revelation of the presence of God (v7), Sinai was shaken by it and so is the soul of man. Moses said, “I exceedingly fear and quake.” (Heb 12:21 KJV)
There is a revelation of the abundant mercy of God (v8). This manifestation of God turned the rock into standing water and flint into a fountain of water. Our hearts are softened, and the rivers of living water enter.
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