Theme: When Nature Moves before God
In this week’s lessons, we are reminded of the Lord’s abiding presence with his people, even in the midst of great trials and hardships.
Scripture: Psalm 114:1-8
What could possibly have caused such disturbances in the natural course of nature—the sea to part, the river to reverse its flow, the majestic peaks of Sinai to tremble? This is what the third stanza of the psalm asks rhetorically:
Why was it, O sea, that you fled,O Jordan, that you turned back,you mountains, that you skipped like rams,you hills, like lambs?
In our text these lines are joined into one long interrogatory sentence, but in the Hebrew they are actually four teasing questions (teasing because the author already knows the answer and is asking them only for effect). Here is the place to observe that at no place in the psalm has God been mentioned by name until now, that is, through the end of the third stanza. The English translators have added the possessive form of the word “God” in verse 2, rendering “Judah became God’s sanctuary,” judging that in English it is improper to have a pronoun without a clear antecedent. But even the bare word “God” is absent from the Hebrew text. The original merely has “his.” So God has not been mentioned, and most certainly there has been no mention of God’s name, that is, Yahweh or Jehovah. The author must have been having fun as he wrote this, knowing the answer and knowing that we know the answer too but holding off. What could have caused the sea to part, the river to turn back and the hills to tremble? he asks. For twelve lines he has allowed our interest to build for dramatic effect.
At last the expected answer comes. It was “the presence of the Lord…the presence of the God of Jacob” (v. 7). Seas, rivers and mountains move only in the presence of their Maker. Hence, God alone brought his people out of Egypt” (v. 1) and “turned the rock into a pool, the hard rock into springs of water (v. 8).
This is the climax of the psalm, but we cannot leave it without noting that Christians have an excellent equivalent in the Apostle Paul’s equally poetic statement of the believers’ security in Christ in Romans 8. The psalmist had asked the question: If God is for his people, what possibly can stand in their way to oppose them? The answer is nothing at all, neither seas nor rivers nor mountains. Similarly, the Apostle completes his classic unfolding of the gospel message by asking:
If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things? Who will bring any charge against those whom God has chosen? It is God who justifies. Who is he that condemns? Christ Jesus, who died—more than that, who was raised to life—is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or sword? As it is written:
“For your sake we face death all day long;we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height not depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 8:31-39).
What occurs in stanza three that hasn’t occurred earlier in the psalm?
What equivalent do Christians have for the security found in God? How is this theme restated by Paul in Romans 8?
Reflection: Are there contemporary events in which you can clearly see God’s hand? How can today’s teaching help you face uncertainty in your life?