Psalm 114 - We Are God's Sanctuary
Psalm 114:1-8 NIV
When Israel came out of Egypt, the house of Jacob from a people of foreign tongue,
Judah became God's sanctuary, Israel his dominion.
The sea looked and fled, the Jordan turned back;
the mountains skipped like rams, the hills like lambs.
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?
Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob,
who turned the rock into a pool, the hard rock into springs of water.
The Psalmist remembered the time when Israel left Egypt, when their status changed from aliens living with “people of foreign tongue” to becoming “God’s sanctuary”. That was a big change of fortune, from a stateless people to a new nation with God dwelling in their midst. It was a huge contrast in their life, from slaves of the Egyptians to stewards for the almighty God.
Do we feel the huge contrast in our own life after becoming Christians? Do we feel the honour of having the Holy Spirit dwell in us, Jesus as our saviour and our bodies as God’s temple? All of a sudden, we’ve become part of God’s kingdom and we can call each other our brothers and sisters. God, as Jesus, went into darkness for us, to save us from the ashes of our sins. He redeemed us; He is our God almighty. God is with us, and living in us. That is a huge privilege and honour, but do we really feel it?
The Psalmist personified nature as a being that feared God. The “sea looked and fled”, the “Jordan (river) turned back”, and “the mountains skipped like rams, the hills like lambs”. These are examples of parallelism in Hebrew poetry, repeating the same idea in different ways. The Red Sea and Jordan River had parted, and the ‘mountain and hills’ could refer to Moses time with God at Mount Sinai when there was thunder and lightning (Exodus 19:16 NIV).
The Old Testament’s stories are examples for us to follow and heritage we ought to keep, even though they happened thousands of years ago. These were memories the Israelites passed down from generations to the Psalmist. But what do they mean to us?
The Psalmist felt the honour that Israel was chosen to be God’s sanctuary despite being a lowly slave of Egypt. He expressed the reverence he felt by poetically describing how nature fears God. Obviously nature is not a person and cannot flee, turn or skip like rams and lambs. The Psalmist compared nature to himself, and expressed his need to fear God.
We tend to lose the fear of God over time. Most people prefer to talk about God’s love but not His power. We hate talking about others with power because we ourselves desire power and the ability to determine our fate. We should be glad our God is all-powerful, otherwise this world will be in chaos and our life will be a mess. If I have the power to determine my fate, my life will be gone. Come on! Andy, are you proud to have an almighty God who actually dwells in you? Our power comes from God; we can do amazing things if God is on our side.
I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it. “If you love me, you will obey what I command. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Counselor to be with you forever – the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realise that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him." (John 14:12-21 NIV)
Do we do what Jesus has been doing? Jesus said that we will do even greater things than him because he will be going to the Father and he will do whatever we ask in his name. This is not a ‘genie-like’ granting of whatever our heart desires, but it has to be in line with “what I (Jesus) have been doing”.
One of my heroes in faith is my good brother, Shankar, my ‘grand-tree’ who indirectly brought me to Christ. Many became disciples through him because he did what Jesus did, reaching out to people and loving them. After 30 years as a disciple, his desire to reach out to people like Jesus has not changed. He continues to have people studying the Bible to learn about God. His fear of God has not faded.
“Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord.” Are there things or people we fear? Look at them and tell them that our God is almighty. We have the backing of the most powerful being. Everything should fear God, and we should fear nothing and no one else. God is good.
Andy is the head of compliance for an international bank and is happily married, with three daughters. He became a disciple of Christ three decades ago, and studies God's Word passionately. He desires to be constantly led by the Spirit.