Scripture Text: Psalm 114 Title: Tremble!
Question of the Day: What is man’s response when the presence of God is manifested?
There are those who deny the existence of God because they have never “seen” Him; but every believer knows what it means to be visited by the presence of God. It usually happens in the most unexpected times and ways and during a crisis time when are under attack from the evil one. The presence of God is the theme of this psalm, and it is loaded with meaning for the Bible student of today as it was for the Israelites when it was written.
Here are the words of this text: “When the Israelites left Egypt, and the descendants of Jacob left that nation who had a strange language, it was then that Judah became the place of the sanctuary of the LORD, and the land of Israel became the place where He desired to rule the world. Before His mighty nation the Red Sea took one look and fled and the Jordan River turned back and piled high. The mountains skipped like the male sheep butting each other and the hills skipped like a little lamb. So what ails you, O Red Sea that you fled like that? And O Jordan, what ails you that you piled high? O mountains, why did you skip like a ram, and O hills, why did you skip like a little lamb? O earth, tremble at the presence of Elohim, when the God of Jacob shows up and turns the rock into an abundance of water, and the hard flint rock became a spring of water.”
The psalm outlines for us what happens when the presence of the LORD is manifested in any place on earth. Of all places on earth where the LORD shows his mighty power, it is in and around the land of Israel and among the Jewish people on earth—and in our day around places where the people of God gather, and among where His people live. It is a fact that the LORD demonstrates His presence wherever His people are—whether in bondage in Egypt, at the Red Sea, at the Jordan River, or—as recorded in this psalm—in the mountains and hills of the land of Israel.
When it is God’s timing to show His presence on earth, He chooses to do it in and through the events that surround His dealings with His people. For instance, when Israel went out from Egypt, and when the descendants of Jacob left the country where they spoke a strange language. Then the process began whereby eventually among the tribe of Judah He made His earthly sanctuary, and among the nation of Israel He, declared His dominion (which will eventually be over the whole earth). During the time of the Exodus and Israel’s departure from bondage, the Red Sea fled from the presence of the LORD, the God of Jacob. The Jordan River was turned back and the waters “heaped”—even though water doesn’t heap—except at the command of God! The mountains skipped around like rams. When one thinks of rams, they think of them butting heads with a thundering sound. This is referring to the time when the Israelites were at mount Sinai and the earth quaked and shook the surrounding area and it seemed that the mountain moved at the presence of the LORD (see Psalm 18:7; 29:6; Exodus 19:18), and the hills also skipped like a lamb. When little lambs are young, they run and jump and skip around in frolic as they play around—it is fun to watch!
At this point the psalmist directly addresses the Red Sea, the Jordan River, the mountains, and the hills with a question, “What ails you…?” One would wonder what the connection between these events is: Why would each of them respond in totally unnatural ways? Seas don’t flee; rivers don’t turn back; and mountains and hills don’t skip around like a lamb. It is at this point that the psalmist unveils the purpose of His writing this psalm: he had figured out that the connection was that the presence of the Lord, the God of Jacob, was manifested at each of these events.
And then the psalmist concludes with mentioning how God manifested His presence to the children of Israel: it was also when He turned the rock into a pool of water and the flint into a spring of water—enough to supply the needs of 3 million or so people! And in this way the LORD, the God of Jacob manifested His presence. So I ask myself: in what ways has the LORD manifested His presence during my lifetime? Here is a brief list: the night I was saved in Ringgold, NE in a revival at the Free Methodist Church; the day the Lord saved my life when the tree fell up in the LaSal Mountains of southeastern Utah and brushed me and knocked me down; when CF fired me for not running with a female truck driver on an overnight sleeper run, and I lost my job, filed a lawsuit that went nowhere, and lay awake many a sleepless nights grieving over what I had done to our family and wept in the middle of the night.
When I was a student at Prairie Bible College and we sang Handel’s “Worthy is the Lamb” and the “Hallelujah Chorus” with a 50+ piece orchestra and a 250 voice choir, my heart pounded with excitement as the LORD manifested His presence to us in that auditorium. I remember the speaker for the night getting up and saying, “We have already reached the pinnacle of the service, we just as well say the benediction and go home!”
I remember when the information for the book “Knowing, Seeking, Worshiping” first came to me while driving a truck between Murfreesboro and Manchester, TN. My heart pounded with excitement as I rejoiced in the way the various character qualities of God are revealed throughout the various parts of His creation, and that He had specially chosen man to mirror one of His character qualities forever—His steadfast love! I also remember when I joined the Heritage Men’s Choral for the first practice that I attended; my heart was pounding for hours after I left that music building on the campus of Trevecca University, and I lay awake that night until 4:00 in the morning and couldn’t sleep because of the excitement of that moment. In so many ways the LORD has manifested His presence as I study and meditate on His Word, and so I wait for many more times in my brief life when the Lord will manifest His presence again and again!
Prayer: O God, I praise You for manifesting Your presence so many times throughout history. Man looks for a visible representation of an invisible God, yet the brilliant light that surrounds Your presence is no place for man in a sinful body! Come show Your presence to me so many more times throughout my pilgrimage here on earth, and teach me to look for You to show up when needed and when You chose to. It will be wonderful throughout all of eternity to continue to dwell in Your presence, and as the psalmist said in Psalm 91:1, “The person who continually dwells in the sheltered place of the Most High God will find permanent rest in the shadow of the Almighty!” Amen! David B. Virts has written a book called “Knowing, Seeking Worshiping — a study of the character of God.” It is available by calling 615-945-0611.