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the Week of Proper 6 / Ordinary 11
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Bible Commentaries
Psalms 114

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Verses 1-6


The grace of the LORD (Psalm 113) is evident in the redemption and restoration of the people of Israel. The return and restoration of the two tribes and the ten tribes in the future is prophetically illustrated by Israel’s exodus from Egypt (Ezekiel 20:34-Zephaniah :).

In Psalm 114 we see the outward restoration.
In Psalm 115 we see the inner restoration. Compare Isaiah 36-37 the outward restoration and Isaiah 38 the inward restoration.
In Psalm 116 we see Israel’s vow and sacrifice of thanksgiving.
In Psalm 117 we hear the call to the nations to praise the LORD.
In Psalm 118 we have the Feast of Booths as a picture of the realm of peace. It is a summary of the ways of the LORD in the redemption of His people.

Psalm 114 describes Israel’s deliverance from slavery in Egypt as an example of Israel’s deliverance in the end times from the great tribulation. The psalm has no introduction and no conclusion. It is the elaboration of the previous psalm. It begins and ends abruptly, without Hallelujah, without the Name of the LORD.

Nature is personified and responds to the coming of the LORD in glory. The story is told in a brilliantly poetic way. The two parallel halves of each verse collectively have only one verb. This enhances the splendor of the language used to represent the glory of God’s grace.

From Exodus to Entry

The history of Israel’s deliverance from Egypt and their journey through the wilderness is one in which God demonstrates His awesome power on behalf of His people from beginning to end. It is an unprecedented event that a great people, held in bondage for centuries, goes forth from the land of slavery (Psalms 114:1).

There is reference here to “Israel” and to “the house of Jacob”. The name Israel is used. That is the name of privilege and blessing. Jacob is the name of weakness and failure. We see that Israel left Egypt with its head held high, as it were. Egypt was “a people of strange language”. This means that in the midst of the Egyptians they did not feel at home. They were strangers there, which presupposes oppression and distress.

God had a plan for them that He began to carry out with their deliverance from Egypt. He fulfilled that plan when He brought them into the land promised to them (Psalms 114:2). He wanted to bring them there to live with them. He chose the tribe of “Judah” to build “His sanctuary”, the temple, there. The entire land “Israel” became “His dominion”. The names Judah and Israel underscore the fact that it includes the ten tribes realm. This means that it is again one people and that He is King of His people and they are His subjects. Sanctuary and kingdom form one whole (cf. Exodus 15:17-Job :). The Lord Jesus is King-Priest on His throne (Zechariah 6:13).

Then the psalmist describes two highlights of the journey from Egypt to Canaan: what happened to the Red Sea and what happened to the Jordan (Psalms 114:3). These events are a type of the restoration of Israel in the future (Isaiah 51:10-1 Kings :). These two highlights illustrate the power of God. When the people have come out of Egypt at the Red Sea, it seems as if their deliverance will end here. They feel the hot breath of the Egyptians who are pursuing them to enslave them again.

Then the sea sees it. What does the sea see? Not the people, but Moses with his staff and behind Moses the LORD Himself. When the sea sees that, she flees (Psalms 114:3). There is no thought of her forming an invincible barrier to the deliverance of the people. She clears a path for Israel in her midst, opening the door to freedom.

This is repeats at the Jordan (Psalms 114:3). The people have come to the border of the land, and there the Jordan seems to be a barrier blocking access to the land. But what happens? The Jordan recedes. The Jordan sees the ark appear, the symbol of the LORD’s presence, and it steps back. Just as God had opened the gates of Egypt to let His people out, He opened the gates to Canaan to let them in. In both cases, He did so by sending the waters away.

In between these two interventions in nature, there is another reaction of nature to God’s presence (Psalms 114:4). “The mountains skipped like rams, the hills, like lambs” is what we see happening when God descended on Sinai to give the law (Exodus 19:18; Psalms 68:8-1 Samuel :).

In Psalms 114:5-Joshua :, questions are asked of the sea, the Jordan, the mountains and the hills, why they reacted as they did. It is as if the psalmist is calling them to witness to what has happened to them. They are asked what role they played when God led His people out to bring them to His sanctuary and His kingdom in Israel and found them in His way.

There may also be questions in our minds about certain natural phenomena, noting that they are different from normal. In poetic language, we ask why this is so. It brings to light our weakness in understanding why something happens. We know that God has everything in His hand, but we often don’t know why things go the way they do.

Verses 7-8

Tremble, O Earth

In these verses follows the answer to the questions of the previous verses: these wondrous natural phenomena are signs of the appearance of the LORD. It also evokes awe about God’s omnipotence, without always understanding why certain things happen. We see something similar in the life of Job. He does not understand why he has to suffer so much. He has many questions about that. He gets the answer at the end of the book. The answer is: God rules. When we don’t understand why certain things happen in our lives, God wants us to trust Him, without Him giving a direct answer to our questions. He Himself is the answer.

In connection with what happened to the Red Sea, the Jordan, and the mountains and hills, it should become clear that God wants to be acknowledged not only by these four natural elements, but by the whole earth. The earth, that is, the inhabitants thereon, are called to tremble “before the Lord” (Psalms 114:7). The Lord is the sovereign Ruler, the Commander and Governor. He is so not only of Israel, but of the universe. How would the earth remain unmoved in His presence? He is none other than “the God of Jacob”.

While the earth trembles before Him, He cares for His people and refreshes them with water (Psalms 114:8). That is, the purpose of the appearance of the LORD’s power is to give life to the people. This happens because the rock, a picture of Christ (1 Corinthians 10:4) is struck, making Him a fountain of living water. The book of Numbers makes it clear that on the basis of the one-time event in the past – the striking of the rock – we can speak to the Rock each time thereafter. The Lord then gives us the refreshment of the living water each time (cf. Isaiah 12:1-Leviticus :).

He changed “the rock” at Horeb “into a pool of water” (Exodus 17:6) and at Kadesh “flint into a fountain of water” (Numbers 20:11). That is, by His power He brings forth refreshment and life from what seems to man an insurmountable obstacle. That is how God will do it in the end times, when there seems to be no outcome from affliction. This is also how God does it in our lives when we find ourselves in a hopeless situation.

These events speak of Christ, Who has unlocked a fountain of living water for all who thirst (1 Corinthians 10:4; John 4:13-2 Chronicles :; John 7:37-Malachi :).

Bibliographical Information
de Koning, Ger. Commentaar op Psalms 114". "Kingcomments on the Whole Bible". https://www.studylight.org/commentaries/eng/kng/psalms-114.html. 'Stichting Titus' / 'Stichting Uitgeverij Daniël', Zwolle, Nederland. 2021.
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