God’s Transforming Power

Psalm 114

Proper history – viewed and interpreted through redemptive lens. Any decent historical account plots succession of empires, movement of peoples; truly proper ones factor in hand and purpose of God. Just one simple “for instance” – why was hinge of history (BC=>AD) “the fullness of the time”? (Gal. 4:4) Ancient history and the Story of Hope have a purposeful connection there: God had orchestrated all details relevant to every individual in Jesus’ family tree in concert with empires and armies and geography and his work of redemption so that the “state of the world” in Jesus’ day was exactly right for what God intended to do.

Same is true of other times in history. Present psalm, clearly pegged in opening phrase to specific time and place – Israel’s miraculous deliverance from Egypt and establishment in Canaan. To have full and correct understanding of significance of “days of Moses”, must grasp spiritual dimensions as well. Not simply one people group being resettled from one country to another. These events have place in both human history and redemptive history – the history of God at work from the Fall to the Last Day.

“Meir Weiss finds even deeper implications to the division (Scriptures, pp. 252–262). The role of the natural phenomena is not merely participation or reaction—the story of Psalm 114 is transformation! Waters roll backward, mountains and hills skip! “In light of an historical revolution, there is a revolution in nature…. The unique position of our psalm is that the choice of Israel, which occurred ‘on Israel’s departure from Egypt,’ produced a revolution in creation, or to be more precise, a new creation” (p.261). The repackaging of the story of water from the rock (Num. 20:8) supports this view. In this psalm, the rock is transformed into water! Nothing remains the same.”” Rabbi Segal

North Korea labor camps; Alcoholics Anonymous; Juvey boot camp – achieve reformation or rehabilitation.

Choe Myong-nam, a North Korean foreign ministry official in charge of UN affairs and human rights issues, said at a briefing with reporters that his country had no prison camps. But he briefly discussed the “reform through labour” camps, describing them as “detention centres where people are improved through their mentality and look on their wrongdoings”.

Bible doesn’t speak about reforming people or ways; not part of mandate to civil government to rehabilitate addicts or abusers or criminals. Bible does speak about transformation (Rom. 12:1-2), about being made new a new kind of person (2 Cor. 5:17). One key point: this isn’t kind of thing we can do for ourselves. Requires power and action outside of ourselves to accomplish transformation; completely contrary to competing worldviews – look within yourself for resources you need to achieve the goal.

This psalm one of the finest examples of both Hebrew and English poetry. “This magnificently lyrical poem” (Segal); “This sublime SONG OF THE EXODUS”, “True poetry has here reached its climax” (Spurgeon) Is beautiful poetry, is also insightful presentation of one of most significant periods in history. God not mentioned by name until verse 7!! Adds to excitement, presumes everyone knows who the central figure of Psalm is without being specifically identified.

Picture painted by psalmist is of God at the forefront, obviously present and active in his creation. God is the one moving forward, overcoming obstacles and opposition. His people follow in his wake, enjoy God’s protection and provision. It is God actively advancing his program through the world and history, bringing his people with him. In the process, God transforms his followers from slaves to a peculiar people; hindrances into helps; what is fearsome into what is fearful; and death is transformed into life.

A. slaves transformed into peculiar people v.1-2

slaves at the mercy of Pharaoh => people of God’s dwelling

started well: Joseph, and by extension his family, enjoyed privileged status – audience with Pharaoh, best real estate in Goshen, best of all survival during famine

then downhill: new generations, population growth (Hebrews), dynasty change (Egyptians), oppression and slavery

forced labor, attempted population control, all by direct order of political power – no way by human perspective Hebrew children could ever change their situation

not unreasonable to think that majority of Hebrews had become idol-worshipers: remember what they did three months down the road – golden calf

to be rightfully considered people of God, needed radical transformation – had no desire or ability to do it on their own

God took initiative – sent Moses and Aaron, humiliated and overthrew false Egyptian gods, led them out of Egypt

from beginning God led them – pillar of cloud / pillar of fire, present at all times whether in motion or not (Ex. 13:21-22)

clear evidence of God’s presence among his people – there even before construction of tabernacle

Judah and Israel – perhaps referring to regions of Promised Land, Northern and Southern Kingdoms considered as a whole

Judah and Israel also names of people, shouldn’t ignore significance there – God is sovereign over places and people

Israel, the people, the place of God’s dominion in a more obvious way – they were his people, he was their King in unique relationship unlike any other

Judah, the tribe, specially significant in later history – the “royal” line from which men of God’s choice came to govern the nation

transformation into people of significance: Rom. 9:4They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises.” – something accomplished entirely by God and his power

B. hindrances transformed into helps v.3-4

many hindrances / obstacles in the way between Egypt and Canaan – Red Sea, Philistines, Edomites/Moabites, Jordan

did not have material resources to overcome topographical obstacles unaided – would have required greater resources than Normandy landing WWII

both Red Sea and Jordan behaved contrary to their nature when God appeared: water seeks its own level, would not on its own have piled up walls / flowed uphill – is obvious from results it was God’s power at work

is significant that God’s people required his transforming power exercised on their behalf to leave slavery and enter land of inheritance

also important to note that God actually did both; didn’t leave them to fend for themselves in the wilderness, no-man’s land

things that aren’t even supposed to move behaved uncharacteristically at God’s arrival – mountains and hills ought to be suitable for foundations, staying in place, firm and unmovable

no wonder Jesus could tell his disciples if had faith as a mustard seed, mountains would move – God had already moved mountains both literal and figurative on behalf of his people

in case of Red Sea, following passage of Hebrew children, became an obstacle again at God’s direction to help them escape Pharaoh and his army

C. fearsome transformed into fearful v.5-6

sea and mountains never behaved in such an uncharacteristic way for Pharaoh, very odd since he was supposed to be a god!

truth is no earthly power or design can cause something to act contrary to its nature; can perhaps keep expression of its nature in check (e.g., taming wild animals, reforming criminals)

not only can God cause this to happen, he has done so repeatedly – shows his power and glory, confirms our faith in him as God who can do the impossible

mankind fears when sea is displaying its power – remember Jonah, sailors on his getaway boat; disciples, storm on sea of Galilee

mankind fears when the mountains tremble, spew fire and smoke (and lava); those same mountains fear the power of God – Sinai shook when God came down to speak with Moses (Ex. 19:18)

man is without question overmatched by forces of nature – really its created things following the rules God gave them and then adjusted at the Fall

man can, within limits prescribed by God, direct (some) natural forces to be productive – better described as limited management than control

irony is that mankind fears the creation but has no concern whatever for the Creator

“Man is endowed with reason and intelligence, and yet he sees unmoved that which the material creation beholds with fear. God has come nearer to us than ever he did to Sinai, or to Jordan, for he has assumed our nature, and yet the mass of mankind are neither driven back from their sins, nor moved in the paths of obedience.” CHS

response of created order to God’s powerful presence a clear testimony to his sovereign authority over all things

D. death transformed to life v.7-8

certainly it is proper for all the earth to tremble at the presence of its Creator; that includes all the people, too!

don’t be mistaken, it is this God who prompts that response – the God who transformed rock into water, not once, but twice

original account says God brought water from the rock; here he transformed rock into water

wasn’t simply a case of fracking, fracturing the rock to release water trapped inside it; the miracle was water coming from the rock, coming out of the rock, not simply passing through it from a hidden reservoir behind

all of these events / actions by God display in visible form the transforming power necessary to bring dead sinners to life

requires God’s power to deliver from slavery in sin (just like in Egypt), cross the obstacles in the path, see the baggage associated with former slavery drowned (Red Sea)

requires God’s power and presence and provision (Horeb, Kadesh) for journey through rest of life, knowing how to live pleasing to him (Sinai), dealing with enemies and obstacles

requires God’s power to deliver safely into heavenly Canaan, that city whose builder and maker is God (Heb. 11:10)

all begins with God’s transforming power in regeneration – turning flint of a hard heart alienated from God into a fountain of living water (John 4:14)

Should remember: God did what he did during events referenced in this psalm within framework of big picture. Didn’t just look down at an oppressed people group and deal with their oppression giving no thought to anything else. God delivered Hebrew children from Egypt and into Canaan the way he did for their benefit and ours. They participated in something of real benefit to them – physical, material, spiritual. Life got a lot easier for them when they crossed the Red Sea – God provided for all their physical needs, put them eventually in an incredibly fertile and productive place where they would prosper. And, he set them up to know true religion and follow him more easily and faithfully.

But in all of that, there is clear picture of redemption from sin – God showed how his transforming power is necessary for people to be delivered from sin’s slavery. Also gave glimpses into other aspects of our redemption – freedom from our past, full provision for our present, and confident hope for our future – yes, Canaan awaits all of God’s children, just across the Jordan. Meanwhile, countless others are enslaved, oppressed and hopeless. We have the good news; let’s be quick to share it at every opportunity.

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