Reading: Psalm 114
When Israel came out of Egypt,
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 leaped like rams,
the hills like lambs.
Why was it, sea, that you fled?
Why, Jordan, did you turn back?
Why, mountains, did you leap like rams,
you hills, like lambs?
Tremble, 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 (NIV).
“Why?” A four-year-old’s favourite question is, “Why?” Here in Psalm 114, the psalmist has some why questions as well. “Why did the sea flee? Why did the Jordan River turn back? Why did those mountains and hills seem to skip and dance? Why?”
The answer of course is because of the jaw-dropping, eye-popping, heart-stopping power of God. God caused the sea to flee. He caused the Jordan to turn back. He caused mountains and hills to skip about and frolic like yearling lambs set free from the stall. What an awesome display! What an awesome God!
Psalm 114 is all about the overwhelming power of God. It is a grand portrayal of the pivotal event in the Old Testament Scriptures. Here within a few short verses we catch a panoramic view of God’s might on display, starting with Israel’s escape from Egypt, to their arrival in the Promised Land.
Why did the miracle-working LORD make the sea flee? Was it simply to display His awe-inducing power? Was it simply to create excitement among the million or more mortals, who were eyewitnesses to this divine wonder? In the Exodus account, the reason for this miraculous intervention is stated clearly: That day the LORD saved Israel from the hand of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians lying dead on the shore. And when the Israelites saw the great power of the LORD displayed against the Egyptians, the people feared the LORD and put their trust in him and in Moses his servant (Exodus 14:30-31).
This power display had one primary purpose. That purpose was salvation. The LORD wanted to save people—His covenant people—from the vicious clutches of oppression and a tyranny. In short, the LORD works wonders so that He can save people—so He can bring them into His Kingdom—so they can escape the sin systems of this world, and come under His loving rule.
Response: Father God, thank you for going all out to save me through the death and resurrection of your Son, Jesus. What a display of your love and power! Help me to love, fear and trust you. Amen.
Your Turn: Why did God save you? Is there a reason for His mercy?
Reading: Psalm 83
A psalm of Asaph.
O God, do not remain silent;
do not turn a deaf ear,
do not stand aloof, O God.
See how your enemies growl,
how your foes rear their heads.
With cunning they conspire against your people;
they plot against those you cherish.
“Come,” they say, “let us destroy them as a nation,
so that Israel’s name is remembered no more.”
With one mind they plot together;
they form an alliance against you—
the tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites,
of Moab and the Hagrites,
Byblos, Ammon and Amalek,
Philistia, with the people of Tyre.
Even Assyria has joined them
to reinforce Lot’s descendants (NIV).
Do you have enemies? Ancient Israel certainly did. Here in Psalm 83, Asaph lists ten traditional enemies of Israel. The psalmist clearly states the objective of these foreign powers. Their objective was the annihilation of Israel as a nation. “Come,” they say, “let us destroy them as a nation, so that Israel’s name is remembered no more.”
In the spiritual realm every born-again follower of Jesus has a host of enemies who are trying to tear him down and annihilate his or her faith. Therefore, St. Paul gives us this advice: Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Ephesians 6:11-12).
Though they may not have a physical form, our enemies are real. The trap called pornography is real. The idolatrous nature of greed is real. The crippling effects of resentment and bitterness are real. These sins and the demonic forces that continually prompt us to disobey God are real. They are constantly working to annihilate our faith.
Our enemies growl and like cobras they rear their heads to strike. But in our hour of need, if we call out to God, He will not stand aloof. He will deliver us. Lord, teach us to pray. Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one.
Response: LORD God, we have a powerful opponent, but we have victory through your Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. I call on your awesome name. Give me victory over sin and the forces of evil that are out to destroy my life. My strength is in you. Amen.
Your Turn: Can you identify the sins and snares the enemy has set for you?
Reading: Psalm 72
Endow the king with your justice, O God,
the royal son with your righteousness.
May he judge your people in righteousness,
your afflicted ones with justice.
May the mountains bring prosperity to the people,
the hills the fruit of righteousness.
May he defend the afflicted among the people
and save the children of the needy;
may he crush the oppressor.
May he endure as long as the sun,
as long as the moon, through all generations.
May he be like rain falling on a mown field,
like showers watering the earth.
In his days may the righteous flourish
and prosperity abound till the moon is no more.
May he rule from sea to sea
and from the River to the ends of the earth.
May the desert tribes bow before him and his enemies lick the dust.
May the kings of Tarshish and of distant shores bring tribute to him.
May the kings of Sheba and Seba present him gifts.
May all kings bow down to him and all nations serve him (NIV).
There is a verse from Psalm 72 carved in stone into Canada’s Parliament building. From the King James Version it reads, “He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth” (Psalm 72:8).
There are several ways of interpreting this verse. First, it should be noted that Psalm 72 is a prayer of Solomon. During his reign, Solomon brought the nation of Israel to the pinnacle of greatness, prosperity and dominance over its surrounding neighbors. But Solomon also sowed the seeds that brought about the nation’s decline after his death. His marriage to hundreds of foreign wives led directly to idolatry and a forsaking of the ways of the LORD. Personal wealth and aggrandizement were achieved by means of forced labor and high taxation. Revolt was festering beneath a surface of calm.
Another interpretation of this psalm takes a more messianic approach. The Messiah will reign. He will have dominion from sea to sea. Many believe this is how the Fathers of Confederation viewed this passage. They longed for the reign of Christ on the earth. Even so we pray, thy Kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. That should be the prayer of every Christian believer in whatever country we live.
Response: LORD Jesus, have dominion over me. I willingly submit to your rule. You are my King and my God. I willingly bow my knees before you. Reign over me, and in me to the end of time. Amen.
Your Turn: Are you by nature rebellious or do you find it easy to submit to God’s rule?
I will praise Him!
Let them praise the name of the LORD,
for his name alone is exalted;
his splendor is above the earth and the heavens.
And he has raised up for his people a horn,
the praise of all his faithful servants,
of Israel, the people close to his heart.
Praise the LORD.
(Psalm 148:13-14, NIV)
Reading: Psalm 35
LORD, you have seen this; do not be silent.
Do not be far from me, Lord.
Awake, and rise to my defense!
Contend for me, my God and Lord.
Vindicate me in your righteousness, LORD my God;
do not let them gloat over me.
Do not let them think, “Aha, just what we wanted!”
or say, “We have swallowed him up” (NIV).
There’s an old saying, “The more things change, the more they stay the same.” That certainly is true of the conflict in the Holy Land. About 3,000 years ago, in David’s time the Kingdom of Israel was in a struggle for survival. Chief among its enemies were the Philistines along the Gaza coast. On the day I wrote this post, Israel’s chief enemy Hamas was firing rockets into Israel from the Gaza coast.
David’s words from Psalm 35 have a present day resonance. LORD, you have seen this; do not be silent. Do not be far from me, Lord. Awake, and rise to my defense! Contend for me, my God and Lord. Many in present day Israel are praying this prayer with the fervour of those who are being attacked.
But the residents of Gaza could pray this prayer with equal fervour. Their homes and businesses are also under bombardment. Where is God in all this suffering? Whose side is He on? Many in the Christian community affirm with great confidence that God is on the side of Israel. Does that make God complicit in the deaths of innocent children in Gaza?
Jesus gave this counsel to his disciples, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’ But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also” (Matthew 5:38-39). Present day Israel (and America for that matter) has a well-established policy of hard-hitting retaliation when attacked. What are the long term consequences of this policy? Is the conflict resolved or is it inflamed?
Jesus’ admonition to turn the other cheek goes unheeded. Most feel that turning the other cheek implies weakness. In reality it requires far more strength, but in the end it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness—not a righteousness that insists on its own way—but a righteousness that sees both sides of an issue and works hard for peace and reconciliation.
Jesus asks us to do the far harder thing. Retaliation is easy. It’s the natural response. Forgiving when we are wronged, that requires far more effort. Whose side is God on? He is on the side of peace. That’s something worth fighting for.
Response: Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God (Matthew 5:9). LORD God, help me to be a local peacemaker in my world today—someone who builds bridges between people and communities. Amen.
Your Turn: Forgiveness and turning the other cheek works on a personal level. Can it work on an international level as well?
I will praise Him!
I will declare your name to my people;
in the assembly I will praise you.
You who fear the LORD, praise him!
All you descendants of Jacob, honor him!
Revere him, all you descendants of Israel!
For he has not despised or scorned
the suffering of the afflicted one;
he has not hidden his face from him
but has listened to his cry for help.
(Psalm 22:22-24, NIV)
Reading: Psalm 136
to him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt
His love endures forever.
and brought Israel out from among them
His love endures forever.
with a mighty hand and outstretched arm;
His love endures forever.
to him who divided the Red Sea asunder
His love endures forever.
and brought Israel through the midst of it,
His love endures forever.
but swept Pharaoh and his army into the Red Sea;
His love endures forever.
to him who led his people through the wilderness;
His love endures forever (NIV).
Because of the responsive pattern employed by the psalmist, today’s reading from Psalm 136 begins as an incomplete sentence. When combined with yesterday’s reading, the full sentence reads: Give thanks to the Lord of lords, to him who struck down the firstborn of Egypt, and brought Israel out from among them with a mighty hand and outstretched arm.
Whereas yesterday’s reading from Psalm 136 celebrates the wonders of God’s creation, today’s reading celebrates the wonders of God’s redemption of Israel. The LORD delivered the captive souls of Israel from hard labor and slavery in Egypt. Though the eldest child of the Egyptians perished, the Hebrew children were spared from the Angel of Death, because the blood of the Passover lamb was applied to the doorposts of their home. See Exodus 12.
At a grim Passover celebration 2,000 years ago, Jesus suffered and died on the cross as our Passover Lamb. When we place our faith in his sacrificial blood, we too are spared from death. Jesus tasted death on our behalf, so that we can live eternally with him. As believers we can rejoice and draw comfort from these words. “Where, O death, is your victory? Where, O death, is your sting?” The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Corinthians 15:55-57).
Through the blood of Christ the power of Satan is broken and we are brought into the dominion of the Son of God. For he has rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son he loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins (Colossians 1:13-14).
Surely as redeemed children of God—children personally redeemed by the Son of God—we have this testimony: His love endures forever.
Response: Father God, I thank you for redeeming me with the sacred blood of Jesus. I have been adopted into your family. You are my heavenly Father. I can never thank you enough. Amen.
Your Turn: Are you living in a new kingdom, under a new king—King Jesus?
Reading: Psalm 135
He struck down the firstborn of Egypt,
the firstborn of people and animals.
He sent his signs and wonders into your midst, Egypt,
against Pharaoh and all his servants.
He struck down many nations
and killed mighty kings—
Sihon king of the Amorites,
Og king of Bashan,
and all the kings of Canaan—
and he gave their land as an inheritance,
an inheritance to his people Israel.
Your name, LORD, endures forever,
your renown, LORD, through all generations.
For the LORD will vindicate his people
and have compassion on his servants (NIV).
Psalm 135 began with a call for the LORD’s people to praise Him. For the LORD has chosen Jacob to be his own, Israel to be his treasured possession.
In today’s reading, the psalmist continues by recounting how Israel came to be God’s treasured possession. It happened as the result of a great cosmic struggle. The descendants of the patriarch Israel (who was also called Jacob) were enslaved in Egypt. There they toiled under cruel taskmasters until by the hand of Moses the LORD sent his signs and wonders into their midst. After ten terrible plagues, Pharaoh finally relented and set God’s people free. Nevertheless, Pharaoh changed his mind and sent his army to pursue Israel. Again at the Red Sea, the LORD intervened. He parted the sea, for His chosen people, but brought it crashing down upon Egypt’s army.
Make no mistake; you too are part of a great cosmic struggle. You were born into a world that is under the control of Satan. Jesus called our adversary the ruler, or prince of this world (John 16:11). We were born under Satan’s authority and within his domain just as the Hebrew children were born into a state slavery in the land of Egypt. As we grow up, Satan has his taskmasters, who set us to work doing his bidding. It begins as we bow to peer pressure, but soon those things we choose begin to assert control. We can soon find ourselves in a downward spiral, imprisoned by sinful habits.
Only Jesus can liberate us from this bondage. At the cross he paid the full price for our redemption. Crossing the Red Sea foreshadows the New Testament sacrament of baptism. It signals our break with the old life—the old bondage. See 1 Corinthians 10:1-4. We have a new master now. His name is Jesus. He is the great liberator. He liberates us from the bondage of sin, and the taunts of the Accuser, who insists that we will never be good enough. But Jesus is our sufficiency. By his grace we are saved.
Response: Father God, I thank you for liberation. Through Jesus you freed me from the bondage of sin. I am eternally grateful. Fill me with the joy of your salvation. You saved me. Hallelujah! Amen.
Your Turn: Have you been liberated from the bondage of sin?
I will praise Him!
A song of ascents. Of David.
If the LORD had not been on our side—
let Israel say—
if the LORD had not been on our side
when people attacked us,
they would have swallowed us alive
when their anger flared against us;
the flood would have engulfed us,
the torrent would have swept over us,
the raging waters
would have swept us away.
Praise be to the LORD,
who has not let us be torn by their teeth.
We have escaped like a bird
from the fowler’s snare;
the snare has been broken,
and we have escaped.
Our help is in the name of the LORD,
the Maker of heaven and earth.