God brought his people
out of Egypt,
with a strange language.
When the sea looked at God,
it ran away,
and the Jordan River
The mountains and the hills
skipped around like goats.
Ask the sea why it ran away
or ask the Jordan
why it flowed upstream.
Ask the mountains and the hills
why they skipped like goats!
Earth, you will tremble,
when the Lord God of Jacob
because he turns solid rock
into flowing streams
and pools of water. (CEV)
I’m a metaphor guy. I like word pictures, analogies, and illustrations. Maybe that’s one reason I resonate with the Old Testament. The Hebrew mind revels in story, symbol, similitude, and even the occasional sarcasm. The turn-of-phrase is something which connects well with me – which is why I like today’s psalm. The language is freighted with metonymy and personification.
This psalm is a poetic response to the Jewish Passover and exodus out of slavery to freedom. It is a brief song of thanksgiving which nicely recounts the Israelite experience from Egypt to the Promised Land. At the behest of a mighty God, the Red Sea parted when the people left Egypt, and the Jordan River stopped its flowing when the people entered the Promised Land.
It’s a whole lot more powerful to say, “When the sea looked at God, it ran away,” than it is to say, “The Red Sea parted.” God is so mighty, so powerful, so large and sovereign that we must use the full extent of language to even begin to describe his wonderful works. A big God with awesome capability needs some wordsmithing worthy of his greatness.
Not only does the sea flee from its place, the river turns back, the mountains and hills shake and skip. To try and somehow capture the immensity of God, the psalmist used language which communicates that even inanimate objects come alive and fulfill his divine bidding.
It is one thing to make a flat statement such as, “Put your trust in God,” and it is quite another matter to open up the tool of language and allow it to picture a divine Being so amazing that nothing nor anyone can possibly stand in his way. And this very same God works for us, not against us.
The Lord God almighty, Creator of heaven and earth, has taken his formidable power and granted us a pinch of it – because that’s all we really need. Jesus, intimately familiar with his mighty heavenly Father, commented:
If your faith is as big as a mustard seed, you can say to this mulberry tree, “Dig yourself up and plant yourself in the ocean!” And the tree will obey you. (Luke 17:6, ERV)
For assuredly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, “Be removed and be cast into the sea,” and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says. (Mark 11:23, NKJV)
All of creation conspires together to participate in the great liberating and saving acts of God for his people. And if that wasn’t enough, we have been given his Holy Spirit to be with us forever – uprooting trees and moving mountains to accomplish the good and loving plan of God here on earth as it is always done in heaven.
Mighty God you invite us to be with you, to have a place near you. Your presence is joy, light, and comfort. Your nearness is holy, awesome, and wonderful. In the play of sunlight through rainbows, in the sounds of music and laughter, in the beauty of creation and the taste of bread and wine, your presence is known. Your saving presence surrounds us, whether we are fearful or joyful, laughing or crying. You invite us, welcome us, forgive us and renew us with fresh hope and new life. You love us into your presence. We bless and thank you. We praise and adore you. We enjoy being with you, in the name, the spirit and the presence of Jesus. Amen