Psalm 114 & 115

Psalm 114 is short, only 8 verses, and is yet another recapitulation of the Exodus. The conclusion? “Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob.” This is very important: God is always the God of his people first and foremost. The whole history of mankind starts in Genesis chapter three with God’s promise to Adam and Eve, and is given specific definition to Abram nine chapters later, and even more three after that. God’s covenant promise to make himself a people. And like many of these Psalms the either seem to fit together or flow nicely into the next one, this one can easily flow into 115 which begins:

Not to us, Lord, not to us
    but to your name be the glory,
    because of your love and faithfulness.

Why not to us be the glory? Because we didn’t save ourselves! Why is the Exodus recounted in 114 so important in the history of redemption, and why is it recounted by God’s OT people over and over again? Because Israel was enslaved for hundreds of years while God was silent. I can imagine the promises of God to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob were recounted to each generation, over and over and over again, but when, O Lord? Then God picks another man to lead his people, and by God’s own power leads them out of slavery by mighty deeds. Thus the wonderful comparison in the Psalm to idols:

Why do the nations say,
    “Where is their God?”
Our God is in heaven;
    he does whatever pleases him.
But their idols are silver and gold,
    made by human hands.
They have mouths, but cannot speak,
    eyes, but cannot see.
They have ears, but cannot hear,
    noses, but cannot smell.
They have hands, but cannot feel,
    feet, but cannot walk,
    nor can they utter a sound with their throats.
Those who make them will be like them,
    and so will all who trust in them.

This comparison of the Living God to idols is of course a theme throughout Scripture, but the contrast is always powerful. The utter worthlessness of idols is so because they are in fact nothing. Whatever value or meaning we ascribe to them is an illusion, as are all the idols of human imagining that we somehow think will replace God. We think we will find lasting fulfillment and meaning in things or other people or accomplishments. Look at a cemetery to see how that’s worked out. And every single person on earth knows this! Satisfaction even for the richest and most talented and most successful and most famous among us is fleeting. And every single one of them comes up against Father Time who mocks their accomplishments with memories of what can never be again; memories are a feeble reminder of fleeting greatness.

The contrast one again is with God’s people, the “house of Israel.” Three times the Psalmist says of these people, “he is their help and shield.” And what can we expect from the Lord?

12 The Lord remembers us and will bless us:
    He will bless his people Israel,
    he will bless the house of Aaron,
13 he will bless those who fear the Lord
    small and great alike.

God loves to bless his people, and how much more we who live on this side of the cross when we know that blessing is in and because of Christ himself. We must appreciate and enjoy and be thankful for the blessings that come from his hand because they all do. And yet again, the Psalms reveal to us that the context of these blessings is not confined to this life:

17 It is not the dead who praise the Lord,
    those who go down to the place of silence;
18 it is we who extol the Lord,
    both now and forevermore.

They must have wondered about this forever thing. Some Jews believed in a resurrection of the dead, but someone actually did it, in history, space and time, the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep. Our hope is eternal.

 

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