When Israel went out of Egypt,
the house of Jacob from a people of strange language;
Judah was his sanctuary,
and Israel his dominion.
The sea saw it, and fled:
Jordan was driven back.
The mountains skipped like rams,
and the little hills like lambs.
What ailed you, O you sea, that you fled?
you Jordan, that you were driven back?
You mountains, that you skipped like rams;
and you little hills, like lambs?
Tremble, you earth, at the presence of the Lord,
at the presence of the God of Jacob;
Who turned the rock into a pool of water,
the flint into a fountain of waters.
Psalm 223-228 form the Hallel, which is a praise song sung by Israelites at many celebrations. (Think Hallelujah.) The first psalm (113) begins with a praise and the last one (118) ends with thanks being given. It is quite a fitting passage for a worship service. But, Psalm 114 here is a beautiful little poem imbedded near the beginning of the Hallel, to give a reason for all this glorying in the God of Israel. It sounds like a patriotic anthem, because it speaks of national deliverancee, yet it doesn't even name the national heroes who achieved the victories. All the glory is given to God. The power working in Moses and Joshua is what is the focus of the Psalm. Still, it begins without even mentioning God. Only pronouns are used at he beginning. This leads to the questions in the third stanza, to surprise you with the climatic answer, the lord, the God of Jacob.
Can you suffer defeat without being overwhelmed? Can you win victories without personal pride? Is it the power working in and through you that makes you who you are? Whose approval are you seeking?
This poem Psalm was used by Dante in his book on Purgatory as the hymn being sung by the spirits of the dead headed by boatloads to the shores of Purgatory. So, the Psalm is often taken to represent the exodus of the soul from this world to the next.
The Psalm speaks of the transcendence of God, a God who is above the whole Earth, a powerful God who can shake the earth. Yet it speaks of the imminence or nearness of God, a God who keeps house in your neighborhood (in the capital city of Israel) and was concerned with water provisions for a wandering band of nomads without a city.
Isaiah spoke of a Lord being high and lifted up, and he is. Isaiah 6:1 In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple.
Matthew quoted a prophecy of Jesus being God with us in our neighborhood, and He is. Matthew 1:23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.
God is high and lifted up, yet he is with us. We know that God is with us when victory is apparent. When successes are being tallied, we know God is near. When all our needs are miraculously met, we see God's power towering above us. But, can we see the power of God in defeat? In failure? In circumstances of human need? In verse 8 we see that adversity is a means to prosperity. We are reminded that God brought water from a rock in the desert. Yes, God can bring prosperity from adversity. There is a prayer written by John Henry newman in 1833 that was turned into a hymn...
"Lead kindly Light, amidst the tumult and gloom,
Lead Thou me on,
The night is dark, and I am far from home,
Lead Thou me on."
This is only the first verse, but it was sung on board the sinking Titanic in a last minutes worship service. It seems that some passengers were aware that God was in charge. Do you trust human resources or divine initiative? The skipping mountains in verse 4 refer to the theophany (experience with God in a vision) at Sinai.
Psalms 68:8 The earth shook, the heavens also dropped rain at the presence of God: even Sinai itself was moved at the presence of God, the God of Israel.
Exodus 19:18 And mount Sinai was completely in smoke, because the LORD descended upon it in fire: and the smoke of it ascended as the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mount quaked greatly.
In the song of Deborah we see similar references to the moving of the mountains for Moses. She refers to the mountains melting in Judges five. It becomes obvious that God can be near and He can be big and powerful, as He sees our needs. The fact of omnipresence makes Him always within our reach...even when we can't see Him. So, the answers are yes and yes. The God who is High and Lifted Up, is right beside you.