1 When Isr’el out of Egypt went, and did his dwelling change, When Jacob’s house went out from those that were of language strange,
2 He Judah did his sanctuary, his kingdom Isr’el make: 3 The sea it saw, and quickly fled, Jordan was driven back.
4 Like rams the mountains, and like lambs the hills skipped to and fro. 5 O sea, why fledd’st thou? Jordan, back why wast thou driven so?
6 Ye mountains great, wherefore was it that ye did skip like rams? And wherefore was it, little hills, that ye did leap like lambs?
7 O at the presence of the Lord, earth, tremble thou for fear, While as the presence of the God of Jacob doth appear:
8 Who from the hard and stony rock did standing water bring; And by his pow’r did turn the flint into a water-spring.
This can be sung to any Long Metre tune.
This Psalm is probably my favourite of all 150. When I was younger, it was the Psalm we used to sing in the school choir to the Anglican Chant ‘Tonus Peregrinus’, and the ancient words of the Book of Common Prayer still spring to mind whenever I read it – ‘When Israel came out of Egypt, and the house of Jacob from among a strange people’.
Psalm 114 is a Psalm that, since the 6th Century, has been used at Christian burial services and while ministering to those who are dying. It also has an association with Easter Day, and is often read during Easter services – the deliverance of Israel seen as a metaphor for our deliverance from sin.
First and foremost, though, this Psalm is a song of God’s strength, power, and glory. It is a Psalm that tells of God’s glories in times of old, when God led the people of Israel out of slavery, and prepares us for the wonders and glories to come.
It is around this time that the Church enters a season known as ‘Creationtide’. Described by its organisers as ‘a period… dedicated to God as the Creator and Sustainer of all life’, it is during this season that we are called to give thanks for the world in which we live. Many churches will hold their Harvest Services around this time – they will give thanks to God for the blessings of this life, our food, our homes, our families and friends.
But it is also at this time that we are called to remember those who go without, those for whom the harvest is not a time of celebration. It is our duty to provide for them, just as the Lord provides for us.
Let us pray that we may never forget ‘the presence of the Lord’, and pray that He may continue to provide to those who need it.
…Living Lord, prepare us now Your willing helplessness to share; To give ourselves to sacrifice, To overcome the world’s despair; In love to give our lives away, And claim Your victory today.
(Alan Gaunt, b.1935, R&S 611 v4)
Michael RJ Topple is a Lay Preacher in Training, Lay Pastoral Assistant of Long Melford URC and member of Chappel URC, Essex.