As the New Year approaches, we are being inundated with reviews of the past year. It’s a time to reflect, not just on 2015, but on previous years. Just this morning, National Public Radio had a story on refuges from the Viet Nam era to give perspective on the immigration situation of today.
In our psalm for this week, we have a playful remembering of the pivotal event of Hebrew history, the Exodus. Psalm 114 is part of the Hallel, a series of hymns of praise, Psalms 113-118, used at Hebrew festivals. As such they would be known by all. You need only intone the first note and all in attendance would join in, much like the strains of Auld Lang Syne at the stroke of midnight on New Year’s Eve.
Psalm 114 is considered by some as the most original of all the psalms. It is a concise, artistic, hymn that includes samples of Hebrew poetry’s tendency to give human characteristics to inanimate objects in nature. The mountains skip, the sea fleas in this psalm. Elsewhere in the Old Testament the mountains sing and the trees clap their hands.
The psalm extols the glory of God as manifested in the Exodus. Not only did the sea part, the mountains skipped like rams, “The sea looked and fled, Jordan turned back, the mountains skipped like rams, the hills like lambs.” (3-4) The writer playfully asks the question, why did this happen, knowing full well why. “What ails you, O sea, that you flee? O Jordan, that you turn back? O mountains, that you skip like rams? O hills, like lambs?” (5-6)
He answers his own question in the concluding verses. It was because of the Lord. Before the God of Israel, all creation trembles. The sea obeys and even the mountains, seemingly unshakable, run before the Lord. “Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob, who turns the rock into a pool of water, the flint into a spring of water.” (7-8) God can even bring water out of a stone.
What better reason to celebrate and rejoice? We have a God who can do the impossible. As we welcome another year, let us remember our history. We have a God who is author of creation, at whose command even the mountains move.
What are your plans for the New Year?