Dancing and Trembling
Mighty God, You are my Father, and yet You are beyond my comprehension. I rejoice with trembling (Psa. 2:11).
Consider: "The psalms help us to understand that every emotion is a theological statement" (Tremper Longman).
The Exodus caused Pharaoh to tremble and Miriam to dance (Exod. 12:30; 15:20), but when the Lord descended on Sinai, it was Israel's turn to tremble (Exod. 19:16). Psalm 114 testifies that the expression of mixed emotions became a feature of Israel's religious life. In this highly metaphorical song the mountains and hills dance (4,6) and the earth trembles (7). God's action in redeeming his people motivates both responses. Old Testament believers experienced joy in the presence of the Lord. At the same time they learned from the book of Numbers that the Lord is to be reverenced as holy, so their joy was accompanied by great awe.
This juxtaposition of joy and reverence in God's presence continues in New Testament spirituality. Jesus tells us: "Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete" (John 16:24). The divine command "Be holy, because I am holy," first given through Moses, still stands (Lev. 11:44; 1 Pet. 1:16). We, too, are obliged to live in reverent fear--but how can we experience both emotions simultaneously?
Making Psalm 114 a channel for our faith can help us here. The psalmist invites his hearers and readers to enter his poetic narrative. He wants us to ask the rhetorical questions of verses 5 and 6. He is requesting us to reiterate the call of verse 7. As we respond, we are transported back dramatically to the historical moments of the Exodus, the wilderness, and the conquest. Psalm 114, along with our readings in Numbers, enables us to relive these past events in our imagination. Then, as we step back into the present, we may hope that we shall be as excited as the psalmist at how the sovereign Lord is making contemporary events serve his church. As we witness his kindness to humanity, we will dance with Miriam. As we observe his severity, we will tremble like Pharaoh.
What "hard rock" in your life needs to be turned into "springs of water"? Pray for God's intervention.
Gracious God, I am rejoicing before you today with a sense of awe. You have done great and mighty things for me.
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