>What causes the earth to tremble, firm ground to ripple, and buildings to sway?
We can talk all day about plate tectonics and continental drift, but the short answer is: God.
In beautifully poetic language and form, Psalm 114 depicts an animated earth and its elements when God delivered Israel from Egypt. Read it aloud to enjoy the fullness of its beauty!
When Israel went out from Egypt,
the house of Jacob from a people of strange language,
Judah became his sanctuary,
Israel his dominion.
The sea looked and fled;
Jordan turned back.
The mountains skipped like rams,
the hills like lambs.
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?
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 (Psalm 114, ESV).
The parallelism is obvious. (Parallelism is the repetition of a similar concept with different words in two subsequent lines.) The ESV Literary Study Bible says, “There is no better example in the entire Psalter of how Hebrew parallelism works and of the beauty that attends it” (p. 878).
Parallelism and other poetic devices enliven and energize this psalm. We visualize the water of the Red Sea cresting up into two giant waves that part and expose a quickly drying sea bed. We see the face of a hard gray rock melt into a rippling pool of shimmering water reflecting the sun’s beams and the blue sky. We feel the excitement and wonder.
But perhaps we think: “Well, it would have been great to be the Israelites and see those miraculous events, to finally be free from slavery; but we’re stuck here in this broken world with all its pain.”
The reality is that we’ve been delivered from slavery in even more miraculous ways than the Israelites. We were dead. Now we live.
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind (Ephesians 1:1-3, ESV).
We were dead, not sick or comatose, in our sins. Is resurrecting a corpse any less marvelous than parting a sea? Ephesians 3 continues by describing God’s ultimate crisis intervention:
But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus (4-7, ESV).
We do not simply exist, feebly grasping life with our fingernails while we wait for Christ to reappear and rescue us; we are alive with Christ. We have been saved and raised with him. In ways we can’t fully understand, we are already seated with him in the heavenly places. When we die, our souls will go to heaven, and one day Christ will resurrect and glorify our bodies; but we don’t have to wait for his grace. He is already demonstrating the immeasurable riches of his grace in his kindness toward us.
Tremble in amazement at your deliverance from the slavery of sin, which was no less remarkable than the marvelous deliverance of Israel so poetically described in Psalm 114.
Pray for grace. Pray for God to open your eyes to the immeasurable riches of Christ’s grace that already exist in your life!