When you think of the grand events surrounding the American Revolution, certain primary scenes come prominently to mind: the ride of Paul Revere, Washington Crossing the Delaware, the winter at Valley Forge, and the Battle of Yorktown.
When the Jewish people reflected upon their Independence Day – which was the exodus from Egypt and journey to the Promised Land – there were certain scenes that came to mind of God’s faithfulness and power: the Red Sea crossing, the water from the rock, crossing the Jordan River, and the Battle of Jericho.
And so, in composing a song about this time and the Lord’s covenant love for the nation, it is no surprise that a quick eight-verse chorus would have these words and ideas …
1 When Israel came out of Egypt, Jacob from a people of foreign tongue, 2 Judah became God’s sanctuary, Israel his dominion.
3 The sea looked and fled, the Jordan turned back; 4 the mountains leaped like rams, the hills like lambs.
5 Why was it, sea, that you fled? Why, Jordan, did you turn back? 6 Why, mountains, did you leap like rams, you hills, like lambs?
7 Tremble, earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob, 8 who turned the rock into a pool, the hard rock into springs of water.
The first two verses talk about how Jacob (a.k.a. Israel – the father of the 12 tribes), comprising the two major sections later to be known as Israel and Judah … how at that time they became God’s special, covenant people. God entered into a unique relationship with them unlike anything else with anyone else.
In Exodus 19 on Mount Sinai, God said to Moses, “This is what you are to say to the descendants of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’”
Messing with Israel was like messing with the cubs of a momma bear – it just isn’t a smart or safe thing to do. (If you are an Iraqi, Syrian, or Palestinian militant reading this devotional, you should probably take heed.)
The song goes on to say in verses three and following that when Israel became God’s people of covenant, in fulfillment of promises made all of the way back to Abraham, even the creation had to get out of the way. The water would have to stand back from dry land in the Red Sea and Jordan River. The mountains and hills in places like Jericho and Ai had to obey God as if dancing sheep, and water would pour from solid rock.
God was in control; Israel was his covenant people. God is still in control; the church is his new covenant people – in the blood of Christ. And he is worthy of our trust and praise.