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Singing Psalm 114, behold tenderness in power

A trembling world showcases the Master’s tenderness in power.

Perhaps you have heard it said: “He lives in a world of his own.”

“If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.” ~ from Walden, Henry David Thoreau, 1854

It is possible and perhaps even preferable to march to the beat of a different drum. But as you march, give honor to the one who gives you your marching orders.

Whose world is this? Who gets to decide the reality of how the earth goes round? Singing Psalm 114 brings the answers to these questions to light.

God made the earth and created you to live on it for a relationship with him. He is powerful enough to bring that about however far from that relationship you might be as you read this right now. When you want to do good but those around you doubt that, as you wait for opportunities, as you wait for his marching orders, how freeing is it that the tender, compassionate, all-powerful Master drives all you do?

Singing Psalm 114, you see how God has displayed his tenderness in power

Right after he opposes those who would build a tower to bless themselves and make a name for themselves, God calls Abraham and promises to bless him and make a name for him. 

“If Babel is a project built from the ground-up through human toil, God’s kingdom will be built from the top-down by grace. Babel typifies humanity’s rebellion against God, an effort to acquire dominance, glory, security, and a kingdom apart from the Creator.” ~ Casey Shutt

God doesn’t use raw force as he could but he tenderly, graciously, pointedly focuses his power to save his people from their enemies and from themselves in order to intimately dwell with them.

“When from Egypt Isr’el parted,    Jacob’s house left foreign tongues,Judah was His sanctuary,    His dominion Israel.” ~ Psalm 114:1-2

The earth trembles in response to his tenderness in power. Seas part, mountains skip, rocks liquify. At his presence, they contort their very nature at his command.

“See that you do not refuse him, who is speaking. Or if they did not escape when they refused him, who warned them on earth, much less, will we escape, if we reject him who warns from heaven… therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God, acceptable worship, with reverence in all, for our God is a consuming fire.” ~ Hebrews 12:25-29

“…Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world…’ Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels…” ~ Matthew 25:31-46

Jesus who made the tender fig branches cursed a fig tree that did not bear fruit. This was a nature picture of Jesus condemning vain worship where people would honor him with their lips while their hearts were far from him—looking like his people but being imposters.

Singing Psalm 114 helps you take note of the Lord’s kindness and of his severity—his tenderness in power.

“Note then the kindness and severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God’s kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again.” ~ Romans 11:22-23

God is a consuming fire for your oppressors out of his tenderness in power for your deliverance from oppression. The final judgment is the exclamation point on how horrific it is to be separated from Jesus. To hear him say not to come to him but to depart from him is far worse than any physical suffering could ever be. If only he were with me in the physical suffering, it would be bearable. This is what his people have here on earth now which is why they can rejoice in and through suffering. It is his presence that you revel in, and that even the most powerful forces of nature wouldn’t dare to resist. He made you for himself and is the most delightful company you could keep. He loves you enough to warn you of what separation from him would be like so that you would stay near him and never depart from him. To choose to reject, rebel, and be apart from him is against godly nature, but it is what the sinful nature is all about and what Jesus with tenderness in power came to save you from.

The creature choosing to be apart from his creator is more unthinkable than a son refusing to be with his father. Give me bodily sufferings with Jesus’ gracious presence over no bodily sufferings without him. But that is not the reality of the new heavens and the new earth. With Jesus is everlasting pleasure. Without him is everlasting torment. It is hard enough to bear when an earthly friend doesn’t want to be with you. The thought of Jesus, the best friend anyone could ever have, not wanting to be with you is utterly intolerable and unbearable. 

Even so, the love for one another that the Holy Spirit pours into you moves you to be, as the apostle Paul and King David were, not only willing, but wishing to be accursed from Jesus or dying in others’ place if it would mean sparing your loved ones from everlasting condemnation. This is the same substitutionary heart of the Lord Jesus that he infuses into the hearts of his people. Except Jesus is the only one who can and who did make that substitution.

“But I do not account my life of any value nor as precious to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the gospel of the grace of God.” ~ Acts 20:24

Yet how easy it is for God’s sheep to lose sight of these truths and go astray. Even in the midst of his saving them as their good shepherd from their oppressors, they doubted and complained. God communicated clearly to Moses the reality of how humans are to live. Moses responded with trembling in awe. The earth trembled when God gave him his law for our good. But the people would rather create a false world with a god they make out of gold rather than to submit themselves to God who created his world and who made them.

Humans rebelled against God in his world. God rightly judged sin with pain and death. With tenderness in power, Jesus Christ became sin in our place and took the pain and death for us. He is the rock that became the redeeming fountain of living waters for all who trust in him. The earth trembled when Jesus died. He arose, ascended, and sits at God’s right hand. The earth groans waiting for his return when he will take his people home where pain and death are no more.

Could God have set up a world where sin and a pain-free, death-free world could co-exist simultaneously—a heaven on earth? Without judgment, a world where a just, merciful, relational God is ruling over a perpetually unrepentant rebellious people would instantaneously spiral out of existence. If “you doing you” involves hurting someone else, what then? Or when the pride of one will butt heads with the pride of another both left in a standstill of disagreement, where is the joy in that world? The fallen world showcases what it looks like to be free and to choose rebellion. Ironically, to be a slave of God, because of his goodness, truth, and tenderness in power, is actually what makes you free.

“For when you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. But what fruit were you getting at that time from the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” ~ Romans 6:20-23

Even with a finite mind, it is clear that you cannot have sin coexist with paradise. To even imagine this is to entertain the same lie that the serpent sold to Eve in the Garden of Eden. You would just as soon have thick pollution in your air or deadly poison in your food as you would have sin in God’s world. The delightful dependence that we were created to have with God originally was reestablished by Jesus who is the way, and the truth, and the life. You who are recreated, born again in Christ, will have it again in the new world as Jesus, who emptied himself so the Father could be his all, holds all things together:

“For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” ~ Colossians 1:16-17

In his grace and mercy, God set the new heavens and the new earth to be pain-free and death-free. You learn to wait for the new world being thankful, meanwhile, for all the good things that God gives you in this life where to live is Christ, who empties you of self, and to die is the gateway to gaining life in him without death.

We so need our good Shepherd to seek and lead his servants home (Psalm 119:176):

“Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you fail to meet the test!” ~ 2 Corinthians 13:5

Singing Psalm 114 you are clued-in to the reality that the Father has the perfect touch at the perfect time in the perfect place and in the perfect way to use his world precisely to meet the needs of his children, to lead his people home.

“Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.” ~ Philippians 2:12-13

You are alive for God‘s pleasure not yours. Will you trust him in faith that his pleasure is for your good or will you think to cancel, block, or avoid God? The irony is when you live to please God, you have the most pleasure. If you see him as a hard master who reaps where he doesn’t sow, you have him all wrong. With tenderness in power, he sows the good seed and you reap the fruit in everything. What do you have that you did not receive from God?

It is Jesus in you that remakes you to be meek and lowly, contrary to your sinful, proud nature, as contrary as the parting sea and the skipping mountains are to the nature of seas and mountains. His presence alone is tenderness in power. He is able to bend all things, the sea, mountains, and even death, as he wills them to be.

“Sea, what made you flee so quickly?    Jordan, why did you turn back?O why leap like rams, you mountains?    Hills, why do you skip like lambs?” ~ Psalm 114:5-6

“When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

‘Death is swallowed up in victory.’

‘O death, where is your victory?    O death, where is your sting?’

“The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

“Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.” ~ 1 Corinthians 15:54-58

Singing Psalm 114, you learn to wait for God to display his tenderness in power

You can learn how to wait from Job, Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, David, the Syrophoenician woman, and each one of his people who learn to cry for him and trust his tenderness in power. Jesus taught his disciples to watch and pray with trembling in God’s world as they waited on his tenderness in power.

“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” ~ Hebrews 13:8

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.” ~ James 1:17

Both his giving and his taking away speak to his tenderness in power toward his people as he works all circumstances for their good. 

The trembling world expresses the Master’s love and reveals the Master’s heart as one of tenderness in power. In light of this reality, how can you show God’s tenderness in power as you consider past hurts purposely or inadvertently caused by those who are a part of or perhaps are not [yet] a part of Christ’s church whether or not they have good intentions?

Might God supply tenderness in power to you, and for what good purpose?

“In Praise of Prudence” makes a strong case for how prudence is foundational and the necessary precursor for compassion/justice, courage/fortitude, and contriteness/temperance, and how easy it is to go awry outside of the context of the carefulness of prudence. You can recalibrate how you view yourself and others using the wisdom of God’s tenderness in power notwithstanding the harsh realities of life.

Joseph chose to look to God and not within himself to face the reality of who God is over where the Lord placed him before he would courageously serve when he was far from home. Whatever dreams Joseph might’ve had for himself couldn’t hold a candle to the dreams that God had for him and brought to pass. He followed, not his heart, but God‘s. He set the stage for his brothers to see the reality of their characters before God and become contrite. It was in emptying himself and accepting the reality of God as the underpinning of his steadfast position and of his relationships that provided the context of humility for Joseph to show compassion to his brothers. God supplied Joseph with tenderness in power and used it to save his brothers from themselves.

“As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.” ~ Genesis 50:20

Joseph embraced humility and dependence on God. By setting his heart and mind on who God is in the face of hatred, independent pride, deception, and neglect, God showed Joseph his tenderness in power by giving him prudence and saving him through every dilemma he faced.

Won’t he do the same for you?

“Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” ~ Mark 13:31

    “All these things my hand has made,        and so all these things came to be,    declares the LORD.    But this is the one to whom I will look:        he who is humble and contrite in spirit        and trembles at my word.” ~ Isaiah 66:2

“And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.” ~ Ezekiel 36:26-27

“Tremble, earth, before the Master;    Here, behold, is Jacob‘s God—Who turned rock to pools of water,    Hard flint rock to gushing springs.” ~ Psalm 114:7-8

January 12-19, 2024


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