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Evangel Tabernacle | February 26, 2020

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What Makes God’s People Special?

What Makes God’s People Special?


PSALM 114:1-8 (RSV)

V1- When Israel went forth from Egypt, the house of Jacob from a people of strange language,


V2- Judah became his sanctuary, Israel his dominion.


V3- The sea looked and fled, Jordan turned back.


V4- The mountains skipped like rams, the hills like lambs.


V5- What ails you, O sea, that you flee? O Jordan, that you turn back?


V6- O mountains, that you skip like rams? Or hills, like lambs?


V7-Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob,


V8-who turns the rock into a pool of water, the flint into a spring of water.


Is there anything special about the church?


So much of her history is mixed, to say the least. We may mention to a seeker the hospitals, schools, orphanages and other host of good works that have covered the planet in the name of Christ, only to be reminded about the Inquisition and the Crusades. Are church buildings with their esthetic power her special gift? Hardly! Chinese temples and mosques also command our admiration or even affection. Is it the quality of her relation life? Oh, if that were so! Unfortunately, we find the same hypocrisy and lack of caring among church people as we do in the world. Then perhaps it is her theology and doctrines? While these may be special in the sense of being unique, they are not the secret to her life. There can be only one answer and it is the answer of this Psalm: IT IS THE PRESENCE OF GOD THAT MAKES US SPECIAL IN THIS WORLD.


Psalm 114 is another of the Hallel psalms (which begin or conclude with a Hallelujah). Psalms 113-118 were called the Egyptian Hallel Psalms, and they were used at the Feasts of Passover, Pentecost, Tabernacle and Dedication. Apparently they were sung during the time the Passover was being celebrated. Some Bible scholars think three of them were sung at the beginning and three at the end.


Psalm 114 is a call to praise the wonderful God. It looks back to the time Israel was delivered from the Egyptian bondage.


This morning, I would like to use Psalm 114 to enlighten us – WHAT MAKES GOD’S PEOPLE SPECIAL?


I have already given you the answer to that question earlier- IT IS THE PRESENCE OF GOD THAT MAKES US SPECIAL IN THIS WORLD.


What is so special about this presence of God that when we have it, it makes us special too?


The presence of God is so special because……..



V1- When Israel went forth from Egypt, the house of Jacob from a people of strange language,


Here is a description of the exodus when God’s people, after being in bondage for more than four hundred years in Egypt, were led out by God. For four grueling centuries of hard slavery at the oppressive hands of their Egyptian taskmasters, they were, at last led out by God to begin their journey to the Promised Land. God remembered His covenant-promise to be their God and delivered them from Pharaoh. Exodus 3:7-8- Then the Lord said, “I have seen the affliction of my people who are in Egypt, and have heard their cry because of their taskmasters; I know their sufferings and I HAVE COME DOWN TO DELIVER THEM OUT OF THE HAND OF THE EGYPTIANS, AND TO BRING THEM UP OUT OF THAT LAND TO A GOOD AND BROAD LAND, A LAND FLOWING WITH MILK AND HONEY……..


The phrase “I have come down” talks about the intervening presence of God. The word “intervening” means “COMING IN BETWEEN; INTERFERING”. When God comes down, it is to intervene, to interfere, to come in between our oppression, suffering, trouble and us. In this case, God comes down to intervene in the suffering of His people. He wants to stand in between his suffering people and their oppressor, Pharaoh. But  notice that God does not just come down to come in between our oppressor and us but He comes down with the purpose to deliver us out of the hands of Egyptians into a land that is good and broad, flowing with milk and honey.


E.g.  Recently, I heard the story of an oppressed boy who nearly brought me to tears. Like the children of Israel, he was whipped emotionally by his own Pharaoh, his family for many years and in despair, he went to a high rise building to commit suicide. But the presence of God intervened! God came down at that moment by sending some people to come out from the elevator at that moment to save him and later God brought him to a church, to His people and to His own place, where God could prepare Him with another dream-God’s dream, God’s land of Canaan for Him.


God delights in intervening in the affairs of this world to rescue believers out of their perils. When it is His will, God comes to their aid, in all His perfect timing. He acts on their behalf and makes a way when humanly speaking, there is no way for their escape. When God delivers his own, he opens a door that no person can close, ushering them out of their predicament. He then goes before them, leading them into the safety of His will. No obstacle is too great for God to overcome. No enemy is too great for him to defeat. He is the God of new beginnings, the God who releases his people from their captivity. Whether it be from sin or unjust suffering, God longs to set believers free from all that imprisons them.


What is your chronic captivity? What is your sin or unjust suffering? Who is your Pharaoh today who has been whipping you for so many years? What are your perils today? Do you know that God sees your affliction; hears your cry; knows your suffering and right now He wants to come down to you to deliver you?


That’s the intervening presence of God and that is what makes God’s presence so special!



V2- Judah became his sanctuary, Israel his dominion.


The second thing that makes God’s presence so special is because it is an indwelling presence.


What was God’s purpose in rescuing His people? The answer is both simple and profound: HE BROUGHT THEM OUT OF EGYPT IN ORDER TO DWELL IN THEIR MIDST.


The result of Israel’s going out of Egypt is that “Judah [a single tribe here representing the whole Israel] became his sanctuary [holy place].


A “sanctuary” is a place uniquely set apart by God’s presence for His own purpose – A HOLY PLACE. It is a place where the glory of God is manifested, where the greatness of God is put on display. God’s people became this special place in the exodus. God redeemed His people in order that He might DWELL [carries the idea of permanent residency] with them, that they might be holy as He is holy. Moses tells God, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not bring us up from here. For how then will it be known that Your people and I have found grace in Your sight, except You go with us? So we shall be separate, Your people and I, from all the people who are upon the face of the earth” (Exodus 33:15-16).


Along with God’s presence, Israel is unique because she is His “dominion” or kingdom. God is King, and the chosen people are His subjects where His rule and reign will be displayed. God will both dwell and rule in the midst of His people.


What was true then is also true now. As the church, we are to be known NOT for impressive buildings or “relevant” programs or profound theology. We are to be known as people in whom God is present and over whom He reigns. This is why Jesus proclaimed the Kingdom of God and called His hearers to enter that Kingdom. He came to establish the rule of God in our midst as He brought the presence of God to us.


Wherever God’s sanctuary is, there is also his dominion – the place over which he exercises his authority. God’s people were the place where God’s rule and authority were most exercised, working in them, through them and before them. They themselves were the holy place where God’s rule was most demonstrated.


Look into your life today and honestly ask yourself before God- Is your life a sanctuary? Is it a holy place for God to dwell? Or is it cluttered with sins and deadness? Can God’s dominion and rule be seen in your life? Is there submission and obedience in you to the teachings of Christ? Or there is disobedience, rebellion, hypocrisy, self-rule and self-will? Where we defile our temple, the presence of God cannot dwell within us and therefore He will be unable to establish His dominion over us and through us. However, if we are willing to clean up our lives and sanctify it by the blood and the spirit and submit to God, the presence of God dwells within us and soon we will see His authority and dominion emanating from us and through us. And when the authority of God is within us, whatever we bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven; whatever we loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven (Matthew 16:19).



V3- The sea looked and fled, Jordan turned back.


V4- The mountains skipped like rams, the hills like lambs.


As God led his people through the wilderness, the sea (the Red Sea) looked and fled. This poetically speaks of God parting the imposing body of water during Israel’s journey to the Promised Land. This occurred at the beginning of the forty-year journey. The second miracle involved separating the Jordan at the end of the forty-year journey. Forty years separated theses two miraculous events.


The Red Sea and River Jordan are the two stages of redemption and they illustrate two stages of our redemption. The Lord Jesus, on the cross, has delivered us from the PENALTY of sin – that is for the PAST and the Red Sea represents that. But Jesus delivers us from the POWER of sin in the PRESENT, represented by Jordan – provided we meet His conditions – and He will deliver us from the PRESENCE of sin, which has not yet been realized yet. The crossing of the Red Sea and the crossing of the Jordan picture the two stages of redemption.


As I was praying for this message, the Holy Spirit reveals to me that the Red Sea is our obstacle that blocks us from coming out of our PAST. Look at the persistency of Pharaoh chasing the children of Israel, wanting them to go back to slavery. Had the Red Sea not fled at the presence of God, I believe Pharaoh would have captured them and put them back to hard labor. So what is that obstacle that blocks you from coming out of your past? Guilt, condemnation, vivid memory of the cruelty of your oppressor that enslaves you with hatred and bitterness? Remember, the presence of God can intimidate (frighten) even the Red Sea to flee, to run away so that you can come out of your past. God’s presence has the power to disentangle you from the grip and tentacles of your past.


The River Jordan on the other hand, is your obstacle that blocks you from coming out of your PRESENT wilderness and struggle into a future of blessings, represented by the Land of Canaan. Jordan is your obstacle blocking you from fulfilling the dream God has put in you.


E.g. Maybe God promises you that your land of Canaan is your graduate school degree but today there is a Jordan blocking you from getting that degree and it is your financial problem. Jordan is always symbolizing our dream blocker, God’s promise blocker. Each of you has your own Jordan that blocks you from entering into a better future. What is your Jordan?



Then “the mountains skipped like rams; the hills like lambs” (verses 4). While some take this to refer to the earth quaking at the giving of the law at Sinai, in the sequence it could refer to the conquest of the Promised Land which included military campaigns through the hill country. As we see from verse 5, the skipping of the mountains and the hills is not in joy but in fear.


Mountains and hills here refer to our ROAD BLOCKS and DIFFICULTIES in life and they come in different intensity, some as tall as the mountain and some as little like a hill.


Mountains and hills are part of the topography of a map or any country just as road blocks and difficulties are part of our lives. Some places are more mountainous like The Mountain Province Region of Philippines or hilly like Cebu, telling us that many of us have varying degrees of difficulties in our lives. Some have many mountains while some have few. Some difficulties in our life are as tall as a mountain while some are just mild and low like the hills. Whatever they are, they are part of the topography of our lives and either we allow them to block us or by faith, we allow the presence of God in us to command them to skip away in fear.


E.g. Let me tell you another interesting story that amplifies my point about the intimidating presence of God. Last Sunday, a member approached Pastor Toh Nee to go and dedicate his new house because lately he and some of his friends have been seeing demonic apparition in the house and the surrounding. So last Sunday we went together with a group of Evangelites. While climbing the stairs to the apartment, I wasn’t observant to the surrounding as the place was quite dark.  Pastor Toh Nee just told me to follow him to dedicate the house but he didn’t tell me anything about the demonic presence. So while he was praying for the house, I kept hearing Pastor Toh Nee invoking the presence of the Lord to chase out and cleanse away all the demonic strongholds. It was repeated about 3-4 times. When the prayer of dedication ended, I asked the owner about the demons and he told me how his wife sensed a diabolical presence in the kitchen and while he was telling me, his hair all stood up and we were laughing at him. Then he told me that his friend also saw a dark figure walking outside the corridor of his apartment. But we have already prayed and claimed God’s presence to take over that house. While coming out of this new house, I saw the neighboring door that was full of Chinese Talisman paper and immediately I found the cause of all those demonic apparitions. But our member has no authority to remove those talismans because that house doesn’t belong to him. But the amazing thing I want to testify to you is after we left, our member was walking up the stairs and he heard some commotion. The images or the idols of his neighbor has fallen to the ground and when he told us, I was reminded of this story in 1 Samuel 5:1-5, where the Philistines captured the ark of God and placed it beside their god, Dagon. The following day, Dagon had fallen face downward on the ground before the ark of the Lord. The Philistines put him back to his place but the next day again,  Dagon had fallen face down on the ground before the ark and this time the head of Dagon and both of his hands were lying cut off upon the threshold. Brothers and sisters, when we went to invite the presence of God where the demonic strongholds are, the demons had to bow and confess that Jesus is the Lord. That is why the idol fell to the ground exactly the way Dagon fell to the ground before the presence of God. God’s presence intimidates (frightens) every demonic spirit and stronghold. Invite God’s presence to your house!


When we have the presence of God dwelling within us, the dominion of God is there and with it, our Red Seas will see and flee; our Jordan will turn back and all the mountains and hills of our lives will skip in fear. God’s presence within us intimidates all our Red Seas, Jordan and all the mountains and hills of our lives. It causes them to flee, turn back and skip away in fear. But we don’t seem to see this verse in actuality. Our poverty (which is our Red Sea and Jordan) still stares and glares at us boldly; our chronic bondages and guilt are still there; problems are still there and they stay and not skip away. Oh brothers and sisters, long for this special presence of God. Only this presence of God has the power to intimidate all your obstacles and difficulties.



V5- What ails you, O sea, that you flee? O Jordan, that you turn back?


V6- O mountains, that you skip like rams? Or hills, like lambs?


The psalmist raised four teasing questions:

  1. What ails you, O sea, that you fled?
  2. O Jordan, that you turn back?
  3. O mountains that you skip like rams?
  4. Or hills, like lambs?


Here, the sea, Jordan, mountains and hills of the Promised Land are questioned directly to force them to acknowledge their Creator’s power.


E.g. When Jesus was left with the woman caught in adultery, he also posed an interrogating question to this woman – “Woman where are they? Has no one condemned you?” She said, “No one, Lord.” (John 8:10-11). To paraphrase the question of Jesus- Woman, where are your enemies? Where are those, pointing fingers at you? Where are the stones that are dooming you to death?” Like the Red Sea and Jordan, all the enemies of the woman fled and turned back when the presence of Jesus was beside the woman. When the presence of God wrought any victory for us, the presence of God will interrogate our enemies and force them to acknowledge that God is the mighty and the powerful one. There is none like him.


Even after Jesus’ resurrection power conquered death, the interrogating presence of God questioned, “O death, where is thy victory? O death, where is thy sting?” (1 Corinthian 15:55).


Brothers and sister, today God wants to have this privilege to squarely look into the faces of all your Red Seas, your Jordan, your mountains and your hills and interrogate them- What ails you O sea, that you flee? O Jordan, that you turn back? O mountains, that you skip like rams? Or hills, like lambs?


God making Judah “His sanctuary and Israel His dominion” causes the uproar of nature. Here is NAKED POWER. Here is the Creator who is Lord of His creation acting on behalf of His people.


And that is what makes God’s presence so special – it is a presence that interrogates nature and people who are blockers to the blessing of God and force them to acknowledge that GOD IS MIGHTY; GOD ALONE IS POWERFUL!



V7-Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord, at the presence of the God of Jacob,


V8-who turns the rock into a pool of water, the flint into a spring of water.


Now that we see and know that special effects of God’s presence, the whole earth is invited to tremble before in awesome recognition of his power.


Fearing God is the only response by nature and man to the omnipotent God. The earth represents all that was mentioned earlier from Egypt (v1) and mighty bodies of water like the Red Sea and the Jordan River (v3-5) to the mountains and hills (v4-6). God Himself is the One who brought the Israelites out of Egypt, the One who caused the Red Sea to flee, who turned back the Jordan River, who caused the mountains to skip and the hills to jump. By his omnipotent hand, God intervened. Therefore people should tremble before God.


E.g. Since January 29, I was given the opportunity to see masses of people tremble before God. The first incident was the engine failure of our plane bound for Manila which caused people to tremble in the plane about the imminent engine failure in mid air and they asked the air stewardess to let them deplane. The second experience was the earthquake that hit Iloilo at 11am on 6 February 2011. I was in the salon at Robinson Mall doing my pedicure when the quake struck. For the first time in 26 years, I witnessed the act of God in such severity. I was never fearful of earthquake. In fact the one that I experienced was in June 14, 1990, the birthday of Joy. After celebrating her 1st birthday party, I was very tired and the staffs were outside helping me to clear up the place. Suddenly the quake hit and all the chandeliers in my house were shaking and clanging. I was so tired that I continued my sleep though I heard a lot of staffs standing outside in the rain, shouting, “Pastors, Pastors, come out, come out.” I didn’t come out. But this time in Robinson, I felt my heart skipped. Literally like this psalm is saying – trembled, my heart skipped like the mountain and hill of this psalm – in fear. I  thought the quake would pass in a second but it did not and it was quite severe to the point I got giddy. In fact one salesgirl of Handyman fainted and had to be carried to the staff room. All the customers, shampoo boys and hairstylists ran out while only the receptionist, the pedicurist and me stayed. The receptionist kept praying: “O God! Have mercy. Jesus please have mercy!” For me, I prayed in tongues loudly. I didn’t know whether to stay in and let the high beam of the Robinson ceiling collapsed on me or to join the panicky crowd and be pushed down the escalators. I have crowd phobia and so I chose to stay in the salon and watched the mayhem. But seriously, what can we do against the acts of God? Even the Japanese boasted to the world that all their buildings are earth-quake proof but did they all stand up to the tsunami and the earth quake that hit them last year? No! All came tumbling down. That is the awesome omnipotence of God. The psalmist understood and felt the magnitude of that power and that is why he exhorts us to tremble before him. All nature gave way in trembling when the presence of God comes down. When Moses brought the people to the foot of the Mount Sinai to receive the 10 Commandments, the Bible tells us in Exodus 19:16-20- “On the morning of the third day there were thunders and lightnings, and a thick cloud upon the mountain, and a very loud trumpet blast, so that all the people who were in the camp TREMBLED. Then Moses brought the people out of the camp to meet God; and they took their stand at the foot of the mountain. And Mount Sinai was wrapped in smoke because the Lord descended upon it in fire, and the smoke of it went up like the smoke of a kiln, and the whole mountain quaked greatly. And as the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and God answered him in thunder. And the Lord came down upon Mount Sinai, to the top of the mountain; and the Lord called Moses to the top of the mountain, and Moses went up.”


Here the presence of God when it descends upon the people is so awesome like thunders and lightnings and the whole mountain quaked greatly (which you can identify) that the children of Israel trembles.


The awesome presence of God invites you to fear Him and tremble before Him. Let us learn to come before God in reverential fear and respect and not treat him flippantly. Even nature has to give way to the presence of God, how much more we puny human beings.


Another reason the presence of God invites us to tremble before him is that not only nature gives way before Him but out of the rock can come pool of water and out of the flint can come spring of water.  On two different occasions during Israel’s wilderness experience, God caused water to come gushing out of rock at the command of Moses (Exodus 17:5-6). It was God who provided for His people.


When God’s presence is with us, He can cause even a hard heart like a rock to gush out pool of water and even a flint (a heart that is even harder than a rock) to come forth spring of water. In other words, the presence of God is able to refresh, revive and sustain his people. He circumvents your hard heart.


So Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord and all of you, tremble at God, who turns the rock into water and hard flint into springs.


He is inviting you to fear Him and His presence and to let His presence change even the hardest part of you!


I asked earlier, “What makes the church special?” The answer is clearly given in the psalm: IT IS THE PRESENCE OF THE LIVING GOD IN HER MIDST. When Jesus entered into His messianic ministry, demons were cast out and the sick were healed. In this, God’s powerful presence and dominion were manifested. Where the church is coming alive today, similar things are happening because the same God is there.


E.g. Pastor Donald Williams of Vineyard Christian Fellowship of the Coast in San Diego, California gave this testimony: “I had the privilege of leading a healing conference at my former home church last winter. As we prayed for several hundred people, we saw the power of God come. Some slipped to the floor, overcome by His Spirit. Others stood transfixed. Some were delivered from demons. By their body language they were witnessing to the fact that the living God who commands the physical realm was in our midst. After that conference many would never be the same again. They would know from experience what the psalmist meant when he said, “Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord” (verse 7)


What makes God’s people special? It is the presence of God that makes God’s people special because the presence of God is intervening ( it can deliver); it is indwelling (it lives within us, establishing God’s dominion in us and through us); it is intimidating (it frightens our Red Sea, Jordan, mountains and hills); it is interrogating (it smugly challenges the power of our enemies and forcing them to acknowledge his omnipotence) and it is inviting (God wants us to fear Him and tremble Him and to allow him to cause our rocky and flinty heart to gush forth the spring of water.)


You know that the future blessing which is the Land of Canaan is our new church building at Tabuc Suba. But right now, there is a River Jordan blocking and that River Jordan is finance.  At present, we are struggling staying at this run-down building with cracks and leaks and God really wants us to move into the new land. On October 28 2011, God spoke to me in my devotion: -“Go up to the hills and bring wood and build the house that I may take pleasure in it and that I may appear in my glory, says the Lord.” (Haggai 1:8). And in Haggai 2:4-5, God spoke to me, “Work for I am with you… Spirit abides among you; fear not.” And God further spoke to me that the day we lay the foundation of the church, that will be the day He will start blessing our church (verse 19). But the River Jordan was there – the building permit couldn’t be approved for the whole year of 2011 and once it was approved in January 2 2012, we found out that the cost of accommodating a basement car park to comply with the building code is another 20 million pesos. But then God told me to press in for the presence of God because when the presence of God comes like the earthquake that hit Negros and Iloilo last Monday, “God will shake the heaven and the earth and the sea and the dry land and He will shake all nations, so that the treasures of all nations shall come in and He will fill this house with splendor, says the Lord of hosts” (Haggai 2:6-7).


Only the presence of God can intimidate our Jordan and cause it to turn back. Now can you understand why Pastor Toh Nee and I are always pushing for revival, for the presence of God? Can you understand now why we mobilize the whole church to enter into a fasting and prayer month for February and why the whole pastoral leadership are engaging in 21-day full fast? It is so that the kingdom of God or the dominion of God can come and powerfully cause our Jordan to turn back. Only the powerful presence of God can intimidate our Red Sea and Jordan- any obstacles from the past and the present.




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