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12 April 2016

Psalm 9: Passover Paralles

I sat down to work on studying this Psalm in the days leading up to Easter, having just re-read the Exodus story at the request of my five year old. Which is a really great way to get ready for Easter; I had never before seriously considered the many connections and parallels between the Passover and Easter. You could study just that for a very long time.

So as I studied the chapter and came to verse 9, I thought of the Exodus, and it made the passage much more meaningful. 

It was dramatic, the refuge the Lord provided from the Egyptians. The passage I wrote in the margins is describing some spectacular atmospheric phenomenon. First, there's the Lord's pillar of cloud that's been leading them, but now, with the Egyptians approaching, it moves from the front of the camp to the back. And it's not just a bit of fog. It's a barrier of cloud and fire formidable enough to stop the entire military force of the kingdom of Egypt. All night long, the Egyptians were struggling in profound darkness, but the Camp of Israel has light to work by. That's a lot, but it's not everything; in addition, there's the wind. It's not just a bit of a breeze, but a strong east wind -east winds being consistently associated with destruction in scripture - that blows all night. And even among east winds, this one was something special: it's strong enough to not only split the sea, but also to dry out the seabed. That's no small feat to accomplish, and it was done overnight. So the Israelites go through, and then the Egyptians chase them. Between these big walls of water. Chasing down the Lord's people doesn't go well for them: first the chariots break, then the Lord sends the water rushing back to its place. Interestingly, Moses never asked Pharaoh for freedom, just for a break to go and sacrifice.

The Psalm praises the Lord as a refuge for the oppressed, and it conjured up for me images of this dramatic sheltering refuge behind first an impenetrable wall of cloud and fire, and then between mighty walls of water, where they were simultaneously sheltered and brought to freedom and safety. Far from being forsaken, the Lord had heard their groaning, He heard it when they cried "by reason of the bondage", and His response was so remarkable that we still sing the praises begun by those ancient Israelites. He remembered the lost sons of Israel, and called the Egyptians to account for their evil.

So I went through the chapter like that, and with the Exodus story so fresh in my mind, there were quite a few places that suggested connections between the Psalm and the Exodus. 

But as deeply meaningful as Easter is, the Passover and the Exodus isn't "just" about that. The Lord also identified the parting of the Red Sea as the classic example of revelation

First of all, revelation almost always comes in response to a question, usually an urgent question—not always, but usually. In that sense it does provide information, but it is urgently needed information, special information. Moses’ challenge was how to get himself and the children of Israel out of this horrible predicament they were in. There were chariots behind them, sand dunes on every side, and just a lot of water immediately ahead. He needed information all right—what to do—but it wasn’t a casual thing he was asking. In this case it was literally a matter of life and death.You will need information, too, but in matters of great consequence it is not likely to come unless you want it urgently, faithfully, humbly.
-Jeffrey R. Holland, Cast Not Away Therefore Thy Confidence

The 9th Psalm also has encouragement for the hurting soul in need of revelation, and particularly those who are persecuted or wounded by the choices of other people. 

When he maketh inquisition for blood, he remembereth them: he forgetteth not the cry of the humble.
Have mercy upon me, O Lord; consider my trouble which I suffer of them that hate me, thou that liftest me up from the gates of death:
-Psalm 9:12-13

The phrase "he make inquisition for blood" threw me at first, but after I'd spent a few minutes browsing through verses about blood, I started to get a better sense of the scriptural uses of blood, and it started to make more sense. I then looked into inquisition, which basically means to inquire diligently, or investigate thoroughly. He invesitgates thoroughly the claims of the wronged - the petitions that we put up to Him when we are hurting and wounded. And He won't forget to make it right.

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