Different people find different talents, characteristics, and achievements impressive. Someone interested in sports will find a feat of athleticism far more impressive than a perfectly performed violin concerto. Similarly, an official in the State Department likely values the skill of negotiation more than those working in Defense. Therefore, our own interests play a significant role in what impresses us, a tendency that can lead people into an echo chamber of self-congratulation and away from greater understanding. Ignorance plays a role as well. In public speaking, such as preaching, people usually marvel at memorization, emotionally moving displays, and a well-honed rich baritone voice while taking for granted excellent organization, meaningful development, and thoughtful analysis. In this case, ignorance leads people to notice the obvious in presentation but miss the important in essence.
While the connection may appear tenuous at first, this problem regularly presents itself in the spiritual realm. Depending on the religion, denomination, or philosophy, what impresses a person reveals much about themselves and about their choice. Certain people find the ceremony, pomp and circumstance, and formality of particular religious groups impressive and compelling. Others wonder at the quiet solitude and meditative qualities emphasized elsewhere. Likewise, many embrace an emotional emphasis and spontaneity while others find this meaningfulness while seeking deeper intellectual meaning within themselves and society. Close attention reveals that people are impressed by and drawn to something they feel that they need in their lives—for whatever reason—or that reflects their own personality.
However, when the psalmist reflected on Israel’s birth as a nation, an escape from the greatest power of the time preceded by ten plagues that devastated the land, and on her entrance into what became the homeland (Psa. 114:1-2), rather than recounting the impression made upon those other nations or even the children of Israel themselves, the psalm instead turned to anthropomorphism, assigning living behaviors to the inanimate in nature. However, these actions had a root in reality. The Red Sea and the Jordan River, the borders of Egypt and Canaan respectively, both retreated at the command of God to allow Israel passage (Psa. 114:3). Similarly, when Israel camped below Mount Sinai, the people witnessed the quaking of the mountains before the LORD delivered the Law (Psa. 114:4). Nevertheless, the questions that followed show the real point (Psa. 114:5-6). Why did this happen? Since the psalmist intentionally gave the waters and the mountains traits of the living, making decisions about their behavior, the explanation must do the same. What impressed the waters and the mountains? The next verse answers the question in the form of exhortation: “Tremble, O earth, at the presence of the Lord, At the presence of the God of Jacob” (Psa. 114:7). The mountains and the seas, recognized for their power and majesty, even worshipped in pagan cultures, here acknowledged the sovereignty of Yahweh, bowing down in figure before Him to do His will. This alone should impress, and yet the psalm adds one more note in the same closing sentence, “Who turned the rock into a pool of water, The flint into a fountain of waters” (Psa. 114:8). The same God whose power and presence impress the mountains shows interest and care for His people. This unique combination is the most impressive aspect of God, and yet so many miss it. Indeed, because people search for a religion, a church, or an idea that fits their personality and proclivities, they fail to appreciate and be impressed by the God who cares for them and simply wants them to do His will (Heb. 5:8-9).