“You rule the raging of the sea; when its waves rise, you still them.” (Psalms 89:9)
“The lot puts an end to quarrels and decides between powerful contenders.” (Proverbs 18:18)
Many people would admit to visualizing God as a stern ruler if they are honest. Even Christians who have studied Scripture for decades, and who have a close relationship with Him in Christ still hold onto that image of God, which was probably formed without actual knowledge of Him. Children raised in a biblical environment have the advantage of hearing about the true God of grace, mercy, and holiness, who governs with compassion. The Psalms and Book of Job encourage us when they speak of God as the ruler over creation. He stills waves and limits the seas (Job 38:9-11). God established the mountains and raised up stormy winds (Job 38:8-11; Psalms 65:5-7; 107:25). The Lord gives wild oxen their strength, horses their courage, and eagles their mighty wings (Job 39:9-30). Is He not all-powerful? Of course, he is, but God does not need to prove his power to us. Instead, we are to learn about, appreciate, and worship our Creator who rules in any way that he chooses. Nature is something most of us take for granted; it is no wonder that God chooses to use it, supernaturally, to draw our attention to him. Christ did just that when his apostles were fearful of the storm on the sea. “And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, ‘Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?’” (Mark 4:39-40)
Many people in the world deny that God is the first cause of all things, and insist on only the scientific, meteorological explanations for dramatic changes in the climate or weather. Of all the places I have lived, only in Africa did I meet Christians who consider that God may be guiding his people through unusually long rainy seasons, droughts, or strange storms. And why shouldn’t we think so, when the Lord has used the weather in the past? Even if our understanding is metaphorical, shouldn’t we expect God to make himself known through nature? We have many inducements in Scripture to learn from the skies, seas, clouds, birds, plants, and animals. “Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it until it receives the early and the late rains. You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand.” (James 5:7-8)
In the Bible the seas represent danger. The great flood of Noah’s day wiped out the entire world except for the ark’s passengers. The Sea of Galilee is the lowest freshwater lake in the world and is fed by springs from the Jordan River. It is in an area subject to earthquakes, with a depth of approximately 141 feet, and flows into the Jordan River on its south end (1) Perhaps the danger for Jesus’s disciples were the storms that threatened to move their small boats into the Jordan River. “And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. And they went and woke him, saying, ‘Save us, Lord; we are perishing.’” (Matthew 8:24-25) Since at least some of the men on the boat were fishermen, it is doubtful that they were exaggerating about the danger of the storm. However, they were doubtful about Jesus’s concern and lordship over the sea. “Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?’” (Matthew 8:26-27) The good news is that their doubts or ours do not limit Christ’s power, compassion, and knowledge.
Even when chance seems to be at work, we can be sure that God is controlling the “roll of the dice.” Our isolated solutions to problems are inferior to those orchestrated by God, through his sovereign providence. “If the decision comes from outside, the contending parties can both rest.” (2) I decided, decades ago, that I would not make decisions based on my ideas without significant confirmation from outside circumstances, godly advice, and much prayer. The best changes and blessings in my life are a result of God working outside of me to direct my activities and interests. Choices I have made by inserting myself in volunteer work or ministry have been short-lived and relatively inferior to those that God orchestrated. I live where I am because the apartment became available years before I expected, and there were very few of its kind, limiting those that would be open later. I serve in my church in areas where I have been asked to help, after much prayer. The ministry or volunteer work I joined hasn’t worked out as well, because of my extended recovery from surgery, proving my point, and not at all by coincidence, as far as I am concerned.
Peace is something we all enjoy, seek, and desire deeply. But when we are conflicted, distraught, confused, and lost, we tend to lose sight of this and are unable to “find” the peace that is always available in Christ. Were we to depend more entirely upon God’s sovereign lordship and Christ’s redemptive forgiveness, we would not even need to look for the peace, because it is in him and he is in us. In what way are you distrustful of God’s rulership over the world and your life? How are you disregarding Christ’s influence over your life and God’s direction for your daily choices? Will you ask God to help you stop doubting him, and enjoy more of his peace?
(1) Information about the Sea of Galilee from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sea_of_Galilee
(2) The Reformation Study Bible, Proverbs 18:18, Reformation Trust Publishing (Ligonier Ministries), Sanford, Fl., 2015.
March 14, 2019