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Mightier than the Waves of the Sea

This past week, while my family and I spent a few days at the beach, I have been meditating on how the ocean reveals the Lord.

Ever since I was a child I’ve had this irrational fear of water. For me, nightmares = water. (Also bridges, fires, and elevators that break.) Though I can swim, so often as I drive across a bridge over the water or stand in the surf my heart is gripped by fear. Scenarios play out in my mind about what could happen. 

It is ridiculous that I should fear anything as a Christian. Do I not believe my Lord sovereignly reigns over all things? I want my life to declare that I do. And living in fear does not do so. 

Why do I fear water in general and the ocean in particular? I think this fear comes from the reality that the ocean is out of my control. It is unpredictable and uncontrollable. Unlike a nice swimming pool, the ocean has waves and tides not to mention sharks and other creatures. It’s dangerous.

But do I believe that all of these things are in my Lord’s control? Yes! 

When I look at water I usually think of how much I don’t like it. But the Scriptures frequently use the ocean as an illustration of some facet of God’s character.

The Ocean in Scripture

Your way, O God, is holy. What god is great like our God? You are the God who works wonders; you have made known your might among the peoples. You with your arm redeemed your people, the children of Jacob and Joseph. Selah. When the waters saw you, they were afraid; indeed the deep trembled. The clouds poured out water; the skies gave forth thunder; your arrows flashed on every side. The crash of your thunder was in the whirlwind; your lightnings lighted up the world; the earth trembled and shook. Your way was through the sea, your path through the great waters; yet your footprints were unseen. You led your people like a flock by the hand of Moses and Aaron. (Psalm 77:13-20)

The Lord reigns; he is robed in majesty; the Lord is robed; he has put on strength as his belt. Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved. Your throne is established from of old; you are from everlasting.The floods have lifted up, O Lord, the floods have lifted up their voice; the floods lift up their roaring. Mightier than the thunders of many waters, mightier than the waves of the sea, the Lord on high is mighty! Your decrees are very trustworthy; holiness befits your house, O Lord, forevermore. (Psalm 93)

God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear though the earth gives way, though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea, though its waters roar and foam, though the mountains tremble at its swelling. (Psalm 46:1-3)

…He assigned to the sea its limit, so that the waters might not transgress His command… (Proverbs 8:29a)

Some of my observations from these Scriptures:

  • He has established the sea— its borders and its tides. It cannot transgress His command.
  • The sea declares His glory, it lifts up its voice in praise.
  • The waters are afraid and tremble when they see the Lord.
  • The Lord is mightier then many waters and the waves of the sea.
  • God is our refuge and strength— therefore we will not fear the ocean, its roaring and foaming.

The Lord reminded me that He, like the ocean, is beyond my comprehension, and out of my control. He is entirely other than me. Yet He has chosen to reveal Himself to me. His character is unchanging. He is the same yesterday, today, and forever. (Hebrews 13:8) And the ocean, as much as it is incomprehensible and uncontrollable, is in submission to Him. 

Secondly, I was reminded that His mercy is consistent. Like the ocean waves which never cease, His mercy is unceasing. It is new every morning.  

I also happened to be reading a book about John G. Paton, who was a missionary to a cannibalistic tribe in Southeast Asia, during our vacation. Some of the quotes leapt off the page to me. 

I realized I was immortal till my Master’s work with me was done. The assurance came to me, as if a voice out of heaven had spoken, that not a musket would be fired to wound us, not a club prevail to strike us, not a spear leave the hand in which it was held vibrating to be thrown, not an arrow leave the bow, of a killing stone the fingers, without the permission of Jesus Christ.

John G. Paton

The eminent Puritan Stephen Charnock argued that the reason so many good men are overcome by fear of their enemies is because they have forgotten the omnipresence of God. “If the presence of God be enough to strengthen against fear, then the prevailing of fear issues from our forgetfulness of it.” Those who are deaf to threats and posses hearts like iron are those who believe the promise that the divine presence will be with them.

Paul Schlehlein

Had it not been for the assurance that I was engaged in his service, and that in every path of duty he would carry me through or dispose of me therein for his glory, I could never have undertaken either journey.

John G. Paton

God doesn’t simply command courage with no reason behind it. In nearly every incident where God says, ‘fear not’, there follows a reason to have courage, and that reason is God Himself, His nature, and His perfect plans.

R.C. Sproul

If I am moved by the ocean, how will I face even greater challenges? But John G. Paton’s God is my God. And He is still the same– it is this knowledge of Him that enables me to “fear not.”