Water, Water Everywhere
Every spring people in this part of the country worry about water. Farmers are concerned that there might be too much or too little rain. The greater worry, though, is flooding. As the winter snows melt up north, and the spring rains come, the Mississippi River rises—sometimes to dangerous levels. A couple of years ago the Mississippi flooded much of the surrounding countryside. My wife and I drove to Memphis to see the river at flood stage. It was impressive. Standing there, looking at the river far out of its banks, we got a sense of the power of water.
Water is necessary for life. We need drinking water daily. We need rain to help crops grow, and keep vegetation healthy so the land won’t become a dustbowl. Without water we perish. The Bible gives due respect to the need for water. We read of the Israelites’ cries for water in the wilderness. Many times in Scripture, God promises the “former and the latter rains.” When God had enough of the antics of Ahab and Jezebel he sent a drought over Israel that dried up everything until Elijah defeated the prophets of Baal on Mt. Carmel.
This was a significant victory, for Baal was the god of water. If anyone could bring rain it would be Baal. That God beat Baal at his own game, both in withholding rain and then sending it, was a momentous occurrence. Baal, the god of the storms, couldn’t produce. God, the God of all creation, could.
As necessary as water is for life, too much of it can be disastrous. Floods destroy houses and wash away topsoil. Floods make it impossible for farmers to get equipment into the fields for plowing, or planting, or harvesting. Floods rot crops, leaving nothing to harvest. Floods sweep everything before them, as those who have witnessed them know.
Throughout the Psalms the writers speak of a God who sets the boundaries of the waters. This far they can go and no further. In Genesis 1:6-9 we read of God creating the waters of the heavens and the earth, then separating earth’s bodies of water from each other with dry land. These tasks were important enough that they happened on the second and third days of creation. God is indeed the God of waters, and no other god can legitimately claim that jurisdiction.
This is what we read in Psalm 29. In the first two verses, David addresses the “heavenly beings”—all other possible gods—and tells them to ascribe to God the “glory due God’s name.” Near the end of the psalm (v. 10) the psalmist says, “The Lord sits enthroned over the flood.” God rides the storm. Rivers may overflow their banks. Fields may flood. Lakes may fill to the brim and beyond. But God is always in control. God rides the storms that create the overflow of water. This far they can go and no further.
We get a different view of the power of God over water when we read the stories of Jesus calming storms. Galilee is a huge, shallow lake, and storms can rise up quickly, catching even seasoned sailors by surprise. It is dangerous territory, a place where lives can easily be lost. We read in Mark 4:35-41 of Jesus and his disciples caught out in the middle of the lake—not just one boat, but many—when a storm blows up. The disciples are losing the battle to the wind and the waves, but Jesus is riding the storm by taking a nap. When they wake him, he simply says, “Peace! Be still!” and the wind and the waves cease.
Matthew tells us that Jesus said, “I will give you rest.” Jesus can calm the storms in our lives because Jesus, like his Father, is the God of the storms. Unlike the Galilean storm Mark tells us about, Jesus might not make the wind and the waves cease for us, but he will create a pocket of peace where we can rest, knowing that the storm cannot overcome us.