“‘Do you not fear me?’ This is the Lord’s declaration. ‘Do you not tremble before me, the one who set the sand as the boundary of the sea, an enduring barrier that it cannot cross? The waves surge, but they cannot prevail. They roar but cannot pass over it.'” (CSB – Read the chapter)
When was the last time you played in the waves? Can I suggest you do the next time you get the chance? I got the opportunity recently when we were able to slip out of town for a few days on what was our first real family vacation all together since before Covid. This trip to the beach happened to coincide with boys who were finally big enough and interested enough to want to play in the waves which gave me a nice excuse. There’s just something about floating in the ocean that makes me get a little more reflective than usual. This morning I thought I’d share some thoughts I had while I was bobbing in the surf.
The ancient Israelites didn’t like the sea. At all. They were not a seafaring people. We know this from history, sure, but you can tell it by reading through the Scriptures. The waves are consistently associated with God’s power and judgment or else the attacks of the world. They are constantly set against the people of God as a hostile force. Even here in this verse from Jeremiah, the prophet is in the middle of a lengthy condemnation of the people laced with the assurance of coming judgment. God’s point here is essentially this: “I control the power of the waves and because of that, you should fear me.” In other words, I’m bigger than this thing you are afraid of. I’m more worthy of your fear than that thing is.
This is of little historical importance and bears only a little bit of theological weight, but when you are searching for a verse that has something to do with the waves of the ocean in a somewhat positive light, it makes for a bit of a challenging process. The waves as a sign of God’s power is about as positive as the Scriptures get on the subject of the sea. And, had I been around back then and had whatever experience with the ocean they had known, I would have probably felt about the same way. When the ocean is unfamiliar, it can seem large and threatening. I can seem that way sometimes even when you are familiar with it. I’m only moderately familiar with it.
But when you go out to the beach before the crowds arrive and before the sun has started cooking the sand, and there’s a gentle ocean breeze blowing, and the water is about 85 degrees – cooler than the air temperature to keep you cool, but not so cold that it makes you catch your breath – and the tide is out so the waves are pretty gentle, it’s hard to see the ocean as anything but a friend. And when you have a bride who is enjoying soaking in the sun, one son who is content on the shore, and two who are completely occupied with catching waves on the boogie boards, you just get to float. I’m normally a mountains guy, but that’s pretty hard to beat.
And as I floated out there watching one wave after another gently caress the beach, a few thoughts began to bubble up in my heart and in my mind. The waves like that are a good metaphor for all kinds of things, but especially life and the passage of time.
Life comes in waves. Sometimes the waves are gentle, and you can just float lazily along with them. Sometimes they are big and will knock you down, leaving you wondering which way is up. The waves eventually pass over, though, crash against the shore, and are gone. And there’s always another wave coming.
The waves come from somewhere. The don’t materialize out of nothing. There is a whole of ocean factors influencing how fast they arrive and how big they are and what shape they will take when they hit you. You couldn’t possibly understand all of it. If you try, you’ll exhaust yourself and fail anyway. There are just too many factors to consider. It’s better to learn to ride them as they come, and to trust that God is over it all, pulling the strings in ways you can’t see. That’s a little like the moon is above it all, causing the waves and the tides in the first place.
If you want to ride the waves, you aren’t going to be able to catch all of them. Some of them are too small to take you very far. Others are so big they’ll just flip you over or knock you down. But if you are patient, eventually one will come along that will carry you much further than you could have ever imagined. That patience is key, though. You can’t hurry the waves. They run on a timetable that is not yours. If you try to exert some amount of control over it, you’ll just get frustrated. You have to take what comes as it is. Insisting on what you want simply won’t do.
That’s about it for today. There wasn’t anything too deep to this one. Just some thoughts formed while bobbing in the waves. The biggest and most important thing to remember is this: trust the one who controls the waves. His power is enough to sustain you no matter how big they get. Live with trust and gratitude and much of the rest will work itself out from there. Have a great weekend.