Tuesday, January 24, 2017

God Over Wind and Sea

Today's reflection on the Daily Texts:

Whatever the Lord pleases he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps. - Psalm 135:6

They were amazed, saying, "What sort of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?" - Matthew 8:27

Two-year reading texts: Psalm 16:7-11; 1 Chronicles 21:27-22:19; Acts 15:19-31

God's power and sovereignty are the immediately obvious theme in today's verses. When Jesus shows his ability to calm the storm, his disciples know he's someone other than an ordinary man. Later, in Matthew 14:22-33, Jesus walks on the water out to their boat. When Peter asks Jesus to command him to walk out on the water, and Peter fails, one interpretation of Jesus' question "Why did you doubt?" is not that Peter doubted he could do it, but that he doubted (in 14:28) Jesus was who he said he was. Walking on water is something else no ordinary man could do - only God. So far in Matthew's gospel, only Satan (in 4:3 and 4:6) and demons (8:29) have been able to identify Jesus as the Son of God. Now the disciples can see it (in 14:33), and soon (16:16) Peter confesses his belief that Jesus is not only the Son of God, but also the Messiah promised by the prophets.

So God is known by doing what we humans can't do on our own. In places and situations where we have no power, God can do whatever God wants. In one sense, this is highlighting a crucial difference: God is God, and humans are human. We are not God. We are limited, and God is not. But in another sense, the Bible's word about God's power and sovereignty is about overcoming that difference. God creates and redeems, out of love for humanity. God guides our human lives. Jesus is named Emmanuel, "God with us."

I see a connection in the psalm appointed for today, where centuries before Jesus, David tells how important it is that God's power and sovereignty connect intimately with human life, and how we can appreciate and thrive from God's presence:
I bless the LORD who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me.
I keep the LORD always before me; because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.
- Psalm 16:7-8

And another connection, in an interesting twist on Matthew 8, written in Mt. Carmel Ministries' Daily Texts prayer for today:
Like that wind and sea, Creator God, I would obey you. But I go my own way, and the winds of my willfulness buffet me. I sink in seas of exhaustion. Help me trust that your power is greater than my problems. Strengthen me to be like wind and seas that do your will. Amen.

I like this view of our human lives as something like the wind and the sea: created by God, but hard to predict or control. Psalm 16 and this prayer lift up the power of God that is always near, able to do what we can't. And both the psalm and the prayer encourage us to make ourselves subject to God's power and sovereignty, receiving God's counsel, keeping God always before us, trusting and working to follow God's will. With God, we can be calm. With God, we can be harnessed to build up life and enable growth and exploration. There are parts of life we will never be able to control. But with God's presence, power and sovereignty, we can find wisdom and love and joy.

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