The LORD reigns, in triumph clothed, clothed is the LORD, in strength He is girded. Yes, the world stands firm, not to be shaken. Your throne stands firm from of old, from forever You are. The streams lifted up, O LORD, the streams lifted up their voice, the streams lift up their roaring. More than the sound of many waters, the sea’s majestic breakers, majestic on high is the LORD. Your statutes are very faithful. Holiness suits Your house. The LORD is for all time.
(from The Hebrew Bible — a Translation With Commentary by Robert Alter)
Living on an island, we understand rising waters. We live with the predictable rhythm of tides and the sporadic reality of storm surges. The seaside is our playground as well as a place of peace where the sights and sounds can soothe us at the end of a long day. A walk on the beach is soul-reviving for me in any season. When I was twenty-two I moved away from the Island to live in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. I remember feeling almost panicked when I looked around me and realized how far I would have to travel in any direction to find the ocean. It wasn’t just a few miles down any road or over those hills on the horizon. I felt physically thirsty as I longed for the sight of water, water that stretched as far as my eye could see. PJ had a very different experience. My husband grew up on the prairies; so when he moved to the Island for the first time, he felt it a bit unnerving to be completely surrounded by water. What was a comfort to me was uncomfortable to him.
I think the ancient, desert-dwelling Hebrew people probably could have related better to PJ than to me. For them, The Great Sea (the Mediterranean Sea) was mysterious and dangerous. The water in this psalm represents what is changing and troubling in the world. Even the poetic language makes you think of a wave coming closer and closer until it finally crashes on the shore. In contrast to the unpredictable, threatening floods sits the Lord, high and immovable! What comfort there is in that simple thought of the eternal God, enthroned above every storm of life.
But how can we share in that security when the waves are over our heads and the riptides knock us off our feet? There’s a clue in the last verse where the writer of this psalm mentions God’s statutes and God’s house. God gave the people of Israel two ways to connect with Him, through the law and through their worship at the temple. These two things gave them security and purpose, a way to be in relationship with an eternal God. In God’s word we discover the boundaries He has lovingly set for our lives; and living in relationship with Him, we find freedom and an eternal security that can endure the shifting sands of time. God becomes our refuge. Through faith, we grab hold of an eternal reality. A foretaste of our hope begins to be birthed in us now as we stand on the shore, even when the clouds form and the storms come and go.
Storms may seem to take us by surprise, but life on earth is basically a succession of them. If you’re not currently experiencing one or coming out of one, you’re probably about to enter one. Maybe a storm is battering you right now, or maybe you’re just beginning to see some dark clouds on the horizon. Either way, remember to keep your eyes on what is unchanging, or rather, WHO is unchanging. Lift your eyes, and find a sure and steady hope. Every storm of life will leave you changed, but it will be for the better if you connect with your changeless Father God through His word and worship Him.