Water is often used in the Bible as a picture of difficulties and troubles – see the examples below. Water, while often being a huge amount of fun, is not without its dangers. This is exasperated in times of poor weather when water, in lots of its various forms, can become a pretty dangerous phenomenon.
2 Therefore let all the faithful pray to you while you may be found; surely the rising of the mighty waters will not reach them.
17 All day long they surround me like a flood; they have completely engulfed me.
52 Those who were my enemies without cause hunted me like a bird. 53 They tried to end my life in a pit and threw stones at me; 54 the waters closed over my head, and I thought I was about to perish.Psalm 36:2, 88:17 & Lamentations 3:52-54
In Isaiah 43:2 we see again that water is closely associated with troubles and difficulties. In the midst of these, God promises to be right there with us and He says that the waters will not overwhelm us. Notice that there is an acknowledgment in these verses that we will pass through the waters. Likewise, we must recognise that in this world sufferings are not something that we can avoid, or have control over.
When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. When you walk through the fire, you will not be burned; the flames will not set you ablaze.Isaiah 43:2
In this post we are going to focus on all that life brings our way. What is it like to follow Jesus as we pass through the waters and as we pass through the storm? To aid us in this endeavour, we are going to be looking at three stories which illustrate God’s deliverance in hard times and in each case water is right at the heart of it. Firstly, we will see how Jesus stilled the storm, secondly how He brought Noah and his family through the flood and thirdly how the Psalmist found hope through the troubles he faced. We don’t have time to say a huge amount, but I hope to draw out some key principles to help us as we pass through the waters.
1. Through the Storm (Matthew 4:35-41):
One evening Jesus called His disciples to travel to the other side of Lake Galilee. They travelled by boat as they had probably done many times over the years. Furthermore, remember that some of them were also experienced fisherman! On that day a furious squall came up and the boat was nearly swamped. The Sea of Galilee was known for its sudden and severe storms. Having taught the crowds from a boat on the Sea of Galilee, Jesus was now tired and getting some sleep. The disciples react to Jesus saying, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown”. This in itself gives us a clear indication of the severity of the situation they were in…they feared for their lives.
35 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, ‘Let us go over to the other side.’ 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?’ 39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. 40 He said to his disciples, ‘Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?’ 41 They were terrified and asked each other, ‘Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!’Mark 4:35-41
Once awoken, Jesus rebukes the wind and commands the waves to be “Quiet! Be still”. The wind dies down and it becomes completely calm. Jesus also rebukes the disciples for their lack of faith. It seems to me that their reaction was very understandable given the conditions, but the issue seems to be about what they did with their fear. They lost sight of the big picture, that Jesus, the Son of God was with them on the boat. When they saw how He calmed the storm, we read that they were terrified and asked “who is this?” This experience on the water was an opportunity to see more deeply who Jesus was. They saw His humanity as He slept and His divinity as He miraculously calmed the storm and saved their lives and those in the other boats. In a similar way, when we feel like things are getting a bit out of control, we too must remember that Jesus is right there with us.
2. Through the Flood (Genesis 6-9):
Secondly, we turn to the story of the flood. These are big chapters and if we had time there is a massive amount that we could say. The background to what happens in these chapters comes in 6:5-6 which tell us that, “The Lord saw how great the wickedness of the human race had become on the earth, and that every inclination of the thoughts of the human heart was only evil all the time. The Lord regretted that he had made human beings on the earth, and his heart was deeply troubled.” So God set His mind to wipe humanity from the face of the earth, but it seems that one man, Noah, had found favour in His eyes (6:9). God called Noah to build an Ark to save them from the flood that God was going to send to set things straight.
17 I am going to bring floodwaters on the earth to destroy all life under the heavens, every creature that has the breath of life in it. Everything on earth will perish. 18 But I will establish my covenant with you, and you will enter the ark – you and your sons and your wife and your sons’ wives with you.Genesis 6:17-18
These were the waters of judgement and there was a massive impact on the world God had created. For most of the people on the face of the earth, this would be devastating and fatal. However, for Noah and his family there was a hope for the future because they did all that God had commanded them to do in building the Ark and filling it with two of every living creature and every kind of food. After the flood, when they were finally back on dry land, God made a covenant with Noah and reiterated His mandate to “Be fruitful and increase in number and fill the earth” (9:1). Then God gave them a sign of the covenant between them for all generations to come. Specifically, He set a rainbow in the clouds and promised that He would remember His covenant and never again send the flood waters to destroy life on earth. We still see rainbows in the skies and it remains a reminder of God’s promise and His commitment to His people. We too can remember that God is faithful and He promises to be with us in the flood.
3. Through the Battle (Psalm 42-43):
Our final example centres on the words of the Sons of Korah in Psalm 42-43. These Psalms were either originally the same Psalm or at least closely connected. It’s clear that the Psalmist is feeling pretty discouraged and aware of His need for God (v1-3):
1 As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God. 2 My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When can I go and meet with God? 3 My tears have been my food day and night, while people say to me all day long, ‘Where is your God?’
We’ve seen these verses in previous posts as we’ve thought about God’s invitation to come and drink of Him. As the Psalm continues, we find him counselling his soul repeatedly. It’s clear that this is a real battle for him and he spells it out further in the next couple of verses which specifically use water as an metaphor for his struggles:
5 Why, my soul, are you downcast? Why so disturbed within me? Put your hope in God, for I will yet praise him, my Saviour and my God. 6 My soul is downcast within me; therefore I will remember you from the land of the Jordan, the heights of Hermon – from Mount Mizar. 7 Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls; all your waves and breakers have swept over me.
Perhaps the Psalmist is seeing and experiencing the continual sound of a waterfall plunging into a deep pool at its base. It is likely that this is a picture of how in life he feels totally overwhelmed by this ongoing battering, which leaves him feeling like he is drowning. It is as if the waves and breakers have swept over him. He fleshes our further his struggles in v8-9 in which he asks whether God had forgotten him, and he laments about why he was continuing to be oppressed by his enemy. He is full of tears (v3) and his bones suffer moral agony as he suffers the taunts of those asking Where is your God? (v10).
This leads him to once again counsel his soul with the refrain that we saw in v5 (see above) repeated in v11, and then again in Psalm 43:5. Life often feels like a battle, but we too must put our hope in God who is our Saviour and our God.
What an encouragement to hear that whatever life brings our way, God will be right there alongside us as we pass through the waters, through the flood and through all the battles that come our way. God never promises that we will be free of suffering and trouble this side of eternity. But He does promise that He will with us and that one day if we know and love Him, we will enjoy an eternity where there is no more pain, mourning, suffering or death.
3 …‘Look! God’s dwelling-place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God. 4 “He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death” or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’Revelation 21:3-4
See other posts in this series:
- Invitation to the thirsty
- Idolatry: Broken Wells
- Sustenance: Drinking Deeply
- Suffering: Through the Waters
- Faith: Getting your Feet Wet
- River of Life
- Building with Wisdom
- Faith, Fear and Doubt