So many of the prophecies of the Old Testament were written as poetry. Every so often one detects some of it in the English translations, even though the words are so unlike ancient Hebrew. The laments over Israel’s backsliding and hardened hearts, move the reader to tears and expose the heart of God for his people. In the midst of so much war, violence, famine, droughts and dysfunctional governments of kings who did “what was wrong in the eyes of the Lord”, the words of the prophets were written down in the ancient texts as the call of God to Jerusalem, the city where God is worshipped, to seek his face and turn from their wickedness and sinful ways. We know Jerusalem is the symbol of God’s people, also in Revelation, where the church is depicted as the New Jerusalem. Again, I have to say, the church is the invisible body of believers on earth and not the denominational chaos and divisive theology all around.
The Old Testament is no different from the history of the last two thousand years. Church or no church, history is a bloody trail of conflict and unresolved power play, often in the name of God with cruel, intolerant, unjust murder and bloodshed, leaving the innocent suffering or dead. Today we fight ideas, ideologies and opinions with the same anger and murderous intent as the sword slingers of old, while horrendous crimes fill our streets with the blood of the innocent. What is there to say in a world that seems so dark and destructive?
There is, of course, an answer to this question. The answer is given in the words of a few windswept, panicking fishermen. Let us consider the background to the events of that night, long ago, in a storm on a lake in Galilee.
As always, throughout history, the call to repentance from a loving and good Father echoes.
Many people shall come and say, “Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, To the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, And we shall walk in His paths.” For out of Zion shall go forth the law, And the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. (Isaiah 2:3)
For Jerusalem stumbled, And Judah is fallen, Because their tongue and their doings Are against the Lord, To provoke the eyes of His glory. (Isaiah 3:8)
“Go and cry in the hearing of Jerusalem, saying, ‘Thus says the Lord: “I remember you, the kindness of your youth, the love of your betrothal, when you went after Me in the wilderness, in a land not sown. (Jeremiah 2:2)
O Jerusalem, wash your heart from wickedness, That you may be saved. How long shall your evil thoughts lodge within you? (Jeremiah 4:14)
Why has this people slidden back, Jerusalem, in a perpetual backsliding? They hold fast to deceit, They refuse to return. (Jeremiah 8:5)
There are many, many verses like these, too many to quote here, warning the people, calling them to true worship, always accompanied by the promise of the Messiah.
He will be as a sanctuary, But a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense To both the houses of Israel, As a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. (Isaiah 8:14)
For the people shall dwell in Zion at Jerusalem; You shall weep no more. He will be very gracious to you at the sound of your cry; When He hears it, He will answer you. (Isaiah 30:19)
Then Jesus came and He also, in the style of the echoing lament said:
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! (Matthew 23:37)
The lament for sinful and backslidden people has never stopped. It echoes today in the voice of countless preachers, leaders and fellow believers on so many fronts.
What is the remedy for the world? Jesus had to teach the disciples the answer. He did, in a very practical and dramatic event.
The Sea of Galilee is the lowest freshwater lake in the world and lies in the Jordan rift valley, where the African and Arabian plates come together. It is fed by underground springs, but its main source of water is the Jordan river. In the past the valley was subjected to earthquakes and some volcanic activity. Because of the lake’s location, a wind from the Mediterranean, coming through the trough of mountains from the west, can blow up a fierce storm.
It is on one of these days that we find Jesus and his disciples in a fishing boat crossing the lake, a logical shortcut to the other side. Walking around the lake would have taken much longer. Jesus is sleeping and as the waves get bigger and the water starts to fill the boat, the disciples are all frantically working to keep the boat afloat. They wake Jesus with a cry of despair and reproach: saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” (Luke 8:22-25)
Their panic is real. To be human is to have the ability to remember the past and the ability to project the future. They knew storms and probably knew of many disasters. This could be their turn.
Maybe it feels as if your boat is sinking and Jesus is asleep. He will calm the sea when you cry out in panic. He did it then and He will do it for you.
Jesus stands up, rebukes the wind and waves and in the sudden silence of calm waters asks them: “where is your faith?”, as if they should not have panicked.
In that moment the disciples ask the question that answers all darkness and destruction of the broken world we live in.
“Who can this be?For He commands even the winds and water, and they obey Him!”
It was not the calm sea that had their attention, in other words, not the miracle itself, but the man behind the miracle. It is not what He can do, it is He, the man-God, that is the answer.
He is the WHO in our existence not the WHAT of our circumstances. Our goal is to know him. He is the resurrected life, in us even while we are in this body on earth.
10 [For my determined purpose is] that I may know Him[that I may progressively become more deeply and intimately acquainted with Him, perceiving and recognizing and understanding the wonders of His Person more strongly and more clearly], and that I may in that same way come to know the power outflowing from His resurrection [which it exerts over believers], and that I may so share His sufferings as to be continually transformed[in spirit into His likeness even] to His death, [in the hope]
11 That if possible I may attain to the [spiritual and moral] resurrection[that lifts me] out from among the dead [even while in the body]. (Philippians 3:10-11, Amplified)