TEXT: Psalm 107:23-32; Matthew 14:22-33
God is good, God is faithful, and God is involved in the lives of people like you and me. That’s the constant refrain of Psalm 107 and the basis of our current series, “My Story, My Song.” Psalm 107 begins with the three verse refrain that declares that God is good, God is faithful, and God is involved in human lives. And then there are some six stanzas, each with anywhere from 4-9 verses each that explore different examples of how God is involved.
So far we’ve looked at the opening refrain and the first three stanzas:
vv. 1-3 REFRAIN – God is good, faithful, involved
vv. 4-9 God provides for the thirsty and needy soul
vv.10-16 God offers freedom for the captive
vv.17-22 God welcomes the foolish home
Today (vv.23-32) we are looking at how God is present and guides us in the storms of life. We’ll look at a story of Jesus doing that with the disciples and consider how God meets us in our own storms.
Those Who Went to Sea (Psalm 107:23-32)
The fourth stanza describes God’s involvement with “those who go down to the sea in ships, who do business on great waters.” If these are Exiles they are sailing in the service of one of their captors. But it would have been likely for any of the great empires who conquered Israel to do business on the sea and conscript captured Israelites to serve on the ships. The Psalm describes a great storm that threatened death and shipwreck. Whether a specific instance or realistic imagery describing their greater captivity and servitude, we see the danger to them as well as some vivid imagery to describe their perilous situation. Their “soul melted away in their misery” (v.26), they “reeled and staggered like a drunken man” (v.27a), and they “were at their wits’ end.” (v.27b)
While few or none of us spend a lot of time at sea, I appreciate that this particular stanza makes references to those who do business, reminding us that God is present and involved in every context, not just in church or at the sickbed, but also where we work and spend our days. And even though few or none of us work on the water, this imagery is not unfamiliar to us. We often talk about the “storms of life” and experience the misery, disorientation, and confusion described in verses 26-27.
Like the other stanzas, after describing another situation of need and distress, those being described eventually turn to the Lord and cry out for help. And again, God delivers them “out of their distresses.” (v.28) And we get some detail of that deliverance. The Lord “caused the storm to be still, so that the waves of the sea were hushed.” (v.29) And the people “were glad because they were quiet.” (v.30a) Futhermore, the Lord “guided them to their desired haven.” (v.30b)
God settled down the storm and provided guidance to safety. God is good, God is faithful, and God is involved with us.
Jesus Calms the Storm (Matthew 14)
That stanza reminded me of the several times the disciples were out in a boat and encountered stormy weather and Jesus came to them. I chose one of these stories from Matthew 14 as our scripture reading this morning. After the feeding of the 5,000 Jesus went to spend some time alone in prayer and sent the disciples on ahead of him by boat to cross part of the Sea of Galilee. It was a rough night of rowing on the water and they were battered by wind and waves. And Jesus came to them, walking on the water. After their fright at seeing him Peter asks to come out to him on the water. More specifically, Peter asks him to command Peter to walk to him to prove he’s really Jesus. Jesus does, and Peter begins to go to him, but begins to sink when he sees the wind and waves threatening around him. Peter cries out, “Lord, save me!” (v.32) And Jesus grabs hold of him and helps him into the boat at which time the wind went still. And all those on the boat worshiped him saying, “You are certainly God’s Son!” (v.33)
There is also a story in Mark 4:35-41 of Jesus already being in the boat when a storm comes and the panicked disciples waking him up. Jesus speaks to the storm and tells it to be still and it immediately grows quiet.
I don’t mention these stories to completely unpack them, but to highlight Jesus as God-in-the-flesh, consistent with God in Psalm 107, who calms the storm and guides His people. Again, this was a literal storm, but we also see Jesus speaking of the faith (or lack of it) of the disciples and his actions leading to their worship of him, just as God’s actions in Psalm 107 lead to the worship of His people.
And while this is a real event, it has implications beyond the literal “when you are in a boat in a storm pray to Jesus.” Here Jesus has asked his followers to go out ahead of him and they encounter difficulty. Even then Jesus comes to them, but they become more panicky. How often does Jesus ask us to do something in faith for us only to falter, doubt, or even panic when the waters get rough?
I think about Mark’s presentation of the 2022 budget last week. We believe God is leading us to grow, serve, and care in particular ways that exceed our projected income, though we also plan to be faithful stewards of all God entrusts to us. Stepping out in faith when it comes to money can be nerve-wracking. Will we continue to trust the Lord through any storms? Will we continue to trust the Lord to guide us and to provide? I plan to (but I admit that I don’t always do that perfectly)!
Your Story, Your Song
What is your story? What are your storms? Where, like the disciples, has God asked you to be faithful or obedient and you’ve encountered challenges, wind or waves to “rock your boat?” Or where, like the exiles, have you strayed from God’s path and found yourself in a stormy situation?
I think of storms we face: difficult and broken relationships, the two-year isolation and impact of COVID, financial instability, uncertainty about the future, persistent health issues, cultural chaos, and many more from the wide storm systems to what can feel like a personal storm cloud.
God’s Word in Psalm 107 is consistent: call out to the Lord for help! He is good; He is faithful; and He is still involved in delivering us and guiding us.
Jesus is also consistent: have faith that you are not alone, that God is with you, and that obedience to the Lord is the best path.
God is good; God is merciful and faithful; and God is involved in our lives. Amen.
Some Music Used
- Amazing Grace (arr. Forman) – GSPC Choir
- Dancing on the Waves
- I Have a Shelter
- Amazing Grace – Rick Bean, jazz piano
- My Lighthouse
- It is Well (Bethel)
- CHOIR: How Can I Keep from Singing?
- Amazing Grace/My Chains are Gone