Psalm 107 is a psalm about people who don’t think of God or his goodness until they are in “big trouble.” Then they repent and turn to him in their fear and hopelessness and need, and he hears them and rescues them.
In the middle of that psalm is the story of men who go down to the sea in ships. They are not really thinking about God until a huge storm overtakes their vessel. What we need to keep in mind is that their ships were tiny compared with today’s. In fact, today a “ship” has to be over 100 feet in length; otherwise it’s just a “boat.” Those people were really in a boat.
According to the psalm, God was the cause of the storm. Perhaps there are intermediaries involved (like Satan, with permission from God), but the ultimate cause of the storm (and all things) is God. He causes or allows things like this to come into our lives to “get our attention.” Isn’t it sad that our attention wanders unless a storm comes into our lives?
Jonah was called by God to go to Nineveh. But Jonah was a bigot. Jonah knew that God was filled with compassion for all people, but Jonah hated the Gentiles and didn’t want to go to Nineveh. In chapter one of Jonah’s book, Jonah ran down to today’s Haifa (called Joppa back then), and caught a boat for Tarshish, probably a port in Spain—as far as he could get from Israel. I don’t know if he thought God was limited to Israel (as most people thought of their gods), but out on the Mediterranean he knew for sure that Yahweh is the “God of the sea and the land.” God sent a storm against that boat. You should read Jonah 1 to see the whole story, but Jonah was the cause of the storm. After throwing off all the cargo, the ship’s tackle, and even their food, the men cast lots. The lot fell on Jonah. Now all the sailors knew Jonah was the cause of the storm. Finally, at their wits’ end, then threw Jonah into the sea. Immediately, the sea grew calm. The sailors offered Yahweh sacrifices and took vows to him. And Jonah was on his way to Nineveh. He didn’t want to go, but he went. Maybe you know the story; if not, read it. Even at the end of it, he’s still a bigot.
Psalm 29 is also about a great storm. It is an amazing psalm that has the name Yahweh four times at the beginning and four times at the end of it. It also says, “The voice of Yahweh” seven times — perhaps the “seven thunders” of the Book of Revelation. The storm recorded in Psalm 29 is awesome in its power. The people in the temple cry out, “Glory!”
The Apostle Paul is the only person I’ve ever heard of who went through three shipwrecks! In Acts 27, he is onboard a boat when a massive storm came upon them. This storm blew the boat out of control for two weeks. The sailors and all on board had no time for food. They worked as hard as possible to save the ship — throwing overboard all the cargo and the ship’s tackle; then they wrapped ropes around the ship to keep it from being broken up. Finally, they ran aground on an island. All aboard were saved. Please read that story for yourself.
Of course, the greatest storm recorded in the Bible is in Genesis 6-9, the flood of Noah.
But another storm is recorded in Mark 4:35. This storm is like the one in Jonah. The boat was being filled with water, but Jesus was asleep in the stern. They woke him up. I believe they probably wanted Jesus to help them bail out the ship. They said, “Master, don’t you care if we perish?” Jesus stood up. He said, “Peace. Be still.” The storm stopped immediately! They could see the other boats standing against their reflection in the water. The disciples were terrified. “What kind of man is this?” they asked—“…that the wind and the sea obey him!”
That is the ultimate question: What kind of man is this? Jesus can calm all the storms in our lives. In fact, Psalm 29 says, “Yahweh sits enthroned above the flood.” God is always on his throne. He is always able to deliver us. He is above any storm.
Mark Berrier is the minister of Central Christian Church in Sherman. He earned a doctoral degree in divinity from Dallas Christian College.