How do you rest when you are being battered by violent waves in a killer storm? We all go through storms. Maybe you are going through one right now. This 62nd Psalm has been sung by untold millions of storm-tossed believers in the 3,000 years since it was first penned. You may be battered and bruised as you ride the waves of your storm, battling with every ounce of energy to stay afloat—but you can still experience rest in your soul. David said it twice: “…my soul finds rest in God…” If I could reduce the 62nd Psalm to a single verse, it would be this—our fifth principle in our Sabbath series: Don't tell God how big your storm is; tell the storm how big your God is.
[Text: Psalm 62]
Some of you have may have watched episodes of the Discovery Channel’s reality series, The Most Dangerous Catch. For the uninitiated, this is a white-knuckle ride with crab fisherman on the Bering Sea, some of the most treacherous waters on planet earth. Old salts call it “Alaska’s roller coaster ride through hell.” As a fisherman’s son, I spent some terrifying days on that sea.
There’s nothing more frightening than a storm at sea!
Think about the terror of a tsunami. Created by earthquakes under the ocean, these waves are barely noticeable. But they pick up velocity until that are racing at 600 mph—more than the speed of a jet airliner. When they hit shallow coastal waters, these rampaging waves come to a screeching halt. They crash into each other like semi-trailers in a freeway smashup, creating a wave pile 100 feet high. The day after Christmas 2004 a tsunami roared out of the Indian Ocean and slammed into Indonesia with the destructive power of 23,000 Hiroshima-sized atomic bombs, killing 150,000 people.
But a tsunami pales in comparison to a full-blown hurricane. The combined nuclear arsenals of the world couldn’t provide enough energy to keep a hurricane going for a single day. During the Labor Day Hurricane of 1935, winds surpassed 200 mph. People caught outside were sandblasted to death. Rescue workers found nothing but their shoes and belt buckles. In 1970 a hurricane drowned half a million people in Bangladesh. A hurricane in 1938 put downtown Providence, Rhode Island under ten feet of ocean. The waves generated were so huge that seismographs in Alaska picked up their impact 5,000 miles away.
Pressure of up to six tons per square foot has been measured in breaking waves. Killer waves lifted up a 2,700-ton breakwater en masse at Wick, Scotland. They blasted open a steel door 195 feet above sea level at Unst Light in the Shetland Islands. They heaved a half-ton boulder 91 feet into the air at Tillamook Rock, Oregon. In 1973 a rogue wave broke the massive freighter Neptune Sapphire in half off the coast of South Africa. In 1974 a wave hit the 132,000-ton tanker Wilstar, crumpled inch-thick steel plate like sheet metal, twisted railroad-gage I-beams into knots, and tore off the entire bow.
Anybody ready to sign up for an ocean cruise?
King David is going through the greatest storm of his life. He writes about it in Psalm 62. Years before he had committed adultery with Bathsheba, one of his officer’s wives. She got pregnant with his love child. He ordered the murder of Bathsheba’s husband, and then married the grieving widow. But his cover-up was exposed. You might call the political scandal that followed Bathsheba-Gate. David’s children were unhinged by their father’s hypocrisy. One of his sons raped his own sister, another killed his brother, other sons dissipated their lives in drunken orgies, and now the king stands by helplessly as his family disintegrates—paralyzed by his own guilt. David’s household is like one of those TV reality shows: the Kardashian Twins meet the Ozzie Osborne Clan for an evening with Lindsey Lohan. Storm clouds are rolling in as the nation seethes in anger against its discredited king. Prince Absalom rallies the dissidents, and a palace coup is imminent. Successive waves are piling up into the mother of all tsunamis. The nation will soon be engulfed in civil war. David frantically writes about this political tempest in verses that he gives to the choirmaster of Israel to be put to music for a worship song:
“How long will you assault? Would all of you throw me down—this leaning wall, this tottering fence? Surely they intend to topple me from my lofty place; they take delight in lies. With their mouth they bless, but in their hearts they curse.” —Psalm 62:3&4
How does a king write the words for a worship song when he is about to be pulled off his throne by his own son? Everywhere he looks, he sees conspirators whispering and plotting. The whole world is out to get him. Alternating waves of anger, betrayal, despair, grief, anxiety, and terror wash over him one moment and batter him the next. One minute he’s drowning; the next he’s gasping for air and grasping for something to keep him afloat. Yet, somehow, he is able to write the words of his worship song: “Truly my soul finds rest in God…” (verse one). Again, he writes the words: “Yes, my soul finds rest in God; my hope comes from him.” (verse five).
How do you rest when you are being battered by violent waves in a killer storm? This is not only David’s question, it is also ours. David writes these words for the choirmaster of Israel so that all the people of God can sing his song. We all go through storms. Maybe you are going through one right now. This 62nd Psalm has been sung by untold millions of storm-tossed believers in the 3,000 years since it was first penned. You can sing it today, no matter what you are going through. You may be battered and bruised as you ride the waves of your storm, battling with every ounce of energy to stay afloat—but you can still experience rest in your soul. David said it twice: “…my soul finds rest in God…” If I could reduce the 62nd Psalm to a single verse, it would be this—our fifth principle in our Sabbath series:
Don’t tell God how big your storm is; tell the storm how big your God is.
In the English translation of the 62nd Psalm, 45 words talk about the fury of the storm, but 174 (four times more) speak about the bigness of God. His main focus is on God, not the storm!
The key to surviving storms is always in the focus. But our focus and God’s purpose are often very different. We want God to calm the storms we are in. God wants to calm the storms that are in us! God wants to take us to a place of inner calm even while we are in the midst of violent storms. David says twice, in verses 1&5, “…my soul finds rest in God…” The storms are just beginning to blow in. They’ll increase until they become a category 5 hurricane. David will be toppled from his lofty throne. He will lose his kingdom. He will become a fugitive with a price on his head. Before he regains his throne, this killer storm will cut a horrific swath of destruction. No one could ever put a price tag on the wreckage left behind by this “perfect storm.” God won’t take the storm away from David. But he does give David a soul rest in the midst of the storm.
St. John experienced such a soul rest. He wrote about it in Revelation 4&5. Thousands of Christians were being arrested, imprisoned, and fed to the lions in the arenas of the Roman world. John was sentenced to the salt minds on the Isle of Patmos. Amidst the biggest storm of his life, he was transported into heaven. All around him were “lightning, rumblings, and peals of thunder.” But he said in Revelation 4:6, “Also in front of the throne there was what looked like a sea of glass, clear as crystal.” Is it possible to be in a raging storm and stand on a glassy flat sea? It is if God’s throne is before you. God’s presence doesn’t change reality. It isn’t some Buddhist Zen moment that shuts out the sounds of lightning, rumblings, and peals of thunder. John hears all that. He sees frightening visions: the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse thundering across stormy skies, the War of the Worlds, the violent judgments that come upon a world rebelling against God. John’s revelations are graphically real and frightening. But all the time he enjoys a soul Sabbath in the storm, standing on a sea of glass before the throne of God.
If you can see God in the storm, your soul will be at rest. Even as the “perfect storm” overwhelms King David’s world, he can twice say, “…my soul finds rest in God…” Storms are inevitable and inescapable. Hurricane seasons come, even to the Sunshine State of Florida. If you run north to Michigan or Missouri, tornados will get you. God won’t take you out of the storms, but he will take the storms out of you. You can stand on a glass sea of soul rest if only you will tell the storms how big your God is. That’s exactly what David does in the 62nd Psalm. What does he say in his storm song?
1. When the storm recedes, the Rock will still be there.
Again, God doesn’t call us to find our serenity in escapism. David doesn’t run from the reality of the storm, anymore than St. John could shut out the reality of “lightening, rumblings, and peals of thunder.” The storm is real. David confronts it in verse four: “They intend to topple me from my lofty throne.” He doesn’t stick his head in the sand when it comes to the deception of his enemies: “…they take delight in lies. With their mouths they bless but in their hearts they curse.” (verse four). The storm is inevitable and inescapable. The king takes realistic stock of his own limited resources, referring to himself in verse three as “…this leaning wall, this tottering fence…” David is in a precarious situation, and he admits it. Storms are real. The damage they can do is just as real. If you read the dramatic narrative of Absalom’s rebellion against David in 2 Samuel 15-18, you will see that the king takes decisive action. Soul rest doesn’t mean that you don’t prepare for the storm, or fight it with all you’ve got. David does everything he can to stay afloat when the tsunami hits. But, in the midst of all his planning and hectic follow-through to save his kingdom, he can say in verses 6-8,
“Truly he is my rock and my salvation: he is my fortress. I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my refuge. Trust in him at all times, you people…”
God is a rock. One of my favorite paintings is of a lighthouse on a rugged rock. Massive waves are crashing in across that rock, some of these breakers almost as high as the stone lighthouse. It is a dramatic picture of the most explosive force on planet earth: wind and water together in a violent display of nature’s fury. But the painting becomes more compelling when you look closely at the canvas. On the rock, at the base of the lighthouse, is a man. You can barely see him for the wild fury of the massive waves crashing in around him. But he stands secure on the rock, shielded from the breakers by the lighthouse. I think that King David might have bought that painting and hung it in his palace as a symbol of his Rock, Salvation, and Fortress. When you are on the Rock you can’t be shaken.
David says, “My salvation and my honor depend on God; he is my refuge…” (verse 7) He is about to be dragged off his throne. His life is as good as forfeit. He knows that only God can save him. Often times we hear someone say, “It will take a miracle for us to survive this thing!” and our hearts sink. It’s as if we think that if we imagine that can still pull it out if there are still odds that the medical procedure will work, or the check will come in the mail, or we still have one last ace up our sleeve. But, when we hear, “Our only hope is in a miracle!” we want to throw up our hands in despair. Actually, that’s when we should throw up our hands in praise. Our odds have just gone up exponentially if “it would take a miracle.” Then our salvation and honor truly do depend on God. And he is infinitely more dependable than we are. He alone is the Rock of our Salvation!
The first time that God was ever called a Rock was by Jacob in Psalm 49:24. Jacob was blessing his twelve sons before he died. When he laid his hands on Joseph, his eyes must have welled up with tears. The dying old man becomes the first person in recorded history to refer to God as “…the Rock of Israel…” Joseph had been his favorite boy, the son of the woman he loved more than life itself. He lavished Joseph with love, only to have his other sons bring the boy’s jacket home covered with blood. They told the old man that Joseph had been eaten by beasts of prey. The truth is: these jealous sons, desperate for their father to love them like he did Joseph, had sold their brother into slavery. For twelve long years, Jacob grieved for his son. You who have lost a child know that the grief never goes away. All that time, Joseph was alive. Had the old man known that his son had been sold into slavery, and then incarcerated in prison, he would have gone crazy with worry. But God was at work, even when Jacob was drowning in a sea of grief, Joseph was being battered and bruised by tsunamis of injustice, and the other sons of Jacob were tossing and turning at night in storms of their own guilt. The waves may batter the rock with the fury, but storms come only for a nighttime. When the morning dawns, and the storms have spent themselves, the Rock is still standing—and so are those who stand on “the Rock of Israel.”
Last week the nation was shocked when young three women were found enslaved in the basement of a boarded-up house in Cleveland, Ohio. The girls had been missing for some ten years. After massive searches, the public gave up. Most thought they were dead. During the intervening years, they were held as sex slaves by a maniac. The deprivation and depravities the girls endured beggar the imagination. Their childhoods were stolen, and their bodies and souls ravaged. We cannot fathom how they will recover emotionally.
One of these girl’s mother lives in Golden Gates Estate outside Naples. When she arrived in Ohio to see the daughter who had been missing for a decade, a reporter asked her for a comment. She replied, “Never give up hope.” Jacob had the same experience as this mother. He lost his boy for 12 years. Before God miraculously made Joseph second-in-command of Egypt, that young man experienced one assault after another during his own slavery and imprisonment. But Jacob never gave up hope. When he looked at his boy, it must have been the same way parents looked at missing daughters who came back from the dead in Cleveland last week. As he laid trembling hands on his beloved son’s head he said, “God is the Rock of Israel.”
More that, he is the Rock of Ages. He is Jesus who promised that if we build our lives on the Rock, after every storm we can say, “The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall because it had its foundation on the rock.” (Matthew 7:25) In another place Jesus pointed to himself and said, “…on this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18) Storms will come—some of them blowing hot out of hell with Satan’s fury. But the storms will never prevail. When the storms recede (and they will), the Rock will still be standing. So, even as gale force winds blow in your face, you stand on the Rock and shout back, “My God is bigger than you, and he will still be standing (and so will I) long after you have blown yourself out!”
2. When the rains come down, let your tears spring up.
God doesn’t call us to Christian happy talk and pious platitudes. Storms are scary and real. They do things that hurt us deeply. David’s son is conspiring to take him down. Is there anything that devastates more than to be betrayed by those closest to you? Is there anything that makes you angrier than having people bless you while inwardly they are cursing you? You see them rolling their eyes, or whispering conspiratorially to one another. Don’t fake your feelings in the storm. On the other had, God doesn’t call us to grit our teeth and become the strong, silent mariner in the wheelhouse. David says at the end of verse eight, “Pour out your hearts to him, for God is our refuge.” One version of the Bible translates this, “Tell him all your troubles.” Another says, “Always tell him each one of your concerns.”
In short, we shouldn’t bottle our emotions up inside. Shake a soda bottle into a frenzy of fizz, and it will explode all over the place. Nothing is worse than sticky Pepsi Cola.
We don’t tell God to inform him. He already knows the storm we are in. Chances are, he prepared it just for us. He also knows our feelings. He sees the storm inside our souls. Why do we pour out our hearts to God? Because it is the best therapy for the storms that are bottled up within us. We need to get it out before it blows up like a shaken bottle of soda fizz all over others and ourselves. Everything gets so sticky after that. I was recently talking to a guy who is involved in a prison ministry. He always reminds inmates of a fact they can relate to: “You only get one phone call. Who are you going to call? Don’t waste it on someone who can’t help you get out of the mess you’re in.” I like that. If you could only call one person to get you out of a storm, who would you call? I think of that old insurance ad with the Rock of Gibraltar as its logo. The tag line was: “Get a piece of the rock.” More than that, I can get the whole Rock. He’s the only Refuge that I want to call out to when I’m in a storm.
3. When you are riding out a storm, it’s better to be out on the water with Jesus than in the boat without him.
Sometimes we look too much to our own strength, or that of other people in the storm. David reminds us in verse nine, “Surely the lowborn are but a breath, the highborn are but a lie. If weighed on a balance, they are nothing; together they are only a breath.” David is facing a full-blown assault. He looks around the palace and wonders who he can count on to man the oars in the ship of state as it faces the Category Five hurricane ahead. He says, the lowborn—the little people—don’t have the strength. The highborn—the big players—are mostly fakes and frauds. All together, they are only a breath against gale force winds. People can help us, but they will never get us to land. There is only one Rock. Everyone else is sand. All together, they are a beach of sand that will be washed out to sea during the storm. If you stand on that beach, you’ll be washed out to sea with everyone else. That’s what we have to run to the Rock. Peter understood that. He and the disciples were in the storm of their lives. All night they had battled against the wind and waves. Their boat was ripping apart and so were they. But Peter looked through wind and spray, spying Jesus walking across the water. So, while the other disciples were focusing on the storm, Peter climbed out of the boat and onto the stormy seas. Was he crazy? The other disciples probably thought so. But while they were focusing on the storm, Peter was focusing on the Rock who could walk on water. He knew a profound truth: it’s better to be on stormy waters with Jesus than in the boat with weak and worn disciples. It was an incredible act of faith on Peter’s part. We focus on how he took his eyes off Jesus and began to sink. I applaud him for getting out of the boat in the first place. As he sank, he gave the shortest prayer in the Bible: “HELP!!!” Jesus was right there to pluck him out of the waves, and calm the storm. Get out of the boat; it’s not going to make it. Don’t trust in fellow passengers; they don’t have what it takes to save you. Get to the Rock as fast as you can!
4. It’s the set of the sail, not the size of the storm that determines the destination.
After talking about all the crazy things we do to try to manipulate ourselves out of life’s storms, David says in verse 11, “One thing God has spoken, two things I have heard: power belongs to the Lord.” David always comes back to the Lord. First and foremost, he wants to get through the storm to the Rock as soon as possible. He knows that only the Rock was the power to stand against the greatest of storms. Do you have your sails set toward the Rock? When I was a teenager on my dad’s commercial fishing boats, he taught me a single unalterable rule for navigating storms: don’t let go of the wheel, or lose sight of the compass. The wind and waves will blow you off course. Our course is set in God’s Word. The Bible is our book of charts. If we allow fear to seize our hearts, and the next wave that hits us to change our direction, we will be blown far off course. When the storm finally abates, and it always does, we may find that we are oceans away from our destination, or worse yet—impaled on the reefs of destruction. David made it through the storm because he kept the sail set; Absalom shipwrecked his life because he lost sight of the Rock of Israel. Don’t let that happen to you! 5. If you want to see the sunshine, you have to weather the storm.
In verse 12, David understood another truth about God: “And with you, Lord, is unfailing love, and you reward everyone according to what they have done.” He knows that today is not the end. Storms lie ahead, but they won’t last. After the storm there is a safe harbor of God’s love. Jesus will be there to say, “Well done, good and faithful mariner. You set your sail for the Rock. You kept your head while all those about you were losing theirs. You never lost sight of the end game. You rested in me even as you battled the waves.” And we can say, when the storm has passed, what that mother said in Cleveland, “Never lose hope!” for the One in whom we hope is true to the end.
Copyright 2008-2013, All rights reserved. No part of this may be reproduced without permission from Dr. Robert Petterson, Pastor Trent Casto or Covenant Presbyterian Church of Naples.
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