“The sea is his and he made it, and the dry land which his hands have formed”

There are some times and moments in life when everything feels to be falling apart. Our carefully ordered and constructed world seems to be giving way.  Chaos is breaking in.  It happens when someone we love betrays us; or our lives are disturbed by illness; or we lose income; or floods or some other crisis strikes us.

In those moments we need to remember: the sea is his.  The sea in the bible is not the benign, happy symbol it is to many people in Britain.  The sea is the great symbol of chaos, darkness and disorder breaking in.  The recent floods and tidal surges have brought this kind of chaos to many in our country.

At the beginning of the Book of Genesis in the first story of creation, the earth is without form and void, chaos reigns, and the waters are everywhere.  God creates the world by holding back the waters so that the dry land can appear and be formed.  God’s work of creation is, essentially, bringing order out of chaos. The sea remains throughout the Old Testament a symbol of chaos breaking in to the settled order of our lives.

Other religions in the Ancient Near East saw the universe as a battle ground between equally balanced forces of good and order on the one hand and chaos  and evil on the other.  But Israel’s faith in God went much further.

Israel’s faith came to the place where even chaos was held in God’s hand, even the sea was his creation, even the great sea monsters were his delight and his playthings.

In moments of crisis when chaos rules, the last thing we feel like doing is praising God. Yet praise restores our perspective. As we remember who God is, we move back to the place where we can say in faith, the sea is his and he made it.  In that place we find the calm we need to make good decisions, the solid ground for action and the confidence to begin to move forward again.

“O you of little faith” Jesus once said to the disciples in the boat.  “Who is this?” they said in reply.  The sea is his

This post is one of a series of daily reflections on Psalm 95 in January, at the start of the Diocese of Sheffield Centenary Year