• sonnyholmes

You can't seriously study the Psalms apart from an awareness of King David's personal trials and difficulties. The King of Israel, "the man after God's own heart..." (see 1 Samuel 13: 14; Acts 13:22), experienced sinful distance from God, family drama, the dangers of wartime, political intrigue, and periods of spiritual darkness. In extended times of frustration and loneliness he repeatedly asked "How long, O Lord...?" (Psalm 13: 1, one example), his plea for endurance and perseverance, for an awareness of God's presence. The weight of life burdened him greatly.

Psalm 77 is one of those mournful hymns. The opening verses set the stage of this particular sorrowful lament---

I cry aloud to God, aloud to God, and he will hear me. 2 In the day of my trouble I seek

the Lord; in the night my hand is stretched out without wearying; my soul refuses to be

comforted. 3 When I remember God, I moan; when I meditate, my spirit faints. Selah

Psalm 77: 1-3, ESV

But, King David knew something. In moments of crisis he turned to his heavenly Father. Verse 2 is so revealing---"In the day of my trouble I seek the Lord...". Verses four through twenty are then a recitation of God's provision for the King and Israel as they served him. And, yes, there are mentions of the waters and especially the sea---

Your way was through the sea, your path through the great waters; and your footprints

were unseen. You led your people like a flock, by the hand of Moses and Aaron.

Psalm 77: 19-20, ESV

Yes, King David knew the history of Israel and their miraculous delivery from Egyptian captivity. Being delivered from Egyptian troops at the Red Sea was no doubt the King's reference point. It was perhaps the most memorable occasion of God's intervention in the history of Israel. This morning as I stare at he sea in my dry, warm indoor perch with a view through the sliding glass doors, I am convicted by King David's faithful response to a time of trouble. In that moment of personal crisis, King David remembered the works of God from the past. He countered the question marks of doubt with the firm exclamation points of what God had done in history. He remembered that God's way for Israel when the Egyptian armies were closing in was through the sea.

The Atlantic is beautiful this morning, clear skies overhead, a cold yet calm scene. The currents and wave appear strong however, stretching to the horizon and beyond view. When Israel stood at the edges of the Red Sea, no doubt praying for a miracle, God could have stretched out his hand to deliver them hundreds of ways. This morning I am reminded that his way was through the sea. In times of doubt, or any personal crisis for that matter, I will remember King David's lament about the sea, and remember what the angel said to young Mary---"for nothing will be impossible to God" (Luke 1:37, ESV).

Here is the sea, great and wide...

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  • sonnyholmes

The sea is a recurring image in King David's lyric poetry and songs. Scrolling through the Psalms Sunday afternoon I was taken by the profound ways he was influenced by that singular reference, the sea. His personal ocean going experience was most likely very limited. The King had been an earth bound shepherd boy and soldier throughout his years. What he knew about the sea was most likely learned in the scrolls of ancient Judaism or from the rabbis and colleagues who counseled. Still, his written Psalms resound with sea talk. They were profound elements of his faith, personal growth and development, the lessons of the sea in the epoch of Israel.

Yesterday, Psalm 104 gave me pause as the King extolled the majesty and glory of our Creator God. It is a Psalm about God's greatness, the wonders of his creative hand, the immovable foundations, the waters that stood above the mountains (see verses 5-6), and the limits of the created order. The simple phrase "Here is the sea, great and wide..." (verse 25) registered deeply with me. You see, King David could not explain the physical dimensions of the earth's waters, or define what differentiates an ocean from a sea from a lake, a gulf, sound, or river. He could not have known that 71% of the earth's surface was water or that these waters stretched .3 billion miles, averaged 12,080 feet in depth, or even imagined the 873,000 square miles of the Bering Sea.

What King David did know what that God "...covered it with the deep as with a garment, and waters stood above the mountains" (Psalm 104: 6). He knew that "You make water spring forth in the valleys; they flow between the hills; they give drink to every beast of the field...from your lofty abode you water the mountains; the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work" (Psalm 104: 10, 13). King David probably only actually saw three or four of the 77 seas on this earth. But, he knew who created them. His Psalms mention the seas numerous times. But, these Psalms aren't about the seas. They are about the glorious God who created them all.

So, right now I'm staring at the sea. Harriet and I are blessed to be part owners of a beach front condominium in Garden City, South Carolina. We have four weeks each year to stare at the Atlantic Ocean, one of our glorious God's seas. What does the sea say to me right now---

Here is the sea, great and wide, which teems with creatures innumerable, living things

both small and great. 26 There go the ships, and Leviathan, which you formed to play in

it. 27 These all look to you, to give them their food in due season. 28 When you give it

to them, they gather it up; when you open your hand, they are filled with good things.

31 May the glory of the Lord endure forever; may the Lord rejoice in his works, 32 who

looks on the earth and it trembles, who touches the mountains and they smoke!

Psalm 104: 25-28, 31-32, ESV

So, that's the deal this week. Old Sonny staring at the Atlantic Ocean and knowing, "Here is the sea, great and wide..." Glory!

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  • sonnyholmes

We always have a chuckle when I welcome new neighbors into our condo community. Many of them are relocating to the sunny south from the snow covered environs of northern America. It's been repeated in this space on many occasions, what I usually tell them about weather in the Lowcountry. That is, we have two seasons down here---summer and February. And, yes, it is February. My walk this morning was wet and cold. It made me hustle through my first 5,000 steps for a dry, warm space on the sofa. February indeed.

Our seasons are an interesting theme in Scripture. The creation account in Genesis 1 gives us brief mention of them.

And God said, "Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens to separate day from

night. And let them be for signs and season, and for days and years, and let them be

lights in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth. And, it was so.

Genesis 1: 14-15, ESV

So, there is the created earth and the seasons that mark our time here. We know them as spring, summer, fall, and winter. Here in the Lowcountry we are better acquainted with summer and February. You know, sunshine and heat, time on the beach, and warm days on the sofa.

The seasons are also used in a metaphorical sense in Scripture. In many instances they represent the nature of our time in this broken world, the phases of life. Wise Solomon wrote, "For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven" (Ecclesiastes 3: 1, ESV). Truly our circumstances carry us through some difficult hours, those more trying seasons, and moments of great blessing, the seasons when we more fruitful reality defines us. No doubt we all experience what we would call pleasing times, and just as assuredly those hours that try and challenge us. And, they are mystifying and perplexing, not as predictable as the four earthly seasons. Jesus reminded his disciples after the resurrection, "It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority" (Acts 1: 7, ESV). We just can't always fathom how or when these life seasons will come. They do surprise us at times.

Timothy is thought to have been a younger ministry partner of the Apostle Paul. He had evidently experienced some criticism because of his age and message. As a pastor for the past forty years I can certainly identify with the frustration he may have felt., the heavy downpours of harsh words in actions. Then, the Apostle Paul wrote to a timely word to him---"Preach the word; be ready in season and out of season..." (2 Timothy 4: 2, ESV). That certainly strikes a note for me, the instruction to be prepared all the time. And, it rings my bell on this February morning. My take? There are great moments in life, and some difficult ones as well. Being prepared for each is my daily challenge.

Even on a cold, wet February morning. Be blessed. And, prepared.

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