The Breaking Waves —Ps xciii ,


1 The Lord reigneth! He is clothed with majesty!

The Lord is clothed with strength, wherewith he hath girded himself:
The world also is stablished, that it cannot be moved.

2 Thy throne is established of old ; thou art from everlasting.

3 The floods have lifted up, O Lord, the floods have lifted up their voice; The floods lift up their waves.

4 The Lord on high is mightier than the voice of many waters, Yea, than the mighty waves of the sea.

5 Thy testimonies are very sure: holiness becometh thine house, O Lord, for

ever.—Psalm Xc111.

Th1s is one of those magnificent Psalms which describe Jehovah's reign. Even Jewish interpreters say of them: 'these all treat of the things which will take place in the times of Messiah.' Throughout it reads like a commentary and application of the grand fundamental truth, 'Jehovah reigneth.' Already He hath laid the foundation of His kingdom in His Church, and anon shall He in His faithfulness and power establish it. Those elements which have hitherto resisted shall not be allowed to continue. Right royally He manifests Himself. 'He is clothed with majesty; clothed is Jehovah, might hath He girt about Him.' The present state of things is connected with Christ's humiliation. But when He puts on His royal mantle of majesty, and girds about Him the sword of His might: 'thus the world shall be established; it cannot be moved.' And yet, though seemingly the enemy has long prevailed, 'Thy throne is established of old; Thou art from everlasting.' The establishment of His throne is the ground and the pledge of the establishment of the world and of His kingdom. 'Jesus Christ, the same yesterday and to-day and for ever.' In view of all this, the Church stands a wondering spectator, first struck with awe, and then filled with adoring gratitude. 'The floods have lifted up, O Jehovah, they have lifted up their roaring; the floods are lifting up their dashing noise.' The latter term refers to the sound of the waves as they break, and in connexion with it the change of tense is very marked. The enemies of God and of His kingdom have risen like the floods or waves of the sea, lashed by the storm; with roaring noise have they advanced; but as they near the vessel which bears the King, their noise is that of waves dashing into foam. Their utmost nearness is—to their destruction; their utmost noise is—in breaking. And even now, and in the height of the storm also, far overtopping not only all danger, but even its threatening noise, is Jehovah. 'Jehovah on high' (even there) 'is mightier than the roaring of many waters and mighty, than the breaking waves of the sea' (the word here rendered ' breaking waves' being literally a derivative from the verb to break). What a picture this of our safety; what an epitome of the history of God's government and of His Church! Thus the calming of the storm on the lake of Galilee was not only a parabolic representation of the history of the kingdom of God, but also typical of the final consummation of all things; a summary of the past, a prophecy of the future, a type of the end. And what applies to the Church as a whole, holds equally true of individual believers. Let us ever remember that the noise is that of the breaking wave. Our greatest dangers are only breaking waves; waves which break at His feet. The same expression is also sometimes applied to the waves of God's wrath or judgments threatening to engulf the believer, as in Ps. xlii. 7; lxxxviii. 7. These also, blessed be His Name, are only breaking waves. Meantime, while waiting for the manifestation of His majesty and might, have we ' the more sure word of prophecy.' 'Thy testimonies are very sure' (very reliable, literally very Amen-ed); and, so far as we are concerned, our faith and patience are tried and proved: 'Holiness becometh Thine house, O Jehovah, for ever.'

Thus we have here the history of the Church of God deduced from the text, 'Jehovah reigneth.' These words are to us also as 'a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn and the day-star arise in our hearts.' So long as they are left us, all that threatens us from without is only like the noise of the breaking wave. The unspeakable comfort conveyed in this assurance is ever tested in the experience of God's people.

There is no truth more precious to the heart of the Christian than that 'the Lord reigneth.' The conviction of this must carry us far above all cares and fears. A personal God, a living God, a reigning God—alike in the armies of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth—and this God the Father of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ,—such are the steps by which we reach a height, where, far removed from the turmoil of men, we gain a comprehensive and clear view of earth and its concerns. I would not exchange the assurance which these two words, 'Jehovah reigneth,' convey, for all the wisdom, combined with all the power, of this world. Received into my heart, they are the solution of every difficulty, the end of all perplexity. It seems to me as if, after puzzling over the cross-writing and hieroglyphics of men, I turned a fresh leaf, on the top of which stood those words, as the text to be preached out in all history, whether of the individual, the family, or the nation, the Church or the world. It seems as if, after revolving sorrowfully and helplessly all the difficulties and wants which distress my heart, I were at once rising above those floating clouds into clear atmosphere; as if all at once I were unburdened; as if I had reached a haven of rest; as if I had found a firm foundation, an ultimate principle. After all, in every real trial there is but this one final and full comfort. What matters the opinion of men,—who may be for and who against me; who may be with me, or who may leave me? Who would speak of prospects or probabilities, of the support to be derived from wealth or power, or of the defections of friends on whose sympathy and help we had counted? Jehovah reigneth! There is light here across my every path, provided I follow Christ, walking in the narrow way. Only let me be sure that, in any and every respect, I am on the Lord's side and in the Lord's way, and I ask no more. My God has all the silver and all the gold in His own hand. He holdeth the hearts of all men at His disposal; He directeth all events, from the least to the greatest. If I want power with God or with men, let me pray; for, Jehovah reigneth. Nor let me think that special interpositions are either impossible or rare. They are constant. The course of God's providence is one of constant interposition; for 'all things work together for good to them that love God.' Only, these interpositions are not violent, and therefore not noticed by the superficial observer ; they are the interpositions of allwise and almighty God, not of poor, weak man ; they are interpositions, not interfereiices; they are the working of the machinery by the Master-mind which designed, and the Master-hand which framed it. They are not the stoppage, but the working of the machinery, whereby its real object is wrought out. Lastly, let me note in the Psalm these three things: In creation and nature: pre-established law along with continuous, personal government,—not as opposed to, but as pre-supposing one another (vers, 1, 2). In Providence: 'The Lord on high is mightier than the noise of many waters'—which would otherwise strike terror, even as their swelling would threaten constant danger. And in grace: 'His testimonies are very sure.' I can rest on them. Not one tittle or iota shall fall to the ground. Wherever I have a word of promise, I can safely plant my steps. The conclusion and inference from the whole matter is, that 'holiness' —not fear nor man-serving, but separation unto the Lord— 'becometh,' or is the right, wise, and proper attitude of His house and people.

1. Surely it is a very small thing for me to be judged by man. Consider now, when tempted to despond, what the approbation of man can add, or what his power take away; what his co-operation can accomplish, or what his desertion prevent. Nay, though he were not only the richest, the wisest, and the most powerful, but even the most earnest and devoted of men. A child of God must learn not to depend upon any other child ; he must learn to trust in the Lord alone. There are here snares and pitfalls on every side. The fear of man casteth out the fear of God, and the fear of God casteth out the fear of man. We are more than conquerors through Him that loved us,—never through them, but often despite of them. Bitter indeed is the pang of desertion —not merely by the world, but especially by the Church. Under such circumstances we are prone, if not to murmur, yet to despond. Those on whose sympathy I had reckoned, disappoint, perhaps even oppose. This sense of loneliness is like the horror of great darkness. But let me here, for my comfort, learn the lessons conveyed in 1 Pet. ii. 19, etc. Remember also, my soul, that thou hast not made man thy stay. Moreover, consider, that all a man has or is, is not really his own, but has been received from the Lord. The spring is not cut off, though its waters may seem diverted. Let me then go directly to the spring, and remember that my God reigneth.1

1 At the close of the apostate Julian's reign, dangers greater than ever before threatened the Christian Church. 'And what is your carpenter's Son about?' tauntingly asked a philosopher of the day of a humble Christian. 'Making a coffin for your Emperor,' was the solemn reply, soon after literally verified ; for the Emperor never returned from the great expedition which was to have preceded the extermination of the Church.

2. Fear not, O my soul; these proud, swelling waters shall not engulf thee. They will not engulf thy work. The Lord on high is mightier. I look to Thee, not to them. I take hold of Thy strength, and in my song I already celebrate this yet unseen triumph.1

3. Above all, let me cherish His testimonies. My faith must be exercised in applying the promises, in gathering honey from these lilies of the valley. Lord, 'open Thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of Thy law,' and my heart now to receive them. Let me delight myself in God. His ways are always pleasant, His word is always true, His promise always sure—sealed to me in the covenant of grace. 'Lord, I believe; help Thou mine unbelief.'

Comm1t thou all thy griefs

And ways into His hand,
To His sure truth and tender care,

Who earth and heaven commands.
Give to the winds thy fears;

Hope, and be undismay'd,—
God hears thy sighs and counts thy fears,

God shall lift up thy head.
Through waves and clouds and storms

He gently clears thy way;
Wait thou His time; so shall this night

Soon end in joyous day.
Leave to His sovereign sway

To choose and to command:
So shalt thou wondering own, His way

How wise, how strong His hand!

Paul Gerhardt.
John Wesley.

1 The Germans have it: 'Be not alarmed, provision has been made that the trees shall not grow into heaven.'