A meditation on Psalm 89: 9

Kevin J Youngblood
O Lord God of hosts, who is mighty as you are, O Lord, with your faithfulness all around you? 
9 You rule the raging of the sea; when its waves rise, you still them.
10 You crushed Rahab like a carcass; you scattered your enemies with your mighty arm. (Psalm 89:8-10)


YHWH’s unique ability to calm the raging sea is a recurring motif in the psalms (Pss. 65:7; 89:9; 93:4; 107:23-29). Often it is associated with the mythic theme of the primordial battle with chaos characteristic of numerous ancient Near Eastern creation stories as it is in Psalm 89:8-10. In most contexts in the Psalter, the raging sea is a metaphor for overwhelming trouble and/or sorrows – the countless enemies who relentlessly pursue or the mounting and growing anxious thoughts that refuse to be silenced and constantly rob us of peace (e.g. Ps. 65:7 where the stilling of the sea is parallel to the quieting of the nations’ tumult).

The psalmists find it immensely comforting that YHWH engages and mitigates what no one else can – the chaos of life. Of course, we would all prefer it if YHWH had simply eliminated such chaos altogether from the created order, but God in his wisdom has given it a place in his universe. We can only speculate as to why but it seems that confrontations with chaos are formative for us. They are a necessary pain in this fallen world without which we would not grow in either wisdom or strength. Nothing in fact sends us running back to God more quickly or effectively than our encounters with chaos.

It is interesting, therefore, that all three of the synoptic gospels include the episode of Jesus’ stilling of the storm (Matt 8:26; Mk 4:39; Lk 8:24). For his Jewish disciples who grew up singing the psalms with their frequent references to God’s unique ability to tame the chaotic waters, this was a sure sign of Jesus’ identification with YHWH. It signaled not only that Jesus was YHWH in the flesh, but furthermore that he had come to do battle with the forces of chaos. He had come to silence the nations and to take captive the evil spiritual forces that are at work in the power structures of the current world order. Jesus, like YHWH before him, does not do this by eliminating the sea, by removing from the world these hostile forces (at least not yet). Rather he confronts them, challenges them, and then, to everyone’s surprise, allows them to take him captive and crucify him. Jesus, like Jonah, throws himself, as it were, into the chaos and by entering it, calms it. Naturally, incarnation is profoundly tied to crucifixion. This I have always understood but never before have I considered incarnation as Jesus’ first step into the chaos of our world – a first step in his running leap into the chaos of the cross.

But has the cross really silenced the raging sea? Has the resurrection really brought a stillness and peace to creation? It certainly doesn’t seem so. As I write this meditation the world appears to be coming unglued. China is escalating its military aggression in Asia while Russia continues its invasion of the Ukraine edging the world closer and closer to global conflict – world war III. What do the cross and resurrection mean in the face of such large and looming chaos? Disciples of Jesus must remember that Jesus’ ordering of the chaos, his calming of the raging sea, is gradual and progressive. It begins in the small contained seas like the lake in Galilee. It begins within those of us who have placed our faith in him and pursue discipleship. He calms the internal raging storms taking place within our own hearts and minds so that we can weather the external raging storms that are ransacking our world. This peace, however, is not a privatized one. Though it begins as an internal, mystical experience, this calming of the sea extends through us into the world. Though God through Christ, in his wisdom, has not yet chosen to eliminate the sea altogether, recognizing that our participation in confronting it, facing it, learning not to fear it is spiritually salutary for us, in the end, the sea will be no more. Chaos will finally have no place in God’s new creation (Rev 21:1). In the meantime, the Spirit of God hovers over the raging waters offering peace to anyone who will welcome it and ordering the lives of all those who will submit to his gentle guidance saying “Peace, be still!”


As you made a way for Israel through the raging sea, please make a way for us through the present chaos of our world. Guide your people through the escalating conflicts and violence that seem to be taking over. We confess that we are afraid. We easily forget that you have the power to still the storm both within and without. Lord Jesus, as calmed the storm on the sea of Galilee, please calm the storms that are raging within my own heart. I cannot even hear your voice over the noise of my own anxieties and fears, the thunder claps of my anxious thoughts drown out your promises and reassurances. Please silence all voices but your own. Silence the voices of the talking heads in the media and all of their doomsday predictions. Silence the voices of violence and all of their threats that ricochet in my head. Yes, I am a man of little faith and great fear. I ask you to increase my faith and shrink my fear. Holy Spirit hover over this mess of a world ordering it for your eternal habitation. Begin with me. Order my heart and mind and begin your habitation in me. Make my body the base of your operations in this world to bring it into order, to bring to consummation the new creation where there will be no more raging sea.