Peace on Earth

“Speak to the earth, and it will instruct you.”

(Job 12:8)

From ancient times, the sea has been looked upon as a symbol of unruly power and chaos. Anyone who has experienced, in even a small way, the raw power of a stormy ocean will understand the association. Its raw force lies so beyond our capicity to control it that the only valid human response is of fear and awe. Nothing made by man can stand long against its destructive forces.

In ancient Near Eastern literature, the sea was believed to be governed by the god Yam (which is the semitic word for “sea”), the deity who embodied and ruled over the sea’s raging power. Yam’s kingdom was Tehom—the deep—the place of primordial chaos. Yam was closely associated with Lotan, the great seven-headed serpent or dragon that dwelt in the deep and embodied the forces of evil. All the ancient pagan cultures had gods of the sea, and all were thought to embody similar attributes. The ancient Greeks called this god Poseidon; the Romans embraced him as Neptune; the Vikings called him Aegir. This was the god of chaos, storms, shipwrecks, earthquakes, and tidal waves. He was unpredictable, unruly, and untamed, just the same as his kingdom.

The ancient Hebrews, who lived in this ancient semitic world, were called into the service of Yahweh, the God of all things. This was the Creator, who formed our world from the chaos of the deep. The Hebrew Scriptures begin the account of creation in this context:

“In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters” (Genesis 1:1-2, NLT).

From the chaos, God created a world that was good and beautiful, and He populated it with all His creatures, including humankind. The people He made were given charge over the other creatures, which would relate to people much as people should relate to God. But as the story progresses, the people reject the rule of God and begin to stir the waves of chaos in the world once again. They become as unruly and destructive as the primordial deep. In the time of Noah, God destroyed most of the human race for their destructive wickedness (ironically by using the chaotic forces of a great flood). But as Noah’s descendants spread on the earth, they turned once again to their own way, until even the unruly waves of the sea were better at following God’s instructions than they were. Even of God’s chosen people, the prophet Jeremiah said:

“Listen, you foolish and senseless people, with eyes that do not see and ears that do not hear. Have you no respect for me? Why don’t you tremble in my presence? I, the LORD, define the ocean’s sandy shoreline as an everlasting boundary that the waters cannot cross. The waves may toss and roar, but they can never pass the boundaries I set. But my people have stubborn and rebellious hearts. They have turned away and abandoned me.” (Jeremiah 5:21-23, NLT)

The human race, having embraced the path of selfish disobedience, have become the agents of chaos in the world, rather than God’s agents of peace and beauty. And since the beginning, God has been on a mission to restore the order of His creation by reaching out to the people He made, even at great personal cost. It was for this reason that the Christ was born, to live a life of goodness and ultimately sacrifice—so that the rift between God and His ruling creatures could be healed and His people could be transformed into His servants—His agents of peace.

With all this in mind, remember this account of Jesus on the Sea of Galilee:

One day Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” So they got into a boat and started out. As they sailed across, Jesus settled down for a nap. But soon a fierce storm came down on the lake. The boat was filling with water, and they were in real danger.

The disciples went and woke him up, shouting, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!”

When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and the raging waves. Suddenly the storm stopped and all was calm. Then he asked them, “Where is your faith?”

The disciples were terrified and amazed. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “When he gives a command, even the wind and waves obey him!” (Luke 8:22-25, NLT)

After seeing this astounding miracle, the disciples were overwhelmed and asked, “Who is this man?” They knew the power of the sea. They had heard stories about sea gods. They also knew that the God of all things, Yahweh, could draw the boundaries for the sea. They knew He could silence its rage in an instant. They knew the story of  the prophet Jonah, who had set sail for a distant land in disobedience of God’s call. God sent a raging storm to swamp Jonah’s boat, but when Jonah was thrown into the water, the sea immediately went still at God’s command.

Who is this Jesus? It is a question we all must ask. Perhaps you doubt the stories written about Him. But have you ever taken the time to look closely? If we come to see Him clearly, as the Creator of all things, the One who stirs up storms and quiets them with a word, the only honest response to Him is jaw-dropping awe. This is the One we celebrate at Christmas.

The Baby is born in Bethlehem.

Universe-Spinner spun.

Galaxy-Weaver woven.

Earth-Maker formed.

Storm-Stiller come.

Creation-Healer now with us.

Emmanuel.

The Child is born in Bethlehem.

Hallelujah!

Garden Tip: Though this may not pertain to your personal garden, it does relate to God’s garden—the world in which we live. Open your eyes to the power of a storm. Walk in it; stand it it; raise your fist to it if you must. The storm is in God’s hands, and so are you. The storm must always do God’s bidding. But He has granted you freedom—freedom to participate in His work of bringing peace and beauty to the world, or to rage against His order as an agent of chaos. It is your choice to make. He is on a mission to recreate what has been broken. He is calling you to join with Him in the work of His garden. What will you do with this call? Do you dare to become an agent of God’s peace on earth?