The Deep: Steady Tide
We started this series a couple of weeks ago with the image of the ocean, and God being like the ocean. Yes, we know only our part of the ocean. We know our part where we vacation; some of us have snorkeled, some of us have been scuba diving, but we don’t know the entire ocean. It is hard for us; I used the example the first week, that Jacque Cousteau didn’t know everything about the ocean, right. So we compare, as God was compared in the bible; God was compared to the ocean or water more than any other earthly image in the bible, more than anything else. So we’ve chosen in this series to be in the deep, in the water, in the river, in the stream, and to understand that the image of God, water, is vital. It is vital to our lives and so is God. God is vital to our lives.
So when we see this image of the ocean and the image of the water, we think of this greatness, this risky thing. The undertow, the creatures; how many of us love shark week? But we also understand that there is a beauty and our lack of knowledge at times makes it seem like we don’t count. It’s like we don’t matter. You know, God is so busy; I’m not going to bother God.
We started with the ocean as the image of God. Today I want to close out the series back at the ocean, because honestly I love the ocean. I love being there, I love hearing the waves, I love kids playing in the waves, and hearing the noise of the waves on the beach.
I know this isn’t going to happen in my household, but it happened in my parent’s household. After high school graduation they gave me and my four best friends two weeks at the beach after graduation. No, Annie and Libby, it ain’t gonna happen. That happens in just a year, but anyway. That two weeks were just really all about the freedom after graduation, of what can be. But to be honest with you, I spent most of my time on the beach, just observing. I’m a people watcher and yeah, I’ve returned to the beach, I’ve returned to the ocean.
We’ve taken a cruise and it draws me to its beauty. It is one of my most favorite things in this world. It is messy and sometimes it is hot, but you know, I think that is what this series has been about. Sometimes God is messy. Sometimes God is complicated. Sometimes we don’t fully understand what it is about. That is what we need to learn from this. God is more than we can handle if we tried to even understand God fully. So even though I don’t know everything about the ocean, even though I don’t know everything about God, nor do I pretend to, it is that one thing we can rely on about the beach, and that we can rely on about God, it is steady.
The beach is always steady. I know, I’m saying this in a week when three hurricanes popped up. But when I want consistency, when I want faithfulness, when I want my heart to return to a place of beauty, I think of the beach. You know, the beach, the waves, maybe even just the scene. When Colleen and I were dating I got a job in Dallas as a full-time youth director, and she went down to Galveston Island for physical therapy school. The day we moved her in, we were hot and sweaty, we decided why don’t we just go to the sea wall and take a walk. Have you ever been caught in a beach rain, sea rain? It came out of nowhere and soaked us, her Mom, her Dad, Colleen and I, and even that was pleasing. After moving, I think she had a hide-a-bed. Who has a hide-a-bed? Don’t get an apartment on the third floor, with a hide-a-bed. But everything about it, about the ocean is always steady.
A couple of years ago you know that we took a vacation down to South Padre Island. We saw one thing that I’ve never seen before, but that happens every year. They say every year in the last of June or the first of July, we learned this at a Sea Turtle Sanctuary where they protect these sea turtles that have gotten caught in six pack plastic rings, or been attacked by a shark, they said it was an interesting thing. They said we were there at just the right time. The eggs are hatching this week. So we wake up early, well early for me, and we go down to the beach and they say, “Not today”. So the next day, we wake up early and go down there, but no eggs today. So the next day, Ben and I go deep sea fishing, which he has always regretted, and all the girls go down to the beach and guess what they see? They see baby turtles. Baby sea turtles that are going to make their way to the beach and what is the cool thing about it is that everyone that shows up there lines up shoulder to shoulder to make a little path, and cheers them on! They don’t need it. It’s nature; they are going to go to the beach, but they still cheer them on. But this is another thing that taught me about timing, about steadiness, about faithfulness. That people can count on in the last week of June or the first week of July, the eggs will hatch, and people with cheer them on. It reminds me of God’s faithfulness; it reminds me of God’s steadiness.
After my Grandmother’s funeral down in Three Rivers, Texas, where 73 Highway intersects with I-37, I was sitting there. My flight leaves out of San Antonio, I thought, I’ve got to go catch my flight, and I looked up at the intersection of Highway 73 and I-37 there was a sign that said, Corpus Christy this way, San Antonio this way. I was flying out of San Antonio. I looked at the clock; I’ve got time. I took a right and went to Corpus Christy and sat on the beach, and listened to the waves, and heard the steadiness of God’s love pounding, pounding, pounding. So, no matter what goes on in my life, no matter what goes on in your life, the ups, the downs, the beach reminds me of God’s steadfast love and faithfulness. With all the ups and downs, with ever doctor’s appointment, with every family situation, we have to be reminded of God’s steadfast love. With every hurricane, with every disastrous scene, we have to be reminded of the constant love, the steadfastness, and the faithfulness of God.
You see, when I think about this I think of book of Lamentations. In chapter 3 the writer of Lamentations spells it out. When we start at verse 21 it says this, ‘Yet this I call to mind’. Meaning, I’m going to remember some things, almost like our scripture last week, right? When we found out that the writer of Psalms, as the deer pants, he goes into this, “I remember this”, he starts talking to himself. They think Jeremiah wrote it, but I’ll get into it more, later. In verse 21 it says, ‘Yet this I call to mind and therefore I have hope’. ‘I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness.’ Some of you went there, didn’t you? It was my Grandmother’s favorite hymn. Great is thy faithfulness; morning by morning. There we go. You are there. ‘…great is your faithfulness. So I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him.’ When we looked at him remembering, and he knows that he has this hope, this understanding of this hope.
I love this verse. ‘…great is your faithfulness.’ But it was not written by a guy who loves the beach. It was not written from a guy’s happy place. It was written by a guy who was mourning the destruction of his temple, his city. It was a guy who was mourning because so many of his family and friends had been either killed or dispersed. The Babylonians had come in and destroyed everything, and they only took the smart people away to learn from them. It’s in Lamentations because it is called a lament. His heart is heavy; his eyes are teary. It is written after a feeling of losing everything. In fact, if you want to go read it, which I encourage you to, it starts out with a shout to God, in anger. How could this happen? What is going on? It is recognition that God is still God, even after disaster. So when we go back to Lamentations, it says, ‘Yet this I call to mind’. I’ve seen not so good things. I’ve seen destruction. I’ve seen fire. I’ve seen death. But then, ‘and therefore I have hope: Because of the Lord’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail.’ We sing it here quite often, but it actually comes from Psalms 136, the Psalm just repeats it over and over again. Chapter 136 says, Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good. His love endures forever. Give thanks to the God of gods.’ What does it say? ‘His love endures forever. Give thanks to the Lord of lords: His love endures forever.’ It continues on, believe it or not. ‘to him who alone does great wonders.’ What does it say? (Congregation) ’His love endures forever. Who by his understanding made the heavens, (Congregation) ‘His love endures forever. Who spread out the earth upon the waters. (Congregation) ‘His love endures forever. ’ Oh, this is what traditional churches call responsorial readings. And we didn’t even have to use bold print, did we? But Psalms reminds us that ‘His love endures forever’, forever, and ever and always. We see this and we know this, but sometimes because we feel so insignificant we don’t want to recognize it. In Lamentations verse 23 it says, ‘They are new every morning. Great is your faithfulness’. It is what we started with; it is the reality of the moment.
There are new mornings, but ‘great is your faithfulness’. I know I hear it quite often; I have to be honest with you, when I ask how you are doing, a lot of your say, “I got up this morning”. That is what this is about. Every morning, I got up this morning. I’m sorry about this, but how are you doing? You know what, the sun still rose and I woke up, right? We just put it into our language, into our terms, so we could understand. It’s like in 2 Timothy, chapter 2 verse 13, ‘If we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot disown himself’. You see, God is true to God’s self. That’s what is says. Now let me explain this a little bit. It took me a while to comprehend this. If he cannot disown himself, if God is steady, if God is faithful, if God is constant, it is because God is honoring God’s self. “Well that is a little self-centered, don’t you think?” It is not, when you think about it. If God is to honor himself, God is always God, morning, by morning, every morning, great mercy. You see if God is always God, then every morning He is the same true, loving, gracious God. Sometimes I think I could write bumper stickers, God never wakes up on the wrong side of the bed. We like to think so, because we do, our mood changes. We put our faith in somebody and that person has a bad day and comes home and bites our head off. But God is always constant. God is always God. God never wakes up on the wrong side of the bed.
Isaiah chapter 40 verses 28-31 captures this, ‘Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.’ You see, we don’t know what faithfulness is, so this sliver of God is hard for us to understand, a steady God. I mean, I’m moody. People you know have emotions, and when we attribute those emotions that we have for a faithful God, a loving God, we use all these names, but God is steady. We think we understand. We think we are undeserving and yes, most of us are, but God displays incredible beauty and power to show us His indescribable love. A love that is steady, a love that is steadfast; a love that is faithful.
Ephesians chapter 2, verse 7 says this, ‘in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus.’ God’s apex of His glory is grace and love. If there is an apex of God, if there’s a sliver of God, if there’s that attribute of God that Moses wanted to see of God and God said, “You can’t handle the truth”, and just gave him a sliver that buckled his knees, it has to be for us grace and love. The way God wields his power is through love and grace. That is what we learn about God through Jesus Christ. Think about what you know about Jesus Christ. He was always obtainable by the sinner. He was always available to the sinner. He was always faithful to maybe the person who didn’t fit in; he was approachable. He was consistent. He loved ticking off the people who thought they were right. That’s what Jesus Christ shows us of God. If there is an apex of God that we know through Jesus Christ, it’s that grace and love.
One of my favorite stories is in Luke chapter 7 verse 36. ‘When one of the Pharisees invited Jesus to have dinner with him,’ it was a trap. No, I put that in there. ’ he went to the Pharisee’s house and reclined at the table.’ Because that was tradition; you sat on the floor, you kind of lay back, and chilled. You ate slowly; it was about fellowship. He ‘reclined at the table. A woman in that town who lived a sinful life learned that Jesus was eating at the Pharisee’s house, so she came there with an alabaster jar of perfume. As she stood behind him at his feet weeping, she began to wet his feet with her tears. Then she wiped them with her hair, kissed them and poured perfume on them. When the Pharisee who had invited him saw this, he said to himself, “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.” I’m going to stop right here for a second. There is several things at play right here. The first thing is the alabaster oil is an anointing. King David got anointed. Christ means anointed one. This is Jesus’ anointing. It’s almost a laying of hands. You know when I went up for ordination I had about three bishops and Colleen’s Dad laid hands on me for ordination. I don’t know what they were trying to tell me, but they pressed pretty hard. It was like, (shows being pressed down) “What are you doing?” It was because it was important and they wanted me to remember.
So she pours the alabaster jar of oil, she cleans his feet. In fact, it is a ritual when you go to someone’s house. Your servant or you clean your guest’s feet. You see that’s another inner working here. The prophet did not care enough to clean Jesus’ feet at the door. He came in and the woman, who was a sinner, did. Now, you’ll probably never find this in any commentary, in fact I’m almost reluctant to say it, but one, how did the Pharisee know she was a sinner and two, how did she gain access to this house. Had she been there?
So she comes. “If this man were a prophet, he would know who is touching him and what kind of woman she is—that she is a sinner.” Jesus answered him’, but not to him, he’s talking to Simon, but he’s answering the question of the Pharisee. Kind of like when you are in a grocery line and you want that next person to hear you. You speak a little louder, but you’re not talking to that person, because you are going to a concert or something else. So Jesus turns to Simon and says, ‘Simon, I have something to tell you.” “Tell me, teacher,” he said. Two people owed money to a certain moneylender. One owed him five hundred denarii, and the other fifty. Neither of them had the money to pay him back, so he forgave the debts of both. Now which of them will love him more?” Simon replied, “I suppose the one who had the bigger debt forgiven.” “You have judged correctly,” Jesus said. Then he turned toward the woman and said to Simon’. He’s still talking to Simon, but now he’s addressing the woman, and everyone is listening because he’s talking a little louder. ‘“Do you see this woman? I came into your house. You did not give me any water for my feet, but she wet my feet with her tears and wiped them with her hair. You did not give me a kiss, but this woman, from the time I entered, has not stopped kissing my feet. You did not put oil on my head, but she has poured perfume on my feet. Therefore, I tell you, her many sins have been forgiven—as her great love has shown. But whoever has been forgiven little loves little.” Then Jesus said to her, “Your sins are forgiven.” The other guests began to say among themselves, “Who is this who even forgives sins?” Jesus said to the woman’. I haven’t, but… “Your faith has saved you; go in peace.” A beautiful story about God’s grace and love.
He was always meeting people right where they are, right where they are. Revealing the apex of who God is, like a vast ocean, but giving us a part that we will come back to time and time again, and appreciate, and love, and watch, and soak ourselves in. I Corinthians chapter 10, verse 13 says this, ‘No temptation has overtaken you except what is common to mankind. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can endure it.’ In Philippians chapter 1, verse 6 is says, ‘being confident of this, that he who began a good work in you will carry it on to completion until the day of Christ Jesus.’ You see, there is a good work in us; there is an understanding of who we are.
In the last verse we are studying today, Lamentations verse 24 of chapter 3 it says, ‘I say to myself, “The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him”.’ Faithfulness everyday; God reveals to us every day. God is steady; God is constant. Then the man in sorrows says to himself, ‘“The Lord is my portion; therefore I will wait for him”.’ Do you know what the word portion means? Oh, I know. I love portions! I know that when I have a night meeting or football practice goes a little too long, I know that when I come home there will be a plate in the fridge with that night’s dinner, with a paper towel over it; a portion that was saved for me. When this man says “Lord is my portion”, he means that God has been set aside for you; that a table has been set for you. Like Jesus setting at the table with Simon, and that aside or portion, something that has been set aside, something that cares for you, something that sustains you. That plate with the paper towel over it, to be micro waved, sustains me. The Lord has been set aside, the Lord has been portioned. We cannot handle everything about God. That is how we opened it up. To know everything about the ocean is impossible. We keep discovering new things. We can keep on learning about God, but it is God’s portion that has been set aside for us, that we get. That is how we understand God. We can’t understand everything about God that there is to know, but the incredible thing is, all we need is a portion. All we need is a portion of God. All we need is a plate that has been left for us; to sustain us, to care for us, and to create the steadfast, faithfulness and love of a God that we know is steady.