Rev. Kuiper is pastor of Immanuel Protestant Reformed Church in Lacombe, Alberta, Canada.
What can we learn from the restless seas? What do the Scriptures intend to teach us with these large bodies of water with their immeasurably powerful waves, tides, and storms? The uniform teaching of the Word of God is that the seas have a negative, symbolic meaning: they stand for troubles, and especially for unbelief and the wicked nations of the world.
How often does the psalmist express his troubles in terms of these great depths! When his soul is cast down and he is filled with disquiet, he cries out, “Deep calleth unto deep at the noise of thy waterspouts; all thy waves and thy billows are gone over me” (Ps. 42:7). When he speaks of the multitudes that hate him wrongfully, he calls to the heavens, “Save me, O God; for the waters are come in unto my soul. I sink in deep mire where there is no standing. I am come in deep waters where the floods overflow me” (Ps. 69:1, 2). As no man can successfully resist or harness the power of the sea, so no man can overcome, in his own strength, his spiritual enemies and his sin.
The restlessness and confusion of having doubts and being of a double mind is compared by James to the sea. We are to ask God for wisdom, especially wisdom that we may count it joy when we fall into divers trials, nothing wavering. “For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea, driven of the wind and tossed” (1:6). A man who prays without the conviction of being heard and answered is unstable, and can only be compared to the confusion and purposelessness of the stormy tossed sea.
But the Scriptures especially use the figure of seas to represent the ungodly nations. “The wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt” (Isaiah 57:20). When Jeremiah speaks of God’s judgment upon the nations he says, “There is sorrow on the sea; it cannot be quiet” (49:23). When John describes the Antichrist from the point of view of his political power and authority, having one of his heads scarred with a healed-over, deadly wound (the wound was the birth of nations at Babel – the healing the unification of nations just before the end) he says, “And I stood upon the sand of the sea, and saw a beast rise up out of the sea” (Rev. 13:1). The Antichrist arises out of the wicked nations, and although he is ugly in the extreme, the world wonders after him.
Jesus teaches His victory, and the victory of the church in Him, by His great miracle of stilling the tempest (Mark 4:35-41). The church, represented by the twelve, is in a little ship and must cross the sea agitated by a great storm of wind so that the waves beat into the ship. They were in jeopardy, at the point of perishing. Jesus rebuked the wind and the waves. He rebuked them. He spoke against someone for doing evil, and that someone is the devil who rules the kingdoms of this world and would destroy the church that she not reach her desired haven. “And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.” So, too, in Luke 5, we read of the miraculous draught of fishes, where Jesus shows that He saves His people out of the wicked, perishing world. The disciples couldn’t catch a single fish, but Christ working through His disciples saves a great multitude, even as many as should be saved.
The time comes when the raging of the nations against, Christ shall cease, when the nations shall be dispossessed and destroyed so completely that no place is found for them. John saw “a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea” (Rev. 21:1). No more sea because there shall be no more wicked nations, no more dirt and mire, no more opposition for the church of Christ, and hence no more pain, sorrow, or crying. “Thou rulest the raging of the sea: when the waves thereof arise, those stillest them” (Ps. 89:9).
Peace, be still!