Posted by: rcottrill | September 18, 2013

Master, the Tempest Is Raging

Words: Mary Ann Baker (b. Dec. 27, 1831; d. Oct. 31, 1921)
Music: Horatio Richmond Palmer (b. Apr. 26, 1834; d. Nov. 15, 1907)

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: This 1874 gospel song makes an effective dramatic reading, even without the tune. With the music added, it perhaps becomes more of a choral number than a congregational hymn. In his Hymnal Handbook for Standard Hymns and Gospel Songs (pp. 144-145), Homer Rodeheaver gives extensive instructions for the choir director who wishes to use it in this way.

Mary Baker’s hymn versifies the account given to us in Mark 4:35-39. It is one of those songs whose refrain is longer than the stanzas. Whether it is read, or used as a choral selection, it might work well to include the refrain only once, at the end.

Both the Wordwise Hymns link and the Cyber Hymnal tell the basic story behind the writing of the hymn. Miss Baker trusted Christ as her Saviour in childhood, and desired early on to live a life of obedience to her Master’s will. Both her parents died of tuberculosis when she was still very young, and she went to live with a sister and brother in Chicago.

When still a young woman, a further tragedy struck her family. Mary’s brother became ill with the same disease that had taken her parents. Though they had little money, the sisters managed to get the funds together to send their brother to Florida, hoping the climate there would help him. But within a few weeks, he died. They had no money either to bring the body home, or go to Florida for the funeral.

Mary Baker confesses, “I became wickedly rebellious at this dispensation of divine providence.” She began to feel that God must not really care about her or her family. But the Lord gently spoke to her heart, and her faith was restored. Little wonder that the Bible’s record of the disciples’ anguished cry, and Christ stilling the tempest, had special meaning for her.

On the same day, when evening had come, He said to them, “Let us cross over to the other side.” Now when they had left the multitude, they took Him along in the boat as He was. And other little boats were also with Him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling. But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. (Mk. 4:35-39)

About this time in Mary Baker’s life–in the providence of God, Dr. Horatio Palmer (author of Yield Not to Temptation) asked her to write a song-poem that could be used with a Sunday School lesson on the passage in Mark’s Gospel. He was delighted with the result, and wrote a tune for it. A few years later, the song received national attention and acclaim in an unexpected way, to the great surprise of the author.

In 1881, President James Garfield was shot in the back by a deranged gunman. He died some weeks later from infections and other complications from his wound. At his bedside, Mrs. Garfield, leaned over him, kissed his brow, and exclaimed, “Oh! Why am I made to suffer this cruel wrong?” In her grieving cry there was a certain parallel to Mary Baker’s distress over the death of her brother.

As the nation waited for news, during the weeks of the president’s declining condition, Master, the Tempest is Raging was published around the country, as expressing a sentiment appropriate to the crisis. At Garfield’s death, it was sung at memorial services held in various places.

CH-1) Master, the tempest is raging!
The billows are tossing high!
The sky is o’ershadowed with blackness,
No shelter or help is nigh;
Carest Thou not that we perish?
How canst Thou lie asleep,
When each moment so madly is threatening
A grave in the angry deep?

The winds and the waves shall obey Thy will,
Peace, be still!
Whether the wrath of the storm tossed sea,
Or demons or men, or whatever it be
No waters can swallow the ship where lies
The Master of ocean, and earth, and skies;
They all shall sweetly obey Thy will,
Peace, be still! Peace, be still!
They all shall sweetly obey Thy will,
Peace, peace, be still!

The disciples’ reaction to the fearful storm that engulfed them was a very human one: “Lord, don’t you care?” But of course He did (and does) care. We may not see all the reasons for the storms we pass through in life, or the wise and loving purposes of God in them, but we are assured that God is at work in all circumstances for the good of His children (Rom. 8:28).

In towering faith Job, in his painful extremity, cried, “The Lord gave, and the Lord has taken away; blessed be the name of the Lord” (Job 1:21). Yet he continued to wrestle with unanswered questions. Later in the book, Job declares his confidence that his case will be addressed at a future time, when he stands in the presence of his Redeemer (Job 19:25-26). Sometimes, we’ll learn more about the ways of God through such experiences in this life. But full answers to the “Why? question may elude us until we look back from the perspective of eternity.

1) What storms are currently buffeting your own life, or the life of somewhat you know?

2) What comfort and encouragement from God’s Word can you apply to the situation?

Wordwise Hymns
The Cyber Hymnal


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