Posted by: rcottrill | August 15, 2016

Fierce Raged the Tempest

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Words: Godfrey Thring (b. Mar. 25, 1823; d. Sept. 13, 1903)
Music: St. Aelred, by John Bacchus Dykes (b. Mar. 10, 1823; d. Jan. 22, 1876)

Wordwise Hymns (Godfrey Thring)
The Cyber Hymnal

Note: Godfrey Thring is perhaps best known for his fine editing and additions to the hymn Crown Him with Many Crowns, by Matthew Bridges (1800-1894). Thring was an Anglican clergyman in England who wrote quite a number of hymns. In the present instance, he was sitting quietly alone, when he seemed to see in his mind’s eye the raging sea, the terrified disciples, and the Saviour asleep in the storm. Immediately, he took up his pen and wrote this little descriptive hymn.

Hurricanes have done fearsome damage through the years. They’re rated on a scale from one to five, with five being the worst. The rating takes into account sustained wind speed and storm surges, as well as the potential flooding and damage that could be caused.

Names of hurricanes such as Hazel (1954), Camille (1969), Andrew (1992), Katrina (2005), and Sandy (2012), live in the memories of many of us. These are the “mega storms” with devastating power that leaves injury and loss of life in their wakes, along with great harm to property.

In comparison to these monsters, the storm faced by the Lord Jesus and His disciples one day on the Sea of Galilee may seem a small thing. However, the disciples, several of whom were seasoned fishermen, saw themselves in grave danger. They knew the power of the storms on that body of water. A description of the incident is found in Mark 5:35-41.

A great multitude had gathered on the seashore, coming from the surrounding towns to listen to Christ’s teaching. Mark says the Lord got into a boat and pushed out a little from the land, speaking to them from there (Mk. 4:1-2). The session must have continued for some time. Then late in the day Jesus said to the disciples, “Let us cross over to the other side” (vs. 35), a distance of several miles. With that, Jesus’ disciples joined Him in the small open boat and cast off.

Josephus tells us more than three hundred of these boats, small single-sailed fishing vessels with oars, plied the waters of the Sea of Galilee in his day. The “sea,” actually a fresh water lake, is situated in the Jordan Valley, which forms a kind of trough, with hills to the east and west. When winds come down the valley they are funneled out onto the sea with great and sudden force. Almost without warning the surface of the water can become a stormy cauldron, with waves reportedly as high as twenty feet.

Quite quickly, on this occasion, “a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling” (vs. 37). Mega is the Greek word for “great.” It was a mega storm. Matthew, who was there in the boat, uses similar language. “Suddenly a great [mega] tempest arose on the sea, so that the boat was covered with the waves” (Matt. 8:24). The boat was being swamped and they all seemed in imminent danger of drowning.

And where was the Lord? He was in the stern of the boat asleep, apparently exhausted from the day’s ministry. Asleep with His head resting on a pillow, likely a borrowed leather seat cushion. Shouting over the din made by the crashing waves, the disciples woke Him with a question: “Do You not care that we are perishing?” (vs. 38). There is a sad irony in that, since saving the perishing is why He’d come to earth (Lk. 19:10).

As a brief aside, there is another time when that phrase, “Do You not care…?” is used in the Gospel of Luke with reference to Christ. When the Lord visited the home of Mary and Martha, “Mary…sat at Jesus’ feet and heard His word” (Lk. 10:39). But Martha…said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone?” (vs. 40). The first question relates to salvation, the second to service. And of course the Lord cares deeply about both.

But, in the situation we are considering, the Lord “arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace, be still!’ And the wind ceased and there was a great [mega] calm” (vs. 39). This astonishing result led to Mark’s third use of the Greek word mega. The disciples “feared exceedingly [mega, greatly], and said to one another, ‘Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!’” (vs. 41).

It’s the answer to that question that becomes the anchor of our faith. He is the Lord Jesus Christ, Creator of all things (Jn. 1:3; Col. 1:16-17), and Saviour of all who trust in Him (Jn. 3:16; Heb. 1:1-3). Clergyman and hymn writer Godfrey Thring told the story of this incident simply in a hymn, concluding with a practical application to our own struggles with the storms of life.

CH-1) Fierce raged the tempest o’er the deep,
Watch did Thine anxious servants keep
But Thou wast wrapped in guileless sleep,
Calm and still.

CH-2) “Save, Lord, we perish,” was their cry,
“O save us in our agony!”
Thy word above the storm rose high,
“Peace, be still.”

CH-3) The wild winds hushed; the angry deep
Sank, like a little child, to sleep;
The sullen billows ceased to leap,
At Thy will.

CH-4) So, when our life is clouded o’er,
And storm winds drift us from the shore,
Say, lest we sink to rise no more,
“Peace, be still.”

1) What storms are you, or your family, or your church, facing just now?

2) What are you trusting the Lord to do in that situation?

Wordwise Hymns (Godfrey Thring)
The Cyber Hymnal


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