Written by Wanda Ventling
Being from the Midwest, I grew up with wide-open spaces—fields of lush green soybeans and corn, golden wheat, pastureland and meadows. It’s a tapestry of farmland, cut by gravel roads that meander for miles. This is the land where crops grow tall and sway in the summer breezes. It is rich with new life and the promise of harvests to come. It is more than I deserve, yet there are days when even the land I love can’t hush the calls of a distant shore. It blows in on a breeze and calls my name, coming thousands of miles over hills and valleys, cities and towns. It urges me to come, to rest on white sandy shores and be still; to hear the voice of God. On windy days I close my eyes and the tree leaves rustle, mimicking the ocean’s waves as they wash the beach. It’s as if they’re helping me decide. I need to go.
I take a morning flight, and several hours later, as the plane draws near the coastal airport, I crane my neck to see the first glimpse of water. The massive blue sea meeting dry land can be peaceful—at times it’s moody gray, other times it’s shades of blue—aqua, cerulean navy— accented with frothy white swells that roll and curl like ruffles on a dress.
I’ve read of the temperamental sea and how old sea captains described it as a monster, with violent storms that toss ships about like toys. But the protected gulf offers many mild days of barefoot walks on soft sand. I know this place slows me down, brings me closer to God—to soothe my soul like a good massage helps the body. I wonder if this isn’t why the sea has such a compelling pull for humans, why beaches are packed with people young and old.
They seems to crave sitting by the water, playing among the windswept rocks and study the creatures just beneath the surface. Many people sit for hours in the low-slung chairs, watching the water heave in and out. It’s as if they are the audience to one of the great theaters of life—God’s creation in motion.
Some of us are drawn to the sea, because we sense God there. Like others who find Him on mountain tops or deep in a verdant forest. God created everything, so it makes sense we feel close to Him when we are surrounded by His handiwork.
Reading the account of creation in Genesis gives us the true story, but understanding these magnificent acts fully is limited by our human understanding. It says water existed even then and the Spirit of God moved above it: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters” Genesis 1:1-2 ESV.
God commanded the waters to move and He created Heaven. “And God said, “Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it separate the waters from the waters.' And God made the expanse and separated the waters that were under the expanse from the waters that were above the expanse. And it was so. And God called the expanse Heaven” Genesis 1:6-8 ESV.
He commanded the water again, this time making land and sea. “And God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. God called the dry land Earth, and the waters that were gathered together he called Seas. And God saw that it was good” Genesis 1:9-10 ESV.
Looking at the ocean, I think about the magnitude of these acts of God. I can’t fully grasp them, though I believe. I know I am like a grain of sand and the power of the waves could grab me and take me far out to sea if I am not careful.
Along some beaches, people try to protect their homes with seawalls. The landlocked try to direct rivers and streams to avoid floods. Leaders work to harness the power of rushing water for electricity. It seems people want to control water as God does. But seawalls breach, towns flood, generators fail and great tsunamis wipe out coastlines. We are puny ants against a powerful force. But God is not. He voiced a command and all the waters moved obediently and still, to this day, He holds the waters in place.
Stepping in the ocean, I feel the water hitting my body. It’s gentle, yet it lets me sense in a very small way the power of the ocean. I imagine how water is moved. How God parted the Red Sea for Moses and the Israelites to escape from Egypt. How Jesus commanded the Sea of Galilee to be calm and how He defied its physical properties and walked on it.
I think about the times that water has impacted my life in a big way. I was baptized as a baby and then again as an adult—water sprinkled over my head and then fully immersed when I wanted to take the plunge to a deeper relationship with God. When He offered the living water to me I accepted it. It’s true—it quenches all thirst.
As I settle down for the evening, I leave the doors open to the deck that overlooks the darkened ocean. I step out onto the cool wood planks and walk to the railing. I’m alone with the moon. It casts its beam over the water, illuminating the placid surface. As my eyes adjust I can see the shoreline, the waves that until now I could only hear. They are rhythmic and comforting.
Scripture comes to my mind—it wells up from the Spirit and restores my soul. Listening to the ocean, feeling the sea breeze on my face, I sense God comforting me, caring for me and healing me in the deepest part of my being. Tonight, I will sleep like a child in the arms of my Father. When it's time to return to the Midwest, I am restored, ready to return to the fields with the hope of a great harvest. I will give one final look at the ocean, appreciate again God’s majestic work and praise Him that I take with me something even more valuable, the living water of His Holy Spirit.
What is the Living Water?
The sea’s power and energy is undeniable, and it’s comforting to know the same God who created it gave us the opportunity to not just see and feel the water, but to drink the living water. So, what is the living water? The Bible explains it for us.
In John Chapter 4, Jesus stops at a well to rest while the Disciples go on to buy food. There, He meets a Samaritan woman and He asks her to draw him a drink from the well. She is shocked—He is a Jew, who typically hated her people. But he overlooks this and offers her something greater. Jesus answers her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is that is saying to you, ‘Give me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water” John 4:10 ESV.
So here we see Jesus offering the living water. In John we learn what it is. “On the last day of the feast, the great day, Jesus stood up and cried out, 'If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water.’ Now this he said about the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive, for as yet the Spirit had not been given, because Jesus was not yet glorified” John 7:37-39 ESV.
Jesus reveals that the living water is the Holy Spirit, which would come after His death and Resurrection. When we confess Jesus as our Lord and Savior, we can invite the Holy Spirit to, dwell in our hearts. The Holy Spirit leads us to our salvation, brings us understanding of the Word of God and makes it possible for us to be a light to the world. According to Ephesians 1:13-14 ESV, “ In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.”
By receiving the living water you will not only impact your own life forever, but those around you. Read John 4:39-42 ESV to see how the woman at the well helped others come to a knowledge of God. “Many Samaritans from that town believed in Him because of the woman's testimony, ‘He told me all that I ever did.’ So when the Samaritans came to him, they asked him to stay with them, and he stayed there two days. And many more believed because of his word. They said to the woman, ‘It is no longer because of what you said that we believe, for we have heard for ourselves, and we know that this is indeed the Savior of the world.’”
When the Seashore Sang
Written by June Coulson Keene
When we moved to Virginia, we rented a house on Sandbridge Beach. The house was built on stilts at the ocean’s edge and responded ever so slightly to the uplift of the sea breeze.
At night, snuggled in bed, I loved to think of it as my own giant cradle and would often pretend I was being rocked to sleep. I learned to cherish my waking moments when all that could be heard was the sound of the ocean, and I would lie, my eyes still closed, listening and waiting as I imagined the ocean was rousing me, calling me into a new day.
One morning I awoke when the bedside clock showed 4:15 a.m. I thought about going back to sleep, but the call of the ocean was compelling. Reaching for my robe and slippers, I got out of bed and, creeping stealthily so as not to waken my husband and children, went into the kitchen. The smell of my first cup of coffee was inviting as I slowly savored the first sip.
From the first day we moved to the beach, the sound of the surf was an integral part of our lives. Usually it was an ever-present mood-setting background music, but there were times that it moved to the foreground with a peculiarly insistent voice. That morning, cup in hand, I was drawn to the beach side of the house. As I leaned against the patio door, all I could see was my reflection, a full moon and a few, dim stars. No sign of dawn.
Disappointed, I went back to the kitchen and poured another cup of coffee. On an impulse, I turned off the lights, returned to the glass door and … stood in awe. Without the light behind my shoulder, I could see an incredible panorama. Every wave was outlined with the moon’s brilliance and from the shoreline to the distant horizon everything was radiantly silver, each wave beckoning me.
Still in my robe, coffee cup in hand, I unlocked the sliding door and stepped out onto the deck. There was a slight shock as the early morning breeze rushed to meet me. I breathed in deeply, filling my lungs with the fresh ocean air. Again I marveled at the luminous scene, watching the waves as they curled up, over and down, in perpetual rhythm. “It’s never still,” I thought, “never still and never quiet.” The sound of the waves seemed to become louder, more rhythmic as I looked along the shore.
It was fall and even though the weather had not yet turned cold, the summer visitors had left and only a few dedicated, year-round beach lovers remained. No lights twinkled from windows. No signs of people stirring. It was easy to fancy that I was the only living soul on the entire beachfront. Every moment the ocean called me with a voice that became more insistent, more compelling.
Leaving my cup on the deck, I made my way to the water. The sand yielded to my footsteps and overflowed into my slippers. I took them off and the wet sand embraced my feet. This was the first time I had been on the beach before the light of day and never before in my robe.
For a moment I thought of returning to the house, but the breeze lovingly fingered my hair and the ocean’s voice called again. I stood there listening and watching. In the light of the full moon I could see a line of gulls riding a wave, and I almost expected them to rise up from the water and wheel off with their characteristically smooth arcs of flight. “Did they roost on that wave for the night?” I wondered. “What about the fish?” I thought, “Do fish sleep?” It was amazing to see the sand crabs so active at such an early hour. They blended perfectly into the shore, virtually invisible, only the light of the moon revealing their rapid movements as they flitted across the sand.
At my feet the waves made half-circular patterns as they fanned out to the shore, each hesitating momentarily before it relinquished its position on the sand with a soft sibilant sigh, every wave unique yet like the uncountable millions preceding it.
Becoming attuned to the great heartbeat of the coast, my breathing began to blend rhythmically with the movement of the surf and the ocean sounded my name. The waves rolled towards me calling “Jeew-nnn” as I inhaled, and receded with a lingering, “Jeew-neee” as I breathed out. In … out.
Tears ran down my cheeks, but I made no move to wipe them away. “Oh, Father,” I said aloud. The ocean echoed, “Oh, Father,” and the wind picked up the cry. “Father” I called out again and the ocean repeated my call and the wind picked up my voice to release it to the furthest limits of the earth.
Standing at the edge of the surf, feet embedded in the wet sand, I lifted my voice in prayer. The ocean’s booming sound intensified, until it was like a powerful orchestral accompaniment. “Our Father, which art in heaven,” and everything on the beach agreed, “Thine is the kingdom,” and the wind proudly picked up the message, “And the power” came the ocean’s roaring, triumphant crescendo, “Forever,” and the moon and the stars confirmed “and ever.” And all the ages sang “Amen and Amen and Amen.”
Slowly I sank to the sand. Wrapped in my warm robe, feet tucked under, head resting on my knees, I relived the moments again and again, unwilling to break the mood. Above all I wanted to prevent the experience from slipping into the past tense, yearning to preserve it “Forever,” and the affinity with everything continued to fill my being.
When the first morning cries of the seagulls broke into my thoughts, I lifted my head. It was as if I were seeing the beach for the first time. There seemed to be a new purpose in the movements of every creature and every bird; even the grains of sand seemed more vivid. The moon was yielding its place in the sky even as the sun’s streaks of orange-red emerged. Some of the seagulls soared above the Atlantic while others seemed to plummet into the waves as they searched for food. In my tranquil mood I watched as the sunrise reached across the sky to begin its daily westward movement over the waves, across the beach and above the housetops.
I rose and very slowly made my way back to the house, re-living each moment since I’d left my cup on the deck. Sand, sea and sky had shared in my early morning prayer time. I knew that never again would I be able to look at the beauty of creation without being moved by its majestic, ongoing, hymn of praise to God. It has no end. It will always be there, as it was in the beginning.
God Parted the Seas for You
Written by Marshall Segal (originally published at desiringgod.org)
“The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation. . . . Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?” –Exodus 15:2, 11
If only we could see the seas God held back to deliver us from sin, how much more prone might we be to stop and sing about his majesty?
We can only comprehend a fraction of the power of Satan, the hideousness of our sin, and the fury of hell. Before Christ pulled us from the stormy waves, Satan ruled over every fiber and impulse of our being, leading us on the path of death with his breadcrumb trail of lies. Before God sent his Son to the cross, and broke into our lives by his Spirit, sin filled our souls like water in a sinking ship, drowning our hope with our own filth. Before we received the gift of faith—and through faith forgiveness, joy, and eternal life—hell stood taller than the tallest wave in the worst hurricane, threatening a pain we cannot imagine that gets worse every day forever.
But God parted the seas, calmed the waves, and raised our sinking ship to life. And he has placed us safe on solid ground.
Lodged Between Deaths
Moses sings in Exodus 15 because God has done a miracle, rescuing his people from an enemy far bigger and stronger than them, parting the Red Sea for them, and then destroying Egypt’s army precisely where Israel walked safely. Moses celebrates, “When the horses of Pharaoh with his chariots and his horsemen went into the sea, the Lord brought back the waters of the sea upon them, but the people of Israel walked on dry ground in the midst of the sea” (Exodus 15:19).
Has there ever been a more stunning picture of our salvation? Soldiers in chariots press God’s people from behind while the seas rage before them. They are lodged between deaths, suddenly even more aware of their weakness and desperation. Escape is improbable. Captivity is inevitable. Victory is inconceivable.
And then God pulls back the waves like linen curtains. He had brought them to the precipice of despair in order to show them just how small the soldiers and the seas were next to him. “At the blast of your nostrils,” Moses sings, “the waters piled up; the floods stood up in a heap; the deeps congealed in the heart of the sea” (Exodus 15:8). Waves don’t pile up. Floods don’t hold back. Seas don’t stand still. Unless God blows his nose. He drove back miles of raging water with a breath from his nose. The Lord was their salvation.
He Is My Salvation
Before Jesus became our Lord, Savior, and greatest Treasure, we were in greater danger against a greater enemy with even more at stake. Pressing in behind us were a horde of demons, tempting, accusing, deceiving. Before us, the sea of our sin and all its consequences — an eternity of torment apart from God. We had no weapons with which to fight, and we had no idea how to swim. We were lodged between deaths.
Until God dove in and drowned for us. Isaiah paints that picture for us: “Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows. . . . He was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities. . . . All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned — every one — to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:4–6). He died to give you dry ground.
There is a more stunning picture of our salvation: a man lodged between two beams of death, carrying the hideousness of our sin and facing the fury of hell. When God drove back the seas for us, he drove the nails into Jesus’s hands and his feet. He was not weak like us, but he became weak for us. He had not sinned like us, but he became sin for us. He was not condemned like us, but he took our wretched seat on the cross. Even the Red Sea looks small and insignificant compared to Calvary.
More Than My Salvation
But God is more than our salvation. In fact, if he is not also our song, he is not our salvation. Again Moses sings, “The Lord is my strength and my song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him, my father’s God, and I will exalt him” (Exodus 15:2). When we stand before the cross, with dry and safe ground under our feet, it would be outrageous to remain silent.
When God led his people out of Egypt, he meant for them to parade like a choir. He wanted the joy dripping from their songs to announce his strength, his mercy, his wisdom, his justice to anyone listening. So, they sang, “Who is like you, O Lord, among the gods? Who is like you, majestic in holiness, awesome in glorious deeds, doing wonders?” (Exodus 15:11).
They were rescued from Pharaoh; we were rescued from hellfire. They were given Canaan; we’ve been given heaven. They were entrusted with a promise; we have met the Messiah. So, what will we sing?
Glory be to God the Father.
Glory be to God the Son.
Glory be to God the Spirit.
The Lord is our salvation.
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