Photo Credit: Smithsonian American
Now as I looked at the living creatures, I saw a wheel on the earth beside the living creatures, one for each of the four of them. As for the appearance of the wheels and their construction: their appearance was like the gleaming of beryl. And the four had the same likeness, their appearance and construction being as it were a wheel within a wheel. When they went, they went in any of their four directions without turning as they went. And their rims were tall and awesome, and the rims of all four were full of eyes all around. And when the living creatures went, the wheels went beside them; and when the living creatures rose from the earth, the wheels rose. (Ezekiel 1: 15-19; ESV)
How does Spurgeon come up with the Providence of God being compared to the sea from his Ezekiel text? Where does he get the sea from Ezekiel’s wheel? He gets it from that little word, “beryl.” Spurgeon says,
The word beryl is commonly used in Scripture to denote the ocean, because it bears the greatest likeness to that deep green you sometimes see, and at other times the blue appearance of the sea.
As I began thinking about this section of Spurgeon’s sermon, I was taken back to my first morning of my first trip to Cancun. Prior to that morning, it had been many, many years since my last visit to any decent beach resort. On that early first morning, I remember sitting watching the sunrise and listening in awe to the waves pounding the shore. Even before the sun came up, you could hear the power of the sea through the waves, though you could not yet see them. My Bible was open and I remember reading this passage from Jeremiah 5:22, which (in the Amplified) says,
Do you not fear and reverence Me? says the Lord. Do you not tremble before Me? I placed the sand for the boundary of the sea, a perpetual barrier beyond which it cannot pass and by an everlasting ordinance beyond which it cannot go? And though the waves of the sea toss and shake themselves, yet they cannot prevail [against the feeble grains of sand which God has ordained by nature to be sufficient for His purpose]; though [the billows] roar, yet they cannot pass over that [barrier]. [Is not such a God to be reverently feared and worshiped?]
Is our God to be “reverently feared and worshiped?” Absolutely! My morning on the beach in Cancun created in me an incredible awareness of the majesty and awesomeness and greatness of God. Yes, the Providence of God can rightly be compared to the sea. Spurgeon says, “The sea is never still; both day and night it is always moving.” God’s Providence is like that too in that it is also always moving. There is no time when the hand of God is not at work in our lives. Like the sea’s powerful waves, so too is God powerfully at work in our lives. As the sea doesn’t shut down to sleep at night, neither does God log off and shut down His Providence at night. The psalmist illustrated it beautifully,
I lift my eyes to the hills – where does my help come from? My help comes from the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth. He will not let your foot slip – he who watches over you will not slumber; indeed he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The Lord watches over you – the Lord is your shade at your right hand; the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night. The Lord will keep you from all harm – he will watch over your life; the Lord will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore. (Psalm 121; NIV).
Like the waves of the sea, God’s Providence continues day and night. An illustration of this comes from my former trucking days. I remember going up and down the same stretches of highway day after day past acres and acres of farmland. It always amazed me to see the landscape change as the crops grew. Even when the farmer sleeps, God’s Providence causes the wheat to continue growing. The psalmist said, “You care for the land and water it; you enrich it abundantly. The streams of God are filled with water to provide the people with grain, for so you have ordained it” (Psalm 65:9; NIV). Water, both fresh and salt, is always connected to God’s Providence.
Another interesting thing about the sea and God’s Providence through it, is that God alone has control over the seas. Providence says that they are sustained by God’s hand. Sure, man has often tried to gain a measure of control, but if the sea had a mouth and vocal chords, I’m sure it would be laughing every time man tried to get the upper hand.
The sad story of the Titanic comes to mind. Man in his arrogance claimed the ship was “unsinkable.” Well, we all know the rest of that story. And how many times hasn’t man built his dikes in an effort to hold back the sea? We may see some measure of success initially, but sooner or later, the sea always wins as yet another community gets wiped out by the sea because of false trust in dikes. How sad that we still seem not to have learned. We would do well to have a healthy respect for the sea. Spurgeon says,
Man proposes and God disposes. Providence, like the sea, cannot be directed by man; it can be controlled by God … Man cannot alter it, and cannot change it. Let him try to stand against God’s Providence; and Providence will grind and crush him.
Though Spurgeon does not allude to it, I was thinking of how Jesus rebuked the wind and the waves before his terrified disciples (Matthew 8: 23-27). The disciples thought they were going to drown as the waves crashed in on them from every side. Jesus simply speaks the word, and all is calm. Why was He able to do that? There is only one right answer; He is God. He created the wind and the waves and as such they must be in submission to His command and His Providence. This begs another question for me. He also created you and me. Must we not also be in submission to His command and His Providence? Yes, He also gave us a free will to choose. What will you and I choose? Will we choose to be in submission to His command and His amazing Providence? I pray that it may be so.
The wheels of God’s Providence will continue rolling right along, just like the mighty waves of the sea, until the end of time when God sovereignly tells it all to stop. Only the Lord God himself has the power and authority to wind down the clock on planet Earth, to shut of the lights of the heavens, and shut off the taps of the seas. And yet, when that day comes, and He ushers us into glory with Him, even there He will hold and sustain us throughout all eternity by His mighty and awesome hand of eternal Providence.
Thank you, Lord.