posted by paul
The Floods of Many Challenges
Napoleon Bonaparte was once asked, “Is God on the side of France?” Blinded by his own power and proud of his own success, this arrogant military leader replied, “God is on the side that has the heaviest artillery.” In saying this Napoleon meant that it did not matter what God willed, but only what he willed. Later on, Napoleon boasted, “I make circumstances.” For those of you who are history buffs you know that these quotes were before Waterloo. It was in 1815 that Napoleon’s French army (yes that did exist at one time) advanced across Europe into Belgium with the aim of destroying the armies of Britain and Russia. Despite having the heaviest artillery, this diminutive dictator, lost both the battle and his empire. In this defeat Napoleon was not only humbled, but was also unseated from his throne and exiled to the desolate island of St. Helena. I guess that you could say that Napoleon made this circumstance, but it did not come out quite like he envisioned.
As Napoleon had time to contemplate his military defeat, Napoleon changed his perspective about his power, history, and even God. Napoleon gave up the idea that God is on the side that possesses the greatest human strength. Quoting Kempis, this once proud ruler recognized that “Man purposes, but God disposes.” Napoleon had to learn the hard way that it is God not a circumstance that is sovereign. God has scripted history, He enthrones rulers, and he controls His Kingdom.We can be sure of two things from vss. 3-4. First, there will be rebellions against God that seek to usurp His rule. Second, God will not be usurped.
The Psalmist writes,
“The floods have lifted up,
The floods have lifted up their voice,
The floods lift up their pounding waves.”
In the OT in particular the sea is seen as an emblem of hostility. In Isaiah 17:12-13 we see that “the uproar of the peoples” is like “roaring of the sea.” In Isaiah 57:20 we see that the wicked are like the tossing sea that cannot be quieted. From this we can see that when the Psalmist writes of the floods lifting up he is referring to those who will rebel against God. At least two similar passages are found in Psalter.
114:3: The sea looked and fled; the Jordan turned back.
106:9: Thus He rebuked the Red Sea and dried it up, and He led them through the deeps, as through the wilderness.
In Psalm 106 we see that the Psalmist’s reference to the sea may also allude to the parting of the Red Sea. It is not surprising that we can find an allusion to the parting of the Red Sea in this Psalm since the Psalm opens with the conclusion of Moses after crossing the Red Sea (Exodus 15:18). Yahweh was the great warrior (Exodus 15:3) who defeated the so-called god Pharaoh and reigned as King over Israel. Also, the reference to the “voice” of the flood, or the noise has an interesting correlation to Jeremiah 46:17. In this passage we see that Pharaoh, as mighty as he was, was nothing but a noise to God. Pharaoh’s time to rule was appointed by God, and his “time to pass” was appointed by God (sounds a lot like Napoleon doesn’t it?).
God’s rule will be challenged by the rebellious; we can see this all throughout scripture. In Numbers 16 we find one of the most gruesome examples of men rebelling against God. He we find Korah and his band rebelling against God’s commands. In essence Korah sought to usurp Moses’ authority and wanted everyone to be priests (vss. 1-3) even though God had only chosen a few to perform the duties of the priest. God did not allow Korah to steal His authority, and not only did he not allow Korah to be a priest but he also justly punished Korah and his band (vss. 31-35). There is an example of rebellion that is even more severe than that of Korah; the rebellion of the fallen angels. In 2 Peter 2:4 we see that some of the angels rebelled against God by sinning. In Luke 10:18 Christ describes Satan as “[falling] from heaven like lightning.” Satan’s rebellion was the ultimate rebellion. Now Satan is the leader of the rebellion against God. In Romans 8:38 we see that Satan and his demons are working, in vain, to separate the people of God from the love of God. Daniel 10:12ff shows us that Satan and his demons are also working against God’s angels. In this sense we should picture two armies with two kings that are battling one another. In fact, this is exactly what we see in Revelation 12:7.
I think that it is accurate to say that the “floods” that the Psalmist writes about represent challenges to God’s reign as King of the Universe by the rebellious. However, even if we interpret “floods” and “waves” to mean literal “floods” and “waves” we still see the majesty of God portrayed in His strength. Scripture makes it clear that God is in control of nature. In Luke 8:22-25 the Lord’s control over the water is particularly seen. Here we find Christ and His disciples in a boat crossing the water. During this voyage a huge storm came up and threatened the safety of the men aboard the boat. The disciples panicked, but Christ proved that despite the disciples’ lack of faith and the despair of the situation He was still in control. The Lord Reigns.