"And said, Hitherto shalt thou come, but no further: and here shall thy proud waves be stayed?.”
King Canute was one of the most powerful men on earth in the eleventh century. In a now-famous tale, it is said that he ordered his chair to be placed on the shore as the tide was rising. “You are subject to me,” he said to the sea. “I command you, therefore, not to rise on to my land, nor to wet the clothing or limbs of your master.” But the tide continued to rise, drenching the king’s feet.
This story is often told to draw attention to Canute’s pride. Actually, it’s a story about humility. “Let all the world know that the power of kings is empty,” Canute says next, “save Him by whose will heaven, earth and sea obey.” Canute’s story makes a point: God is the only all-powerful One.
Job discovered the same. Compared to the One who laid Earth’s foundations (Job 38:4–7), who commands morning to appear and night to end (vv. 12–13), who stocks the storehouses of the snow and directs the stars (vv. 22, 31–33), we are small. There is only one Ruler of the waves, and it is not us (v. 11; Matt. 8:23–27).
Canute’s story is good to reenact when we begin feeling too clever or proud about ourselves. Walk to the beach and tell the tide to halt or try commanding the sun to step aside. We’ll soon remember who is really supreme and thank Him for ruling our lives.
God is great, we are small, and that is good.
The book of Job reflects on the question that continues to trouble the human race: “Why do bad things happen to good people?” Job’s friends accused him of having some secret sin that resulted in divine punishment. But God rebuked this unfounded view. The question of why the righteous suffer is not answered. However, because God is supreme over all creation (38:2–40:2; 40:7–41:34), we can trust Him even when we don’t understand. What can you trust God for today?