Water = Chaos (Introducing the Egyptian chaos god of Nun)
In Egyptian culture, the same culture from which Israel had spent 430 yrs., they believed that before the world was formed, there was a watery mass of dark, directionless chaos. In this chaos lived the Ogdoad of Khmunu (Hermopolis), four frog gods and four snake goddesses of chaos. These deities were Nun and Naunet (water). The name of the water of chaos was Nun. The gods were being threatened and created the world out of necessity. They were also in struggle with other gods and created the race of mankind out of necessity.
Conclusion: any deity outside of the God of Israel is in contention and struggle with the cosmos and other gods. There is a tempest that is out of their god’s sovereign control. Pagan gods are not present in their world with all control and authority.
In contrast, Paul says this about Christ as God: Col. 2:9For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, 10and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority . . . 12having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.
Water = Peace
I’d like to say two things here. I would like to point out that there is theological significance in the fact that there is water in the tabernacle and the later Temple, but also where that water is located. Secondly, I will look at how the Psalmist wrote a blog about Moses and the passing through the sea episode.
The inside of the tabernacle (The place where God dwells with and among His people) is furnished and arranged according to explicit and detailed instructions to Moses by God. God says, “Make a bronze basin, with its bronze stand, for washing. Place it between the Tent of Meeting and the altar, and put water in it” (Ex. 30:18). So what? Lots of religions use water as a means of ceremonial cleansing. The difference here is that this water purifies one (a Levite) before offering a sacrifice on the altar. It stands between him and the altar. The atonement comes after the baptism. Another way of putting it, the covenant with man happens before the giving of the law. In the words of Andy Stanley in his series, The Sinai Code, “The Law is not given as a means to a relationship. The giving of the Law is a confirmation of a relationship that already exists.” In the words of Exodus commentary scholar, T. E. Fretheim,
The order of the central events in the book of Exodus is theologically important. First comes the redemptive work of God on behalf of the people. This serves to ground their precarious existence in the deliverance from both historical and cosmic enemies that God accomplishes on their behalf. The elect people is now a redeemed people. Only then is the law given at Sinai. The law is a gift to an already redeemed community. The law is not the means by which a relationship with God is established; God redeems quite apart from human obedience. (Fretheim, T. E., Exodus, Interp. John Knox, 1990, p.22)
Conclusion: We have peace with God before we enter His holy place. We enter His holy place because we have peace with God.
Now to the Psalms: In contrast with the water gods of chaos in pagan mythology, David reminds us of the water of peace. Ps. 77:5 is a lament, a reference to the good old days, which now have ended, only adding to his misery. It seems that God has slammed the door on His compassion. Maybe this is a form of wrestling with God. But in v. 11-12, he remembers God’s work through history, and it revives his faith.
14 You are the God who performs miracles;
you display your power among the peoples.
15 With your mighty arm you redeemed your people,
the descendants of Jacob and Joseph.
16 The waters saw you, O God,
the waters saw you and writhed;
the very depths were convulsed.
17 The clouds poured down water,
the skies resounded with thunder;
your arrows flashed back and forth.
18 Your thunder was heard in the whirlwind,
your lightning lit up the world;
the earth trembled and quaked.
19 Your path led through the sea,
your way through the mighty waters,
though your footprints were not seen.
20 You led your people like a flock
by the hand of Moses and Aaron.
This is a poetic description of a struggle between God and the sea. This passage is used by the Psalmist as a way of recognizing God’s power in history as strength to face the present day and the days to come.