On November 12, 1872, two men were walking along the beach of the Baltic Sea coast. They had come from the city, where they had business, and were trying to reach their solitary village quickly. The wind from the northeast was blowing fiercely, and the roar of the foam-capped waves sounded eerie. But they did not care, for they had seen worse, and besides, they were having a passionate conversation. They had already arrived at the village and here stood at the crossroad where they had to part. The farmer reached out his hand to the teacher and said:
“And true it is! Whoever wants to believe everything the Bible says must wrap both his eyes and his common sense with thick bandages. It is written, ‘Whoever says to this mountain, “Be removed and be cast into the sea,” and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that those things he says will be done, he will have whatever he says.’ Sure, believe this whoever can!” And with that, he pointed to the great dune that protected his barn and home from the wind and waves.
The teacher looked at him seriously and replied, “And I do believe it! God is not a man that He lies, nor a human being that He regrets anything!”
The farmer shook his head and said, “Well, teacher, if you are such a Bible-believing man, speak it once. I give you permission and put my house and farm at risk.”
“It is written: You shall not tempt the Lord your God” (Matthew 4:7), the teacher replied, turning and preparing to go on.
Then the farmer called after him, laughing, “So I do! Watch out, teacher!” The blaspheming man raised his right hand against the dune and said loudly, “Pick yourself up and throw yourself into the sea!”
But the mount stayed and did not give away, and behind it roared the surge and the billows of water. And again, the farmer laughed and continued: “Even more, teacher! I give the mountain twenty-four hours to think, and if it lies in the sea tomorrow night, there shall not be a word in the Bible book that I would not believe.”
When the teacher heard this, he strode up to him with earnestness, laid his hand on his shoulder, and said solemnly, “My friend, do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap!”
This conversation took place the night before the great storm surge. –
Only a few more hours, and the fury of the elements broke loose. When the farmer arrived home, he stretched out comfortably on his bed and said to his wife, “It’s good to be here!” and then fell asleep without prayer.
At midnight, he was startled and jumped up from his bed. The sound of the roaring and whooshing through the air sounded to him like the trumpet of the Last Judgment. His wife and children also jumped out of bed. The roof beams creaked and groaned as if they were only barely holding together in all their joints. But no need to fear; the new house was built of solid stone, of unimpeachable beams and planks and rafters. But when the cuckoo in the wall clock announced the second hour of the morning, the farmhands rushed out of the stable and shouted: “For God’s sake, sir, hurry out! The dune must have broken somewhere. The tide is pouring everywhere into the village!”
Pale and trembling, the farmer hurried out. The cattle were already up to their ankles in water. “Chase the cows out of the barns and drive them inland! Harness the horses so that we can save ourselves, if necessary,” he ordered.
Bellowing, the cattle rushed away and disappeared from the eyes of the farmhands after a few seconds. In no time the horses were harnessed, but rescue was out of the question. The horses were also driven out and left to their fate.
Only with great difficulty were the master and servants able to get back into the house through the torrent of water. The storm raged with increasing ferocity, the sea thundered wildly, and the waves rose even higher. Now the elevated house was already standing in the middle of the flood, and the waves were licking up the massive walls. The water penetrated through the doors and filled the rooms and chambers.
What had to be taken from the basement was now quickly brought up to the ground floor. But then it was as if the thunder rolled along with tenfold force, as if everything around rattled and cracked. One impact after the other crashed against the house so that it seemed to sway. With pale, fearful faces, the men stood idly on the house floor. On and on came blow after blow, as if giant hammers were pounding on the walls from outside. Then one of the farmhands said, “God have mercy on us; we are lost!” And the farmer said likewise, “We are lost!” At these words, the mother embraced her children, the ten-year-old boy and the twelve-year-old girl. She covered her face and wept softly. And when once again the whole roof trembled, the girl clasped her hands and prayed in a loud voice:
“Spread out Your wings over me,
Oh Jesus, my joy, I plead,
Protect and be my guard.
If Satan wants to devour me,
Then let the angels proclaim:
This child, Jesus, shall be unharmed.”
“Spread out Your wings over me,” the boy also prayed. But the mother said: “Call on Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you,” said our Lord and God. “God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent.”
Although the hail pelted against the attic window and a cold draft blew through the loft, drops of sweat stood on the farmer’s forehead, and he sighed: “Lord, help, not for my sake but for the sake of my poor children! Save us!”
As the day dawned, hope stirred again in every heart. The farmer climbed to a gable and looked out through the window. Suddenly, he sank to his knees, covered his face with his hands, and began to weep. What had made his heart tremble? What had he seen?
The dune to which he had pointed with a freewheeling hand a few hours before was gone – torn and swallowed up by the waves! The barn with all its contents had been swept away by the torrent. The large, thatched roof, however, lay pressed against the family home and fortunately protected it from the destructive impact of the waves.
The same hand that had unleashed the sea and broken the dune had thereby erected a protective dam to the family home, and the same voice that in those days when Christ walked the earth and threatened wind and weather also commanded the waves of the Baltic Sea to bow their proud heads and become calm as if nothing had happened.
The first time the farmer met the teacher after this terrible experience, he reached out his hand to him and said with lowered eyes and gathering tears: “God is not a man, that he should lie, nor a human being, that he should repent. Thank God, I have learned to believe!”
The teacher replied, “Yes, and this is the work of God!”