The Lord said, “This far you may come and no farther, here is where your proud waves halt.”
In today’s devotional, I want to get a little historical on you. Now once you get to know me well you’ll learn that I love all things historical and have tons of random facts about history as well. I LOVE IT. But let’s talk about King Canute. For those of you who do not know who he is, here we go.
King Cnut (also known as Canute, or in Old Norse Knútr inn ríki) was the King of Denmark, King of England, and King of Norway. Together this often was referred to as the Anglo-Scandinavian or North Sea Empire. Canute’s father was the King of Denmark and his mother is relatively unknown, though it was rumored it was the daughter Mieszko I Duke of Poland. As a Danish Prince, Canute won the throne of England during the Norse occupation of 1016 and then arose to the throne of Denmark in 1018. After a decade of struggle with other Scandinavian neighbors, he claimed the throne of Norway by claiming the city of Trondheim. He attempted to claim Sweden as well by striking coins that said as much in the city of Sigtuna but there is no record of his ruling Sweden. He later died in November of 1035 and quickly his empire crumbled. As you can see Canute had dominion over a lot of things. But there is one poem and story that Canute’s skalds recorded that sticks out more than most to me.
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 too 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.