November 4, 2013

Biblica Nautica I: “I AM” Your Captain

I've been in a frenzy of studying Scripture and writing lately. The more I have to write from my studies the more I have to post online. Those that will benefit the most from my studies besides me would be my readership. The progression that I followed this week in the concordance revolved around ships, boats and maritime ideas.

The Bible speaks of many ships, boats and seafaring craft. I will break the different stories up based on the uniqueness of the ships characteristics or the characteristics of the story surrounding the crafts themselves. Since I never know where these articles go once I start typing them, they may be launched based on a nautical theme but as with most of my posts, they may land on things salvation or Gospel oriented (as they should). I will the Genesis. It seems like as good a place as any to start when trying to establish our nautical bearings.

In the Bible, there was only one ship designed directly by God and build by man: Noah’s Ark.

Genesis 6:13-14 ~ “Then God said to Noah, "The end of all flesh has come before Me; for the earth is filled with violence because of them; and behold, I am about to destroy them with the earth. "Make for yourself an ark of gopher wood; you shall make the ark with rooms, and shall cover it inside and out with pitch inside and out.

The exact specifications are given to Noah from a divine source.

Genesis 6:15-16 This is how you are to build it: The ark is to be three hundred cubits long, fifty cubits wide and thirty cubits high. Make a roof for it, leaving below the roof an opening one cubit high all around. Put a door in the side of the ark and make lower, middle and upper decks.

We then have a seafaring vessel that doubles as both a cradle and a life raft both figuratively and literally.

Exodus 2:3 When she could hide him no longer, she took for him a basket made of bulrushes and daubed it with bitumen and pitch. She put the child in it and placed it among the reeds by the river bank.

Exodus 2:5 ~ Now the daughter of Pharaoh came down to bathe at the river, while her young women walked beside the river. She saw the basket among the reeds and sent her servant woman, and she took it.

It is interesting to note that both these incidences profoundly move the story of salvation forward. The Ark preserves the righteous in God within for the continuation of the storyline of salvation. The Ark then becomes a typology of Christ who will preserve the eternal lives of those that would be “in Him/in Christ” as Paul is so fond of saying. The basket too preserves Moses’ life who will issue the Law to the Israelites that Jesus will come to fulfill at the Cross.

Moving into the time of the kings we come to Jehoshaphat. Jehoshaphat was the king of Judah and he joined himself with Ahaziah king of Israel "who did very wickedly." It was therefore and unholy alliance. He did so to make ships to go to Tarshish. They made these ships in Ezion-geber. It is at this point that Eliezer the son of Dodavah of Mareshah prophesied against Jehoshaphat and tells him that because he “hitched his boat” so to speak to such wicked king [Ahaziah], God would destroy his man-made works. The ships are then broken by God so that they were unusable to go to Tarshish.

2 Chronicles 20:35-37 ~ “After this Jehoshaphat king of Judah joined with Ahaziah king of Israel, who acted wickedly. He joined him in building ships to go to Tarshish, and they built the ships in Ezion-geber. Then Eliezer the son of Dodavahu of Mareshah prophesied against Jehoshaphat, saying, “Because you have joined with Ahaziah, the Lord will destroy what you have made.” And the ships were wrecked and were not able to go to Tarshish.

Then we come across the reluctant prophet Jonah. We see a ship saved by the jettisoning of God’s man overboard.

Jonah 1:11-12 ~ “Then they said to him, “What shall we do to you, that the sea may quiet down for us?” For the sea grew more and more tempestuous. He said to them, “Pick me up and hurl me into the sea; then the sea will quiet down for you, for I know it is because of me that this great tempest has come upon you.”

Jonah 1:15-16 ~ “So they picked up Jonah and hurled him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging. 16 Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows.”

Jonah is told to go to Nineveh but he goes to Tarshish instead. Tarshish is at the southern tip of Spain near modern day Straits of Gibraltar. This location is amusing…because it is diametrically opposed to Nineveh which would’ve been in the absolute opposite direction in the area of modern day Iraq. (Jonah’s starting point was in Northern Israel near Nazareth). God told him to "arise, and go" instead Jonah arose, and fled in the wrong direction. As if one can outrun God.

The other sailors make better spiritual models than Jonah in a few episodes in this story. First we see in Jonah 1:6, that although they all call out to their own gods, they at least have enough sense to call on a power larger than themselves when confronted with what appears to be an insurmountable situation or obstacle. The captain even goes as far as to tell Jonah to, “call on your God!” Inadvertently, the captain is telling Jonah EXACTLY what he should be doing: Calling on his God, Yahweh to get them out of this current predicament.

In verse 8 and 9 we see the sailors asking the “who, what, and where from” questions which Jonah dutifully replies that, he is Hebrew and he worships the Lord or the God who is “the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” What a dunce! "The God who made the sea....". The sailors then have the correct and Godly response, they fear God and are terrified. They then pop the rhetorical question which amounts to “Jonah! You dope, what did you do? We’re dooooomed!”

Even after Jonah gives them a logical course of action when he suggests that he be jettisoned overboard they are aggrieved at the prospect knowing that he is a Hebrew and a man of the Hebrew God (renowned as being powerful at this point judging by their reaction) and opt to row towards shore. When this fails they again petition the Lord for prerequisite forgiveness in the event Jonah dies when they are forced to toss him in the water. These may not be believers in Yahweh but they could very easily have become believers in Him had they been raised in different environments.

The icing on the cake in terms of a spiritual model of these sailors is in verse 16. Once they see the sea has calmed their response is impeccable. They offered sacrifices to the Lord and made vows to Him. If some of these men didn’t eventually convert permanently to worship of Yahweh…I would be surprised. Jonah on the other hand is an embarrassment to Yahweh. In this entire story even the plants, weather and the sea obeys God’s will…but not Jonah. It takes until the end for him to bend to God’s will and even then it is a struggle. His natural bend is in the “other direction away from God”. A mediocre prophet at best. Ironically, it is the pagans that we learn the most piety from in this story.

Behind all these episodes and the ones to follow in the forthcoming posts, we see God, the great I AM working in sovereignty to move salvation forward in history. In these cases he is the One in command. Not only of the ship but everything else also.

To get you in the mood for more seafaring posts and for your listening pleasure I've included Grand Funk Railroad's: I'm Your Captain (Closer to Home). Why? Because I like the song, that's why! :)

[Continued in Part II]

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