December 14, 2013

Drowning Man

When I was a teen, the song Drowning Man from the U2 album War used to be one of my favorite songs. I remember listening to it often on an old 33 1/3 LP. It was about being there for someone you love no matter what. It was being there for someone to help them when they couldn't help themselves. At least that is what I heard when I listen to it ad nauseam. As a seventeen year old I did not realize these feelings were a yearning for God that I didn’t even fully understand. In its strange way it is now a melancholic anthem to youth and those fleeting memories that are now just faded reminders of a former life. Yet the yearning for God has not abated. Instead it increases as life continues on. The longer I am without God's true presence in glory, the more the yearning grows. I believe it was set up this way intentionally since the Fall. The more we see of this fallen world the less it appeals to us and something beyond (God) draws us inexorably towards Him.

What I then realize is that this is Blaise Pascal's famous quote come to realization in my life...
“There is a God shaped vacuum in the heart of every man which cannot be filled by any created thing, but only by God, the Creator, made known through Jesus.” ~ Blaise Pascal, Pensées
I also remember reading the story of Jonah about that time too (even though he really didn’t drowned) and somehow I inadvertently connected these two. Since then they’ve been inseparable in my mind. What does this have to do with this post? Only this, it’s about people drowning in the Bible and some of the significance of the events surrounding those who were drowning or drowned. We see God helping those who cannot help themselves (or destroying them). Since I’ve started with Jonah, I will elaborate more on him first.

Jonah 2:2-7 ~ “He said: “In my distress I called to the Lord, and he answered me. From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and you listened to my cry. You hurled me into the depths, into the very heart of the seas, and the currents swirled about me; all your waves and breakers swept over me. I said, ‘I have been banished from your sight; yet I will look again toward your holy temple.’ The engulfing waters threatened me, the deep surrounded me; seaweed was wrapped around my head. To the roots of the mountains I sank down; the earth beneath barred me in forever. But you, Lord my God, brought my life up from the pit. “When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, Lord, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple.”

Jonah is sinking down after his unceremonious dump over the side of the pagan’s ship. He is both solemn and sinking deep into “depression”, both mentally and in terms of “physical” orientation. They parallel one another. Perhaps the experience of sinking in the water physiologically has affected him psychologically? He sinks in water and simultaneously sinks and drops away from God. There are also hints of Psalms 40 in the latter portions “But you, LORD my God, brought my life up from the pit” A glimmer of hope in the end. A hand that reaches down when we think we are going under for the last time. Suffocating and drowning in our sin as it inundates and engulfs us in our life. In this moment, the last before we lose consciousness...when life ebbs away, people reach to the last thing that matters and the only thing that matters in a last ditch effort…God. They very one we should've reached to first.

In this epiphany (which I believe is from God himself) we have enough sense to reach our hands to the sky. In this nearly unconscious repentance and acknowledgement of God, God then reaches down into our overwhelming adversity and saves us. This I suppose is not ironic when we consider than some of people’s most teachable moments are in their suffering and adversity when they have “reached the bottom”

“In my distress I called to the LORD, and he answered me.”
“From deep in the realm of the dead I called for help, and you listened to my cry.”
“But you, LORD my God, brought my life up from the pit.”
“When my life was ebbing away, I remembered you, LORD, and my prayer rose to you, to your holy temple.”

Depressing but a true evaluation of sin and the tragic effects on a person’s life. The thing that gets Jonah into all this trouble is overt disobedience to the will of God. The very thing that begins to right the ship not only literally but also in Jonah’s life is an active obedience to the things God has willed and commanded. Curses for disobedience and blessing for obedience.

If we move to the Genesis flood account we see the end sum of sin that has raged unabated out of control.

Genesis 6:5-6 ~ The Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. And the Lord regretted that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart. 

So judgment arrives in the form of water…a lot of it.

Genesis 7:20-23 ~ “The waters prevailed above the mountains, covering them fifteen cubits deep. And all flesh died that moved on the earth, birds, livestock, beasts, all swarming creatures that swarm on the earth, and all mankind. Everything on the dry land in whose nostrils was the breath of life died. He blotted out every living thing that was on the face of the ground, man and animals and creeping things and birds of the heavens. They were blotted out from the earth. Only Noah was left, and those who were with him in the ark.

As I’ve said in other posts, the Flood is an excellent example of God’s hatred of sin and evil. The only greater example is the Cross of Christ and His crucifixion. It is through Noah’s obedience that the human line survives and through that linage the coming Messiah is maintained. It is therefore Jesus Christ Himself who will actively and passively obey the will of the Father on His way to the Cross and subsequently His Resurrection. Like the ark provided a means of escape for the righteous at the time of the flood, Jesus provides a means of escape from eternal punishment for those that will have faith in His escape from it through resurrection. Again, the only reason the human race survives here is because of obedience to the commands of God by Noah and his family. Disobedience and rebellion spells doom for entire remainder of humanity.

Lastly we run into the crossing of the Red Sea and Pharaoh and his men are in hot pursuit.

Exodus 14:26-28 ~ “Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the waters may flow back over the Egyptians and their chariots and horsemen.” Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at daybreak the sea went back to its place. The Egyptians were fleeing toward it, and the Lord swept them into the sea. The water flowed back and covered the chariots and horsemen—the entire army of Pharaoh that had followed the Israelites into the sea. Not one of them survived.”

There is an extremely telling passage just previous to this episode in Exodus 14…

Exodus 14:13-14 And Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the Lord, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again. The Lord will fight for you, and you have only to be silent.”

Just like Jesus on the Cross, we see that people will be freed permanently from an oppressive system and it will be by nothing they do with their own hands. The Israelites need only stand firm (persevere) just a bit longer and actually see their salvation come to fruition. They will then never be plagued by this oppression again. This is a direct parallel to sin and Jesus’ work of redemption. There is literally nothing that needs to be done by man nor is there anything they can do to affect their salvation in this situation. It is the same when it comes to believers and their break from sin. There is nothing one can do to initiate their salvation…they can only passively accept what is being done for them by Jesus Christ.

They had just passed through a type of death by walking through the “deep” or the Red Sea while being pursued by this oppression. A Christian does the same when they die to self and come out the other end a new creation. The parallels go further here and are very rich but you get the gist of it. Paul literally say the Israelite trek through the water on dry ground as a form of baptism in 1 Corinthians…

1 Corinthians 10:1-2 ~ “For I do not want you to be unaware, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea…”

The Egyptians pursue the slaves that have recently been freed from their bondage. This of course is parallel to sinners freed from sin by the death of Christ. Becoming Christian though does not stop a believer from sinning since sin pursues its victim. It will take us going through death to finally shake the indwelling sin permanently, but for now, when a believer dies to self and takes on Christ’s cross…smaller temporary victories are possible. In this baptism the Israelites are permanently identified with their Savior…just as Christians are identified with Christ by their baptism.

All of this is accomplished through obedience to God. In each of these instances of drowning people, the remedy to the issue is active obedience to God’s will. In every instance where someone is dying, their salvation is trusting it God and following God’s lead. By accepting God’s truth rather than rebelling against it gives man life. Rebelling and fighting God results in death.  This premise under-girds Scripture from front to back.

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