|Volume 22 Number 2 February 2020||
Many fathers have taken their children on a boat to fish and to enjoy some time together. There is something calming about being on the water and away from the stresses and the problems of daily life. As one climbs into a boat or a ship and pushes off from land, there is time for enjoyable conversation, memories made and lessons learned. Throughout Scripture, God gave His people lessons from individuals on ships. In both the Old and New testaments, major Bible lessons are taught from ships as God dealt with sin, worry, faith and discipleship. Notice a few lessons we learn from some ships in Scripture.
God Punishes Sin & Extends Grace
As the wickedness of man increased in the earth during the days of Noah, God decided to cleanse the world with a global flood (Genesis 6:5-13). He was going to punish the rampant evil that was taking place and start over with a new family. As God was planning to destroy the wicked, He was not going to punish the righteous as well. God does not punish the righteous for the deeds of the wicked (2 Peter 2:9). Noah found “grace” (“favor,” ESV) in the eyes of the Lord (Genesis 6:8). The first ship in Scripture shows us that God will punish evil but that He also extends grace. It is interesting to observe the same Hebrew word used for ark in the account of Noah is the same word used for the basket in which Moses’ mother placed him during the days before the Exodus (Exodus 2:3-5). The deliverance of God’s people from Egyptian bondage began with an “ark,” just like the one God used to deliver his people from the world of unrighteousness in the days of Noah.
God promised that disobedience would be punished, and He kept his promise (Genesis 2:16-17). Throughout Scripture, we are given small glimpses into the wrath of God as He punished different generations for their sins. Yet, in all of the punishment about which we read, we should remember that our God is a God of grace (Exodus 34:6-7). God will do the right thing and rescue the righteous in times of trouble. While righteousness was hard to find in the days preceding the worldwide deluge, Noah still found grace in God’s eyes. God is always looking to extend grace toward His people. We learn this as Noah built the ark and was remembered and rescued by His God (Genesis 8:1).
You Can Run but You Can’t Hide
Though the Assyrians were the enemies of Israel during the days of Jonah, God sent Jonah to Nineveh (the capital of Assyria) to preach to those individuals (Jonah 1:1-2). Jonah was sent to cry out against the wickedness of the city, but instead he boarded a ship and tried to run in the opposite direction (Jonah 1:3). Of course, Jonah’s attempts to escape God’s presence were futile. God is everywhere at all times. God sees everything and knows everything. We can go as deep or as high on earth as we choose, and still God is there (Psalm 139:7-11). The Lord sent out a great wind to get Jonah’s attention and to get him to see the error of his way (Jonah 1:4). Jonah’s shipmates cast lots and came to understand that the danger they were in was because of Jonah. Jonah called for his shipmates to throw him overboard, and when they did, the sea calmed (Jonah 1:11-15).
Jonah thought he could run from the Lord, but he was wrong. Many pagan gods in the Old Testament were believed to have special ability on land or sea (1 Kings 20:23, 28). The God of Israel was never to be seen as being more powerful on one type of surface versus another. He was just as knowledgeable about affairs on the land as He was about things taking place on the sea. All things are naked and open before him (Hebrews 4:13). We, like Jonah, may think we can do things of which God is unaware, but may we learn from Jonah’s ship that we cannot. If we are committing “secret sins” (Psalm 90:8), we should be reminded that nothing is a secret before God (Jeremiah 23:24). If we are doing what is right, we should remember that God sees this as well, and He will reward us openly (Matthew 6:4, 6). When we read the account of Jonah, we learn that no matter where we run in this world, God reigns!
Peace Is Provided in Perilous Times
Once Jesus was on board a ship with His disciples. There was a great tempest in the sea, and the ship was covered with waves (Matthew 8:23-24). As Jesus slept, His disciples woke Him and begged for Him to save them as they believed they were about to perish (Matthew 8:25). The word translated “perish” means to suffer destruction or to be ruined (2 Peter 3:9). Jesus awoke and challenged their faith. Did they really believe He would allow them to perish in His presence? He then rebuked the winds, and there was a great calm. Then, there was great astonishment among those who saw what took place (Matthew 8:26-27).
Jesus taught us from this ship that when we think God is unconcerned or unaware of our circumstances, we are wrong. God pays attention, and He watches over His people. We just need to trust Him. The disciples showed their faith was still in a stage of infancy as this time of peril caused them to doubt and despair. Trials make us stronger, if we allow them to do so (Romans 5:2-5; James 1:2-4). Jesus rebuked the winds and the sea, giving His disciples peace in the midst of danger. We should remove worry from our hearts and replace it with prayer, knowing that Jesus provides peace for us today (Philippians 4:6-7).
Shine Your Light Even in the Dark
After Paul appealed to Caesar before Governor Festus, he was on his way to Rome (Acts 25:11). Paul found himself on a ship with 276 other passengers, and many, if not all of them, were non-Christians (Acts 27:37). While on the ship, Paul took every opportunity to let his light shine. He warned them of the impending shipwreck that had been revealed to him by the Lord (Acts 27:9-10, 21-24). Paul encouraged those who had not eaten in fourteen days to eat something, and he prayed for the food (Acts 27:33-36). Paul spoke confidently in his faith in God and how God had revealed to him the coming destruction of the ship, although He would save all the human lives aboard it (Acts 27:15). On this ship, the apostle taught that we might find ourselves surrounded by faithless people, but we can still have faith. In fact, we must (Hebrews 11:6). We should pray openly, speak freely about God, help others and shine our light (Matthew 5:13-16). Paul did this, and he stood out from the crowd and found favor in their eyes (Acts 27:43).
The Bible speaks often about ships and journeys taken. There are many lessons to learn as we read these accounts. We should see ourselves in these various accounts and seek to avoid the mistakes many individuals made. These things were written for our learning (Romans 15:4). Let us be wise enough to learn!