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We Belong to the Sea

Posted by Gary Labels:

So, after having a series of two negative posts, I've decided to focus back on the constructive and encouraging.

[Side note: right now, I am talking to a friend on Skype -- a member of the Chinese media. She's a local TV reporter on the east coast. I'm trying to let her know about Gao Zhisheng. She keeps going back to the Tibet thing and the earthquake, though, so it's hard to really keep her on that topic. I got her to agree to look into it.]

If you look at the open sea, the ocean, you can find a lot of parallels for God. All of creation, truly, declares God's majesty, but the ocean calls to me in a way that mountains and savanna simply cannot. Imagine you are on a boat on the sea -- an old-fashioned sailing vessel. The sea is truly a mystical place, truly alive though you see no physical form. The waves in all directions, truly the sea is vast and immeasurable.

Oh, and not just the surface! The depths of the ocean are without measure. Even today, we do not truly know what lies at the bottom of the sea. Granted, there may not be a plesiosaur stuck in Loch Ness, but for so long we thought the myth of Kraken to be completely made-up, then we find corpses of the giant squid, a name that refers to a genus of about eight separate squid species. THEN, we find out there is an even larger species of squid, which we dub the colossal squid! How crazy! And on rare occasions, we've managed to find some that weren't already dead or dying. But only rarely.

So many things of the depths are yet unknowable, even to us today with all our technology. Life teems beneath the surface and thrills our imagination! Every day on a merchant schooner would be quite an adventure, every day.

Oh, but the world below you is not the only realm! You look to the time when you can again see land, and also look up to the stars to give you direction, lest you run off course. Three dimensions to the experience of the sea. What are those bright lights, truly? Are they trapped angels, awaiting final judgment? When Jesus ascended to Heaven, did he preach to them also, that they may have salvation (1 Peter 3:19-20, II Peter 2:4)?* How can you not stare up at the starry sky and not be amazed?

The four winds with their mysterious power push the waves in one direction or another. The billows and breakers crash against the boat, rocking it rhythmically. It's easy to be lulled to sleep by the sea's smooth embrace. What peace! What exhilaration!

And also, every experienced sailor knows that ultimately he is at the mercy of the sea. If she unleashes her anger, there is no fighting back. All you can do is pray that you will weather the storm, if you cannot flee her wrath by making landfall somewhere. The sea is vast, infinite, beautiful, and beyond our power to control or understand.

So it is with God. He is wondrous, with depths of love, depths of a yearning desire for justice, that are beyond our conscious understanding. By his light we can find our way through the darkest nights -- his brilliance is always shining to lead us safely. His warm embrace envelops us, and everywhere we look, there we can see his presence. There is no sailing away from him. Yet when he unleashes his wrath, there is no protection, much less counterattack to God's fury. The earth melts like wax, and the seas churn like torrents at the slightest contact with his true presence.

Our God is so amazing, and I give thanks to my Maker for what lays before me. For giving me a world to explore, and an imagination to see what my eyes cannot, and be utterly fascinated anyway.

*Note about Peter reference:
1 Peter 3:19-20 says "through whom [=the Holy Spirit] also he went and preached to the spirits in prison who disobeyed long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water." (NIV)
2 Peter 3:4 says "For if God did not spare angels when they sinned, but threw them in Tartarus, [binding them] with chains of gloom to keep them for judgment..." (my translation. I won't get into the "chains of gloom" vs. "pits of darkness" debate unless someone comments and asks)

These verses refer to Genesis 6's opening section, with the "sons of God" committing sexual sins by taking any of the "daughters of men" that they chose. Many Jewish interpreters in those days saw that as a reference to angels mating with women (and that is a popular interpretation today of Gen 6, though I believe otherwise; see my note God Renews Creation). So, these angels were captured and imprisoned in gloom/darkness as a holding cell for them to await final judgment. For a formal elaboration of the story, see 1 and 2 Enoch. The Grigori, or Watchers, are angels who have sinned and are awaiting trial. 1 and 2 Enoch are rightfully considered pseudepigraphia (books that claim Biblical status but are not of high enough quality to warrant our reverence), though the Ethiopian Orthodox Church considers 1 Enoch to be acceptable (the oldest form of it is in Ethiopic, so I think there's a racial pride attached to it), but nobody accepts 2 Enoch. They date from the first century A.D. While these books don't have much valid theological substance, they do tell us much of how Hebrews viewed Heaven and angels. Those ideas existed in their imaginations outside of these two books, so their historical value can't be dismissed.

Peter apparently looked to the stars (which he had been taught in Sunday school were entrapped angels awaiting final judgment) and assumed that Jesus, on his ascension, proclaimed the Gospel to them also. Sure makes you gaze at the stars and wonder, huh?