BY PASTOR GLENN PEASE
Off the coast of the Italian Riviera a large bronze statue of Christ has been installed down in the depths of the sea as a symbol that Christ is Lord of the deep. Jesus is the only man in history who demonstrated He was also God by controlling this great force in creation-the sea. The disciples were amazed that He could say, "Peace be still," and the raging waves were calmed. He controlled the fish so that when He told the disciples to cast their nets on the other side, they were filled to over-flowing. He sent Peter to catch a fish, and in it was found a coin by which to pay the temple tax. Jesus could even walk on the top the water demonstrating again that He was Lord of the sea. Not Neptune, not Posidon, the Greek and Roman gods of the sea, but the Lord Jesus Christ is Lord of all, including the sea.
God made a big deal of Lordship over the sea when He spoke to Job. In Job 38:8-11 God makes it clear He had to set limits to this great force, and say to the sea, "This far you may come and no further." We cannot imagine the awesome power involved in establishing the seas of the world, but we have the testimony of one who was there as an eye witness. Wisdom is personified in Prov. 8 and says in verse 24, "When there were no oceans, I was given birth, when there were no springs abounding with water." Then in verse 29 she adds, "When He gave the sea its boundary so the waters would not over step His command and when He marked out the foundations of the earth."
What must it have been like to be there watching God hand-crafting the world as we know it? Maybe God videoed the whole thing and one of the wonders of heaven will be to watch this marvel of marvels. But wisdom was there, and she tells us her reaction as she labored at God's side in creation. In verses 30-31, she says, " Then I was the craftsman at His side. I was filled with delight day after day, rejoicing always in His presence, rejoicing in His whole world and delighting in mankind."
Here is the Biblical basis for enjoying all that God has made. Wisdom was there when God made it, and she emphasizes that her primary emotion was that of rejoicing and delight. The Bible would support the judgment that something is spiritually wrong with the person who cannot see in God's works that which leads to joy and the worship of God as Creator. Not only does wisdom rejoice in all that God created, but all God created rejoices in God as its Creator. Psalm 96:11-12 makes it all inclusive. "Let the heavens rejoice, let the earth be glad; let the sea resound, and all that is in it. Let the fields be jubilant, and everything in them, then all the trees of the forest will sing for joy." In Psalm 98:7-8 we read, "Let the sea resound, and everything in it, the world, and all who live in it. Let the rivers clap their hands, let the mountains sing together for joy." Does the sea really sing, and does everything in it join the song?
Obviously we are into poetic language here, and we cannot take it literally that the seas sing or that rivers have hands to clap, or that mountains form a choir. Yet we must not dismiss poetry as if it has no relationship to reality. Every child has held a sea shell to its ear to hear the song of the sea. The sounds of the sea have inspired a lot of music. Anton Rubenstein called his second symphony, "The Ocean." An English composer wrote a series, "Sea Slumber Song" "Sabbath Morning At Sea" "Where Corals Lie" "The Swimmer." Ralph Vaughn's "Sea Symphony" first performed in 1910. But the most famous of all is "La Mer" by Claude Debussy, who spent three years writing it. He grew up with deep impressions of the Mediterranean, and in his music you could hear the crash of the waves and the gurgling of the backwash. Jacqus Cousteau wrote that it "is surely the greatest calling forth of nature in a work for orchestra."
The fact is, the sea does sing and everything in it. We may prefer the songs of birds, but God loves to be praised with any voice. Marie Poland Fish is appropriately named, for she is the director of the world's largest under water bioacustic library. In other words, she is the world's authority on the sounds of fish. The U.S. Navy requested that she keep a file of biological sounds. Since 1954 she has accumulated hundreds of miles of audio tape of sounds from all over the world. Her conclusion is, every fish makes a noise. With hydrophones in the sea they pick up clicks, moans, squeaks, whistles, hissing, grunts, and other sounds from the sea. One fish makes a sound like running fingers along the teeth of a comb. Mrs. Fish is convinced that fish talk. If they talk, then they may also sing, and thus, literally join the universal praise to the Creator. Is is only poetry, or was Emerson seeing reality when he wrote,
Tis not in the high stars alone,
Nor in cups of budding flowers,
Nor in the redbreasts mellow tone,
Nor in the bow that smiles in showers.
But in the mud and scum of things
There always, always, something sings.
According to Mrs. Fish, the shrimp and the crabs also make sounds. The point is, science does support the poetic and spiritual view of nature. There is more truth to it than we realize when we sing, "This is my father's world and to my listening ears all nature sings and round me rings the music of the spheres." There is music everywhere in God's creation if we listen. The Psalmist did listen, and that is why he commits himself to be a part of the universal choir and says in verse 33, "I will sing to the Lord all my life, I will sing praise to my God as long as I live." This song is a part of heavenly music, for we read in Rev. 5:13, "Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea and all that is in them singing: To Him that sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!"
The Mediterranean sea gave us the great drama of Jonah and the whale, and all of the adventures of Paul and the sea, including his great shipwreck on the way to Rome. When the Psalmist in verse 25 raves about the sea being so vast and spacious, teeming with life, he was likely referring to this sea, and did not know that his words would be even more meaningful to those of us who live between the Atlantic and Pacific.
All of the oceans are connected, and so in a sense it is all one vast body of water that covers almost three fourths of the earth surface. No wonder some call this the ocean planet. If the Psalmist was amazed at the vastness of what he saw, how much more should we praise God for the massive work He has done with water? The Pacific is almost twice the size of the Atlantic, and has almost half the water of the world in it. It covers 63 million square miles, and goes from one pole to the other, and is larger than all the land of the world combined. It has the deepest place on earth. It goes down almost seven miles in the Mariana trench near the Philippines. This is one mile deeper than the tallest mountain, Mt. Everest is high.
The ocean is a wonder of the world that is to lead us to worship, for as the Psalmist says in verse 25, it is teeming with creatures both large and small. And the point is, these creatures, by their very being witness to a Creator that deserves our praise. Every cubic foot of sea water has twenty thousand plants and one hundred and twenty animals. I don't know how many of these creatures the Psalmist saw, but he says they are without number, and modern man is still saying this.
The creatures of the sea are uncountable, and some that man has counted out are still there. The Coelacauth is a fish about five foot long with two tails, and the experts said it has been extinct for 70 million years. That was until 1938 when two fishermen off South Africa caught a live one. It is embarrassing trying to be an expert on the infinite works of God. Your chances of being wrong are excellent. The Neopilina snail was said to be extinct for 300 million years, but in 1958 four were found three miles down off of Peru.
The Psalmist is impressed both by the large and small creatures of the sea. He was, no doubt, thinking of the whale in the large category, for the blue whale is the largest living thing God ever made to live on this planet. All of the estimates of the largest dinosaurs that ever existed are around 50 tons. But the blue whale makes this a light weight contender, for they weigh in at 150 tons. The sea is the biggest place in the world, and is the home of the biggest creatures of the world. These biggest whales only eat small creatures like krill, for they have small throats, but they eat a ton at a time. They have tongues that weigh 4 ton, and one thousand pound hearts that pump eight tons of blood through their vast system. This whale could not swallow Jonah, but other types of whales could easily do so. Jonah would have only been an appetizer for the whale caught in the Azores that had a giant squid in its stomach that measured 35 feet five inches long. Jonah could have taken Goliath along for the ride in this kind of whale and had room left over.
But you may say, why horse around with all this whale blubber. Who cares about whales? Why don't we get more spiritual and deal with what is relevant to the Christian life? The answer is in verse 26 which is a surprising revelation that makes whales one of the marvels of life, and very relevant to our understanding of God's nature. The Psalmist says the ships go to and fro on the sea, but also that leviathan goes there, which God formed to frolic there. The Bible teaches here that God made whales for the fun of it. He made them just to play in the ocean. The idea of having a gold fish, or some other pet, just to watch them play and have fun in their environment is not mans idea. It was God's idea in creation. God enjoys the largest living creatures as they leap and splash and frolic in the depths of the sea. The Hebrew word for frolic is the same word used in Zech. 8:5 for boys and girls playing in the streets.
Do you realize what this verse is saying? It is telling us that God is a pet lover, and that the worlds largest living creature is God's pet, created just to add some fun to creation. God enjoys the animal kingdom for the same reasons we do. We go to zoos and enjoy the antics of the monkeys, or look out our window and enjoy the squirrels as they chase each other and play. Do they really play? God confirms that they do by telling Job in Job 40:20, "and all the wild animals play near by." God uses the same Hebrew word for the whale frolicking in the sea. The Bible gives us a picture of a Creator who can set back and enjoy the entertainment of the animal kingdom in all its playfulness.
Earnest Hemmingway has the old man of the sea say as he watched two porpoises frolicking, "They are good. They play and make jokes and love one another." The Porpoise is one of the whale family, and they are the entertainers of the sea. Sailors marvel at the shows that they put on as they play follow the leader, and leap in unison, and race the ships. They can only swim at the speed of 11 knots, yet they can keep up with a destroyer going 20 knots because they have the ability to use the waves coming off the ship and hitchhike like a kid on roller skates holding on the bumper of a truck. They are a lot of fun, and they are also very smart. They can learn some things as fast as humans. The higher the form of life the more efficient any creature is in getting food, and thus, they have more time for fun. Lesser creatures spend most of their life just finding enough to eat. Porpoises spend most of their life in play.
Oceanographers call porpoises mans best friend. They are the equivalent of St, Bernard's in the Alps to men in the sea. They rescue men who are lost at sea, and they keep the sharks away. They can even kill sharks with their nose as a ram rod. They are even used to carry messages and tools for those who labor under the sea. If any man has a problem they have a signal that calls for the porpoise, and it will come immediately with a life line. They have saved many lives. Man also trains them to play water polo, basket ball, and even bowling. But they have their own favorite game. They are called the cowboys of the sea because they go out as a group and round up a school of fish. Then they surround it and one by one they leave the circle and dash in to get a fish, and then get back in formation while the next one goes. We could go on for hours about this amazing creature of the sea, but the point is this: The vast ocean is like God's aquarium, and He gets enjoyment out of the whales, and other creatures, as they frolic there.
In Job 41, God goes on and on for 34 verses describing one of His sea creatures, which is likely the whale. If you think it is a waste of time to study the details of sea creatures, you will have to take your complaint to God, for He loves nature and rejoices in every detail of His works and expects man to do the same, for it leads to worship. The study of every form of life is to lead us to worship its Creator. When it does, the study of any aspect of nature becomes a spiritual exercise. The study of nature is a part of human playfulness as we enjoy what God has made. Jesus said we must become as little children to enter the kingdom of God. Children love to play. Could it be that at least part of what Jesus is saying is that we must enter into the enjoyment of God's creation, and learn to enjoy its playfulness to really know God?
Can you really be one with a man who loves nature if you hate it? Can you really be close to a woman who loves her pets if you can't stand them? So also, can we really be as close to God as we want to be, and as He wants us to be, if we do not have the same attitude about His creation as He does? This does not mean we have to enjoy all that God enjoys. God has an infinite capacity for enjoyment, and he does not have our fears and limitations. But the fact is, we need to be lovers of nature, and we need to enjoy some aspects of nature to be one with our Creator.
Everything that man learns about the mystery of the sea keeps confirming the wisdom of God as Creator. For decades man has concluded that life could not exist on the bottom of the ocean. The darkness could not support life, and the cold and the pressure would make life impossible. Then in 1960 Jacques Piccard sank to the bottom of the deepest trench in the world-seven miles down in the Pacific. It took four hours just to drop. When he looked out on the deepest spot on the earth, where man nor light had ever been, the first thing he saw was a one foot long flat fish, and six foot above the bottom was a shrimp and a jellyfish. The facts wiped out all the theories, and men were forced to wonder how anything could survive at that depth. God had made the sea a playground, not just for whales, but for man as well, for some of the most fun man has on this planet is in exploring the wonders of the sea.
In verse 26 we read, "There the ships go to and fro." Because it has ever been so, the sea is not only the best place to study the creativity of God, but also of man. Dr. George F. Boss, and underwater archaeologist from the University of Penn. has written, "Virtually everything made by man, from tiny obsidian blades to huge temple columns, was carried at one time or another in ships, and much was lost at sea." Whole cities have been found under the sea, making it a fascinating place to study the civilization of man. But nothing can compare with the wonders of God that are found in the sea.
The Psalmist is impressed with both the large and the small creatures that God has made. We have referred to the blue whale, the largest of them all, but there are other huge creatures. The whale-shark can weigh up to 26,600 lbs., and a number of other sea creatures can weigh between 2 and 5 thousand lbs. But in contrast there are the smallest creatures. The goby fish near the Philippines are only a quarter to a half an inch long. They are the smallest vertebrate on the planet. The ocean has the largest and the smallest creatures on earth. The sea also has the creature that makes the greatest change from birth to adulthood. The ocean sunfish starts at one tenth of an inch long and grows to 8 foot, and weighs 1200 lbs.
The largest and most stupendous structure created by living creatures is the Great Barrier Reef of Australia. It is 1,242 miles long and 93 miles wide. It is 8 million times greater than the Great Pyramid, and 100,000 times greater than the Great Wall of China. All the sea is a wonderland, but here God pulled out all the stops. The tiny polyps no bigger than a pin head have united by the countless trillions to create this wonder of the sea. Everything about it is beautiful and immense. There are great varieties of coral with heart tugging beauty, and everything is on a massive scale. Sea creatures that are small elsewhere are large here. Star fish are a foot across and clams are five to six feet long. Even butterflies have wings that span eight inches, and fire flies are several inches long.
The Reef itself is a living, growing thing of beauty, and all of it calls out to man to worship the Creator of such a marvel. Many people go to see this exotic extravaganza and drift over the coral garden in a glass bottom boat. Most of us will never see this handiwork of God, just as the Psalmist did not see all that he was aware of in his day. But he knew the world and sea were filled with creatures both large and small who were a part of the universal choir that rejoiced in their Creator.
The Psalmist says that God is the one who organized the whole process by which the teaming masses of the sea are fed. Jacque Cousteu has made films about this wonder. It is beyond our comprehension how so many multiplied billions of creatures can be fed daily, but God does it, and the story of how He does it is one wonder after another. Eighty per cent of the world's animal life is in the sea, and everyday God feeds them all, and the Psalmist is impressed. Then, on top of that, man takes millions of tons of creatures out of the sea to feed himself. The sea is a source of life and blessings beyond description. God loves the sea and all the creatures of the sea, and in some way they all obey the words of Psalm 148:7 which says, "Praise the Lord from the earth, you great sea creatures and all ocean depth."
The value of studying any part of God's creation is that it will lead you to appreciate His wisdom and join the rest of creation in praising the Creator. Let me conclude with the testimony of two famous men. Jonathan Edwards is considered by many to be the greatest mind America has ever produced. He was the preacher that started The Great Awakening, one of America's greatest revivals. He is most famous for his sermon, Sinners In The Hands Of An Angry God. He could be quite severe, but he was also one of history's greatest nature lovers.
He said, "Immediately after my conversion God's excellency began to appear to me in everything: In the sun, in the moon, in the stars, in the waters, and in all nature. The Son of God created this world for this very end, to communicate to us through it a certain image of his own excellency, so that when we are delighted with flowery meadows, and gentle breezes, we may see in all that only the sweet benevolence of Jesus Christ. When we behold the fragrant rose and the snow-white lily, we are to see His love and His purity, even so the green trees, and the song of birds, what are they but the emanation of His infinite joy and benignity?
The crystal rivers, and the murmuring streams, what are they but the foot steps of His favor and grace and beauty. When we behold the brightness of the sun, and the golden edges of the evening cloud, and beauteous rainbow spanning the whole heaven, we but behold some adumbration of His goodness and His glory. And without any doubt this is the reason that Christ is called the Son Of Righteousness, The Morning Star, The Rose Of Sharon, The Lily Of The Valley, The Apple Tree Among The Trees Of The Wood,
A Bundle Of Myrrh, A Doe, and a Young Hart."
Nathaniel Hawthorn felt nature spoke of immortality. He wrote, "I recline upon the still unwithered grass, and whisper to myself: -oh, beneficent God! And it is the promise of a blessed eternity; for our Creator would never have made such lovely days, and have given us the deep hearts to enjoy them, above and beyond all thought,
unless we were meant to be immortal."
We haven't begun to study all that the Bible says about nature, but what we have studied should make it clear, God expects His people to love what He has made and join the voices of all creatures in praise to Him as Creator.