“Between the Devil and the Deep Blue Sea”
“Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I have been in the deep (2 Corinthians 11:25b).”
Dylan Gowan sported off towards Highlands, New Jersey from New York City on his jet ski. But his journey was interrupted when his transport failed and began to sink into the ocean.1 Dylan tried to swim for shore but the current was moving out giving him no chance to reach land on his own. He spotted a tower in the water and was able to cling to it and safely spend the night. At dawn, the castaway launched his desperate swim for shore where he was spotted by a Coast Guard crew searching for him, hypothermic and dehydrated but saved from the sea.
Gowan’s rescue is rare but his adventure is not as uncommon as you might think. In a larger sense, each of us have been cast away upon the sea, finding that which we trusted in to keep us above the troubled waves has failed us. The epic of all men is the story of either being overwhelmed by the shifting tides of life or overcoming them by the Master of the seas.
Glenn Pemberton, ACU professor of Old Testament studies, explains that water and the deep sea stood for much more than just H2O to the Israelite worldview. Under control water represented life, but otherwise the sea stood for all the chaotic forces that stand against human life and well-being – unpredictable, unstable, and life threatening.2
From the opening page of the Bible we see that the earth was inhospitable to life (Genesis 1:2) until God acted upon the waters. A few chapters later God broke up the fountains of the great deep and allowed them to engulf the earth so that all flesh died in the flood (Genesis 7:11, Psalm 104:6-8). While his enemies conspired against him, David sang; “The waters have come up to my neck…I have come into deep waters where the floods overflow me (Psalm 69:1-2).” The man after God’s own heart confessed that he was afraid when the “waves of death” and “floods of ungodliness” surrounded him (2 Samuel 22:5). This imagery permeates both the Old and New Testaments (Luke 6:48, 21:25, Jude 13, Revelation 21:1).
When overwhelmed by the surge of troubled tides, many seek to swim for shore in their own strength. All too often they eventually tire and succumb to the angry waves of life, sinking to rise no more. But for those who trust in God there is a tower (Proverbs 18:10) that provides rest and strength in the midst of the roiling waters.
The good news for the tempest tossed – God has set boundaries on how far the sea may encroach upon us (Job 38:11, Psalm 77:16, 104:9). He is supreme over the bounding main as the one who can tread upon its surface (Job 9:8, Matthew 14:25). We may struggle alone and be tossed about or cry out from the depths (Psalm 130:1) to Him who is able to lift us up out of the waves (Matthew 14:30).
The shifting seas of life are a certainty for all of us until the end. But for those of us who trust in the Lord we are assured of being rescued. Washed of our sins (Acts 22:16), He makes them sink to the depths of the sea like that faulty jet ski, never to rise again (Micah 7:14). If you’ve been struggling against the current of life’s battering breakers, look for that tower in the midst of the sea and be rescued.
“Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea (1 Corinthians 10:1).”
Hurting With God, Glenn Pemberton, Abilene Christian University Press, 2012, pp.16-20