Flatlander Faith

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Unstable as water

Water is essential to life on this planet. The Bibles applies the life-giving properties of water in a spiritual sense when it speaks of the river of life and of the water and blood that poured from Jesus’ side, .

There is also a dangerous side to water, such as Jacob’s description of Reuben, his oldest son: “Unstable as water, thou shalt not excel.” (Genesis 49:4)

The Bible uses this turbulent, ever-changing nature of water as an illustration of the character of the world that does not know God. Such as this passage from Isaiah: “But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked” (Isaiah 57:20-21). James says: “But let him ask in faith, nothing wavering. For he that wavereth is like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed. For let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” (James 1:6-8) In Ephesians 4:4, the apostle Paul writes: “That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive.”

The book of Revelation speaks figuratively of a seductive woman who deceives the inhabitants of the earth, and makes war with the saints. Revelation 17:1 depicts her as being seated upon many waters, then verse 15 says: “The waters which thou sawest, where the whore sitteth, are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues. ”

Chapter 13 begins by telling us of a beast that arises from these waters. The beast blasphemes God and yet is worshipped by all the people of the earth, except those whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life.

Dry land in Scripture is a symbol of stability, a solid place where a foundation can be laid for the people who believe in God — a place where we can be rooted and grounded in the faith and worship the one who never changes. Yet chapter 13 also tells of a beast arising from the dry land. This depicts a deformed, corrupt Christianity rising among the people of God that imitates many of the teachings and practices of the first beast which came out of the waters of heathendom.

The world’s standards of right and wrong are always changing. Today we are told that certain abominable things are right and good and if we don’t agree, then we are enemies of the truth. Tomorrow the values will change, but the people of God will still be the enemies of the world.

Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: but rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ’s sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy are ye; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified. But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or as a thief, or as an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters. Yet if any man suffer as a Christian, let him not be ashamed; but let him glorify God on this behalf. For the time is come that judgment must begin at the house of God: and if it first begin at us, what shall the end be of them that obey not the gospel of God? And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?”  (1 Peter 4:12-18)

Unstable as water

My wife and I once took a whale watch cruise from a little town in Massachusetts. To find the whales we had to go out on the Atlantic until even the skyline of Boston disappeared from view. There was no wind that day, the ocean was as smooth and flat as a prairie field, only the boat and the antics of the whales disturbed the surface of the water. The many stories of shipwrecks remind us that the Atlantic is not always like that. “Unstable as water,” was Jacob’s evaluation of his firstborn son (Genesis 49:4). That image of the changeable nature of water is picked up in other places in the Bible.

James applies it to Christians who are uncertain about whether they can expect much from God. They are “like a wave of the sea driven with the wind and tossed.” Then he adds: “let not that man think that he shall receive any thing of the Lord. A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” (James 1:6-8).

It only takes a little breeze to create waves on a body of water; if the wind shifts direction, the waves shift with it. A boat on the water tends to go with the direction of the wind and waves and it takes considerable effort to go against that direction. The apostle Paul admonishes us to “be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive” (Ephesians 4:14).

In Revelation 17:15, John is told by the angel that “The waters which thou sawest . . . are peoples, and multitudes, and nations, and tongues.” Those of us who are a little older have seen chaotic, tumultuous changes in public opinion. There are winds of doctrine blowing which we were hardly aware of at first, but now have taken on such force that we begin to doubt whether Christians will be able to survive the storm.

Matthew tells of a time that Jesus and His disciples crossed the sea of Galilee at night. All was calm when they started out, but during the night a great storm blew up, the waves beat upon the ship and it began to fill with water. Some of the disciples were fishermen who were intimately familiar with the sea. Even they were terrified. Jesus arose, spoke to the wind and waves, saying “Peace, be still.” “And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.” (Matthew 4:39).

Are we in the boat with Jesus today? If so, there is no need to fear the storm. When Jesus speaks peace to our hearts the raging tempest around us is no longer a threat.

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