His Wonders in the Deep
I have always loved the ocean. I enjoy sitting on the beach watching the beautiful sunset as I listen to the predictably rhythmic sound of waves washing up onto the shore. The failing light dances over the water, which reflects the most vibrant of colors. Yet for all its beauty, this mysterious place remains largely unexplored. Humans have been all the way to the moon, and yet over 95% of our world’s oceans remain unexplored1. It is estimated that the deepest known location, the Challenger Deep in the Mariana’s Trench, is estimated at being approx.. 36,000 feet below sea level2. To put this in perspective, if Mount Everest were to be uprooted and placed in this trench, its peak would still be 1 mile below the surface. Now that’s deep. The film industry is in no short supply for mythical creatures of destruction and chaos: Jaws, Moby Dick, or even the giant squid from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Stories are told of creatures that live in the deepest parts whose existence is only revealed when they surface shallow enough to be discovered. Many wonders still dwell in the deepest parts of the ocean of which we may never know in this lifetime. For now they exist solely for the pleasure of the Lord (Rev 4:11). There is a particular passage in the Psalms which I have been pondering recently:
Psalm 107:23-24- “They that go down into the sea in ships, that do business in great waters; these see the works of the Lord, and the wonders in the deep.”
As you well know, It is the stock and trade of many fishermen who “do business in great waters” to gather their aquatic bounty from the watery depths. The above verses draw attention to the fact that these privileged few are often eye-witnesses of God’s wonders—wonders that are normally witnessed in the deep waters. But deep waters are frightening, aren’t they? And for good reason, too! If we get in the water, we can be eaten; if the water gets in us, we can drown! That’s a lose/lose situation. But I would draw your attention to a man who “did some business” in the great waters and experienced the “wonders of the deep.” You know him as Jonah.
Jonah was a man on the run from God, but he was no more capable of outrunning God than he was of out swimming a great big fish. A series of events (which I will leave you to read on your own) landed Jonah right in the belly of said fish. Now as you can imagine, the wonders of the deep weren’t exactly wonderful for Jonah initially. Three days and nights our poor Jonah spent in this place of unimaginable discomfort, but it is toward the end of this time that Jonah expresses some thoughts upon which we might stop and ponder:
Jonah 2:2-3- “…I called out to the LORD, out of my distress, and he answered me; out of the belly of Sheol [hell] I cried, and you heard my voice. For you cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the flood surrounded me; all your waves and your billows passed over me.”
“Into the deep” Jonah was cast—and by God at that! But I ask you, what “wonders” did he see except the inside of a fish? It takes only a small amount of imagination to gather how much he must have suffered in the belly of this creature. The resulting anguish of soul is expressed in the strong language noted in the above verses. Again we read,
Jonah 2:5-7- “The waters closed in over me to take my life; the deep surrounded me; weeds were wrapped about my head at the roots of the mountains. I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever; yet you brought up my life from the pit, O LORD my God. When my life was fainting away, I remembered the LORD, and my prayer came to you, into your holy temple.”
Such a hopeless state of affairs in which we find our Jonah! What could he do? Where could he go? The sea was all around him, the very weeds wrapped around his head and he was all alone descending to what could have seemed like a watery grave in the very roots of the mountains.
But God was not finished with Jonah just yet. God had a marvelous plan. For you see, God was also doing business in the great waters, as we read in our opening verses. God was doing business with Jonah. I cannot tell you how exactly this overwhelming state of affairs changed the heart of Jonah so substantially, and for the life of me, I cannot tell you why it took three whole days! What I can tell you, is that from the depths of the ocean, in the most hopeless and helpless place, Jonah cries out in a prayer of repentance and faith. God ultimately causes the fish to spit Jonah up on dry land to fulfill the task for which he had been originally called.
Perhaps you find yourself in a similar situation as Jonah in the belly of the fish. You are trapped, you feel alone, you are sinking deeper and deeper into a dark abyss with no apparent hope of escape. The deeper you descend into the void, the greater the pressure closing in, straining to squeeze the last ounce of your strength until there is none. Feeling helpless and terrified, you consider simply giving up. I have been there, too. If this is you, then now is your time. Now is your time to do business in the great waters—business with God. If you have not accepted Christ as your Lord and Savior, then you have business to do: “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved” is the challenge from Acts 16:31. If you have trusted Christ as Savior but are holding on to some darling sin that is ruining your life, then you have business to do: “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” we are told from I John 1:9. And if you are a follower of Christ and are suffering for reasons you simply cannot understand, then you also have business to do: “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” is the encouragement from James 1:2-3.
It can certainly be discouraging to suffer, but it is even more discouraging when we don’t understand why God is allowing us to suffer, which is often the case. We feel like we are being carried by the ocean current with no real purpose or direction at all. Ahhh, but rest assured, there is, in fact, a path though the footprints cannot be seen:
Psa 77:19- Thy way is in the sea, and thy path in the great waters, and thy footsteps are not known.
As you can imagine, the inside of a fish makes for a lousy view. But Jonah still managed to see the wonders of the deep as he emerged with a deeper understanding of Who God is. The trials we face in life are not without purpose. They are the sickness that drives us to the cure, the fire that purges out the dross from the metal, and the pressure that turns common carbon into precious diamonds. And as we humble ourselves and yield to God in these trials, when we ultimately emerge, we are better for the suffering and are left with a deeper understanding of our Savior God. These are the wonders in the deep!
Dear Reader, Life is like a vast ocean; we would much rather wade aimlessly through the shallows of the known 5%. We would spend our lives enjoying a beautiful horizon and listening to the predictable sounds of the waves on the shore, never giving thought to the other 95%. But God has more for you and for me; He loves us dearly and would have us know and experience him in a deeper more intimate way which can only occur when we are brought out of our comfort zone of self-reliance and independence. He knows the unknown is often terrifying and that suffering is painful. But be assured, there is a plan even if you don’t know it, there is a path, even if you can’t see it, and it is as we do business in the great waters that we experience the wonders of the deep.
I do pray these thoughts help fill you with strength for today, and hope for tomorrow as we look for the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13).