“Then I saw ‘a new heaven and a new earth,’ for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.” (Revelations 21:1).
I recently heard an interesting talk about Biblical beliefs in relation to large bodies of water. It was very enlightening because I had always thought that water was a sign of goodness in the Bible, but it appears that large bodies of water, in the Bible, were something that was greatly feared by the Israelites and were seen as a terrible thing and a terrible threat.
There are several instances in the Bible, where people required God’s intervention with large bodies of water like oceans seas and lakes.
In the beginning, we are told that God created a firmament, which was a type of dome to separate the water and allow dry land in between. Biblically, the belief was that there was water in the Heavens above the dome and water in the seas below it. Water was a frightening thing and God Himself, walked upon the water in the Heavens above the firmament… “And God said, “Let there be an expanse between the waters, to separate the waters from the waters.” (Genesis 1:6).
At other times, in the Old Testament, we are told that the water is a barrier to God’s Blessings...
For example, in the Book of Exodus, the Red Sea was a barrier for the Israelites, where on one side was their slavery in Egypt and on the other, was their potential freedom in the Promised Land. And what did God do when His children were confronted by that barrier? He parted the Sea – He removed the barrier for them… “And Moses stretched out his hand over the sea; and the Lord caused the sea to go back by a strong east wind all that night, and made the sea dry land, and the waters were divided.” (Exodus, 14:21).
Later, those same people – after 40 years of wandering in the wilderness – stood again before another large body of water, the River Jordan. Only this time, behind them was the wilderness through which they had been wandering and in front of them was the Promised Land. And what did God do when His children were confronted by that barrier? He parted the River – He removed the barrier for them… “And as soon as the priests who carry the ark of the Lord—the Lord of all the earth—set foot in the Jordan, its waters flowing downstream will be cut off and stand up in a heap.” (Joshua 3:13).
Later, in the final book of the Bible, the Book of Revelations describes a vision of Heaven. In that vision there is no sea – for the Israelites saw large bodies of water as a threat! “Then I saw ‘a new heaven and a new earth,’ for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and there was no longer any sea.” (Revelations 21:1).
For in large bodies of water there can be storms and through storms there is great fear.
And there are many types of storms…
There are storms that perfect us. It is these storms that the great saints spoke of when they spoke of uniting our suffering to Christ to atone of sinners and make reparation for sinners. “Remember the sufferings of Christ, the storms that were weathered... the crown that came from those sufferings which gave new radiance to the faith... All saints give testimony to the truth that without real effort, no one ever wins the crown.” (Thomas Becket).
Then, there are protecting storms, where we pass through some sort of problem in our life that seems terrible at the time, but later causes us to realise that the storm kept us safe – eternally safe. This was the case for the disciples when they were in the boat with Christ and He needed to calm the storm (Mark 4:35-41). For Christ had taken them away from the crowds who were proclaiming Him King – to protect them from pride. Though they passed through that storm, it was providence that saved them. For God will always act for what is GOOD – even if we feel that we are being battered by the storm.
And then there are correcting storms, that arise when we face the consequences of our choices. The Prophet Jonah is a clear example of this. “The word of the LORD came to Jonah son of Amittai: ‘Go to the great city of Nineveh and preach against it, because its wickedness has come up before me.’ But Jonah ran away from the LORD and headed for Tarshish. He went down to Joppa, where he found a ship bound for that port. After paying the fare, he went aboard and sailed for Tarshish to flee from the LORD. Then the LORD sent a great wind on the sea, and such a violent storm arose that the ship threatened to break up.” (Jonah 1:1-4). When Jonah did not follow God’s will, God used a storm to cast him into the sea and have the whale deliver him back.
And so, as I reflect on all the times in my life when I have weathered a storm, or stood before an unpartable sea, I can remember that my God walks before me. He can separate the waters, He can part the seas, He can calm the storms. And then – in case I lose hope – I can remember that in Heaven… “there was no longer any sea.” (Revelations 21:1).
Thank God for that!
For with prayer, I stand on Holy Ground where everything is clear. Here. At the Foot of the Cross.