The Water That Gets Inside

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Shipwreck means disaster. It is a synonym for destruction or ruin. Shipwreck always means loss of property, and has often meant loss of life. The term has been used as a metaphor to describe the destruction of entire civilizations and ways of life, and of course the disastrous failure of individuals. In Ezekiel 27, the Lord described Tyre, the center of the great Phoenician empire, as a carefully crafted ship, built with pride and skill (vv1-7) and manned by hard working and talented people (vv 8-11), enjoying great economic success, but still doomed to shipwreck and utter ruin, sinking to the bottom of the sea (vv 26-27), much to the regret of those who profited from her trade. What was it that brought the disaster of shipwreck to the splendid ship of Tyre? It wasn’t conquerors or external forces, but rather what had found its way inside. Ezekiel spoke of Tyre’s pride (28:2), her self-importance (28:5), the unrighteousness found in her (28:15), and her internal violence and sin (28:16). Like many other nations, before and after, the mighty ship of Tyre, full of pride and self-love, sank beneath the waves in utter ruin.

Just as great nations have suffered shipwreck, so too individuals can go from the heights to the depths. Paul warned his young partner Timothy, “fight the good fight, keeping faith and a good conscience, which some have rejected and suffered shipwreck in regard to their faith.” (1 Tim 1:18-20 NASU) Some people then, and now, suffer shipwreck in regard to their faith. Paul stressed the importance of vigilance, knowing that being a Christian amounts to being in a struggle, and to carefully keep faith, trusting the Lord and obeying him, and carefully keeping a good conscience, living our lives with unquestionable virtue, beyond the criticism even of our own conscience. As noted in the following poem, we live in a world full of conflict that challenges our peace and safety on every level.

It’s The Water That Gets Inside
1 This world is so torn with hatred and war;
Troubled waters are tossing high!
But the water that causes the ship to sink,
Is the water that gets inside.
2 Our God will be with us, and help us through,
If we look to him as our guide.
And the water that causes the ship to sink,
Is the water that gets inside.
3 Have courage, my brother, just follow the light,
From the great lighthouse on high!
And the water that causes the ship to sink,
Is the water that gets inside.

Allie Fry, wrote that poem about four decades ago. She could have written of a war torn and troubled world when she was in her 20s, and World War 2 was raging; or in her 30s when the Korean conflict epitomized the hostility between East and West; or in her 40s when she had a son in Vietnam and the USA was torn with political unrest and violence; or for that matter yesterday with the ongoing violence in Iraq and Afghanistan and so many other places. If we didn’t already know we live in troubled times, the folks who are running for office are only too glad to remind us in this election year. There are many things that may disturb us, we may fret about the state of the union and the wars and the direction of the stock market and foreign debt and the flow of undocumented immigrants, and the price of gas, and Chinese imports, but in this year as in any other, it’s still true that “the water that causes the ship to sink is the water that gets inside.” Keeping faith and a good conscience amounts to not letting the troubles of an uncertain world reign in our hearts, not letting the cares of the world seep in, but rather trusting that God knows what he’s doing.

The story of Jonah’s near shipwreck in a storm, and Paul’s eventual shipwreck in another storm, both demonstrate that when people know destruction is likely they will make tremendous sacrifices in the hope of merely surviving. In the storms encountered by Jonah and by Paul, the sailors were willing to throw everything overboard, no matter what the apparent value, in order to save the ship from sinking (Jonah 1:4-5, Acts 27:18-19). Perceiving imminent disaster often impels people to heroic measures, desperatly trying to salvage at least themselves. The question does arise, what will a person give, in exchange for their soul? Thankfully, in times of crisis, when shipwreck seems certain, where courage fails, faith will still prevail. Psalm 107 pictures sailors in a storm whose efforts have not been sufficient to save them, losing their courage, knowing their plight to be hopeless, but finally crying out to God for help, and then:

He caused the storm to be still, So that the waves of the sea were hushed. Ps 107:29 NASU

God can still calm the storm, the troubles of life need not be more than we can bear. Remember, it isn’t the scary stuff outside. The water that causes the ship to sink is the water that gets inside. We do need to be careful what gets inside, what we allow into our lives, and much of the threat of shipwreck is allayed by careful upkeep of the vessel. And then when storms do come in a troubled world, and they will come, we have a friend who can calm the storms and give us peace. Trust Him.

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