As we begin our second week in our sermon series “Things That Go Bump In The Bible”, we move from the creatures found on land to those that inhabit the depths of the ocean. And while Daniel’s monsters that he described came from a dream he had, the beast we have just heard about in our Scripture reading was surely no dream…
It’s been reported that anywhere from half to four fifths of life on earth is actually found in the ocean. It is also estimated that the oceans contain about ninety-nine percent of the living space on earth. But in spite of that, humanity has explored somewhere between five and ten percent of the oceans. Now that may have to do with the fact that roughly eighty-five percent of the area is the dark, cold environment that we have called the “deep sea”.
And let’s be realistic here, how many of us here today would want to dive down into waters so dark that you cannot see anything? Show of hands? Yeah…me neither… And why are we afraid? Is it just the darkness? Is it that feeling of falling into the void? Or is it unknown? The unknown of what creatures may be lying in wait. Creatures unlike anything we have ever seen.
Did you know that in those depths are crabs over twelve feet long? Or what about the fangtooth fish who’s teeth look like a scary Halloween mask or something from a horror movie? Vampire squids and Pacific viperfish also roam the depths of our oceans. How about dragonfish that have the little thingy hanging in front of them that glows? That one showed up in Finding Nemo if you have ever seen it.
Or how about giant squid and sperm whales who have had legendary battles beneath the waves and in the darkest depths? I don’t know about you, but I hope I never run across a stargazer. And I mean that literally. They bury themselves in the sand and leap up to attack their prey as it goes by. Plus apparently several species of these darlings are electric and capable of delivering lethal level shocks. Makes you want to just go run of and dive into the ocean doesn’t it?
But can you imagine how the people of the Old Testament and ancient times must have felt? They didn’t even know that some of these things existed, which might actually be scarier. People’s imaginations and the power of a good legend or story can be much more frightening than the reality of a situation. And these stories weren’t about who caught the biggest fish like some friends share these days. These stories were about some truly amazing creatures.
Let’s look at our Scripture reading from the book of Job for this morning. We enter at a description of the Leviathan, a great beast that brought fear into the hearts of men, or at least of the author of this passage. It has been debated over the years that this Leviathan was a whale, or a crocodile, or even an elephant. I’m not sure how the last one works to be honest as the first two are typically at least found in the water and would be near the area where we assume Job was living.
The argument for the whale is improved by the fact that the creation of whales was historically looked on as a greater example or proof of God’s eternal power due to their sheer size and nobleness that many attributed to them. Modern Hebrew even translates Leviathan to whale. Interestingly though, later Jewish sources explain the Leviathan to be a dragon that lives within the deep. There are also some that believe that the names Leviathan and Behemoth were given to dinosaurs which they believe to have existed in Biblical times.
Even Scripture does not completely agree. In Psalm 74 it says that God “crushed the heads of Leviathan;” and “gave him as food for the creatures of the wilderness.” Psalm 104 mentions Leviathan as the author is praising God for the creatures God has made. Then in Isaiah 27 it says, “On that day the Lord with his cruel and great and strong sword will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent, Leviathan the twisting serpent, and he will kill the dragon that is in the sea.
I would say based off that last bit from Isaiah the idea of the dragon or serpent seems somewhat more convincing. But does it really matter? If you were swimming along in the ocean or sea and were faced with a great whale about to devour you or a giant dragon or serpent creature intent on the same, would you feel any different? I cannot really imagine someone faced with the whale would be sitting there treading water thinking, “Oh, well at least it isn’t a huge water dragon that’s about to eat me, it’s only a gigantic whale. Well that’s a relief…”
But let’s look at how the author in Job is referencing this unruly creature of the depths of the sea. “Can you draw out Leviathan with a fishhook, or press down his tongue with a cord? Can you put a rope in his nose, or pierce his jaw with a hook?” It sounds like to capture and overcome this beast is near impossible because normal fishing methods would not be enough or contain and subdue it.
“Will he make many supplications to you? Will he speak to you soft words? Will he make a covenant with you to take him for your servant forever?” Again, can they possibly think they can tame this monster of the deep? Will they somehow be able to control this giant of nature and make it obedient to their command?
The next verse, number five, is one of my favorites. It just sounds so funny to me. “Will you play with him as with a bird, or will you put him on leash for your maidens?” I am trying to picture a maiden, or young girl, sitting by the seaside holding a leash that is attached to this huge sea beast, petting it, talking to it like a cat or dog. The image of this just makes me laugh.
But we go back to this ferocious sea dragon or whale or whatever other image we may have for the Leviathan, and it starts to sink in even more what makes it so scary. It’s not just its size or its teeth or its strength. Where is this beast encountered? In the sea. A place where people drown. A place we cannot put our feet on a solid surface. A place that humanity especially then, but even some now is at the mercy of the waves, the weather, and the very whim of the water itself.
We have no authority or power in the water. Sure we have boats, we have submarines, and we have floatation devices. But is that really that much? Boats can sink. Subs can fill with water. Floatation devices can be popped or broken. We are truly powerless in many ways when we are upon the water. So as scary as the beast is, the home of the beast is just as scary sometimes.
And I think it is scary not only because the sea and ocean are not literal solid ground on which we can stand, but in the figurative sense too. Those deep, dark depths of the ocean holds the unknown. And as humans we tend not to like the unknown very much because if something is unknown then we are not in control and have no power, or very little. We like to think we are in control and in power and when something challenges that, well we don’t really like it.
But this passage is actually telling us more about the power of our God than the strength of this great sea beast. If the creatures that God created and put humanity over to care for and rule over are so powerful that we are in awe of them, how awesome and powerful must our God? The God who has dominion over us and all creation. God’s power so far exceeds anything that this sea beast can muster up, it is almost beyond our comprehension, and maybe even is beyond it.
And the good news about that reality, the knowledge of God’s power is that it is limitless and everlasting. That God has placed humanity over creation to care for it shows us how much God loves us. That power and that love are reflections of a God who wants what is best for us and provides us the protection of that love through that power. God does leave us alone to battle the figurative creatures of the darkest depths, nor the actual physical ones either.
Our God is always there. So in those moments where something touches our foot and frightens us, God is still there. When we are faced with what seems like an abyss that falls forever into darkness because of an illness or depression or whatever may be weighing us down, God is still there. And God will always be there, even when we are unsure or faltering in our faith.
But you know what one of the best things about facing that darkness and unknown with God? God does not let that darkness last. Yes, it may seem to drag on at times or seem unending, but we have to remember the Greatest News of God’s love. The light. God sent the light into creation in Genesis and God sent the light into the world when Jesus came to save humanity and all creation from sin and death.
And that light is brighter than the brightest sun or star. It is warm, it is clean, and it is safe. It reminds me of a children’s song called “This Little Light Of Mine”. I am sure many of you know it, but for those that don’t it talks about letting the gospel, the love of God and Jesus, shine in the world. That light will make that abyss explode in brightness. It will cause the evil things to run and hide. And it is everlasting.
As scary as this Leviathan creature may be, it is still a creature of God’s creation and one that God has placed us over to care for. We must work to not fear these dangers. Respect them yes, but not fear them. We must work to put our trust in our God, the God of the light and all power and love. There will always be unknown things in this life. There will always be things that scare us. There will always be beasts, both figurative and literal, that cross our paths. But the light will never be extinguished.
As you go about your time this week I ask that you carry the lyrics from that song with you everywhere you go. They go something like this: “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine. This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine, This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine, let it shine, let it shine, let it shine.”
I challenge each and every one of you to do just that. Let the light of God’s love and grace and the saving acts of Jesus Christ shine brightly through you and in everything you say and do. Be a beacon to others of love. Can you imagine just how bright this world can become? Can you picture the darkness of our world fading away into the loving, warm light that is our God? I think I can, and I hope you can, and I am excited to try. Won’t you try with me to light up this world?