God is a pro at water rescues.
And I think he guided an amazing one on March 14.
That night, seven brave men were rescued after their boats capsized in the flooded Elkhorn River.
The men — Rich Osterloh, Rick Schutt, Nick Morris, Chris Lichtenberg, Matt Baker, Logan Kahler and Wayne Kreifels — were working to rescue four adults and a 2-year-old child trapped in a house amid widespread flooding when these first responders found themselves in the icy, debris-filled flood waters.
They were rescued after the Nebraska Army National Guard sent a Black Hawk helicopter to help them.
I was thinking about that rescue while having supper at HyVee with my pals Nancy and John Ahrens the other night.
Before long, we started talking about all the water rescues that can be found in the Bible.
It’s astounding when you think about it.
From Noah to the Apostle Paul, the Bible has amazing stories telling how God rescued his people from wind, waves and an ocean of fears.
Here are a few examples:
- This guy could have taken home the award for emergency planning and disaster preparedness. God told Noah to build an ark, fill it with animals, food and his family and prepare for a flood. Noah followed through with the Lord’s plan and _ as a result _ God protected him, then followed up by putting a rainbow in the sky as a sign that he’d never again flood the whole earth.
- This Godly leader was just a baby when his mother put him in a basket and floated him on the Nile River, trying to protect him from the Pharaoh’s order to kill little Hebrew boys. God sent an unusual rescuer—Pharaoh’s daughter—whose trip to the river to bathe ended up with the adoption of a son. Obviously, she was a woman who really knew how to clean up.
Moses—as an adult.
- God did an amazing water rescue when he parted the Red Sea so Moses could lead the people of Israel across on dry ground and away from the Egyptian Army that planned to haul them back into slavery. I’ve read estimates that more than 2 million Israelites made it across the sea in what may be one of the biggest rescues of all time.
- This may be the most unusual water rescue ever. When this prophet was thrown overboard from a ship during a storm, God sent a big fish to make the catch of the day. Jonah had a three-day stay inside that fish before he was vomited up on the shore. The runaway prophet who’d fled from God’s initial orders to urge the people of Nineveh to repent, learned disobedience doesn’t pay and then set out to do what he was told, even with seaweed wrapped around his head.
- Christ’s closest followers would be rescued more than once from wet, stormy situations. One time, the disciples and Jesus were in a boat when a terrible storm arose. The disciples woke Christ, saying, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” He cared. He rebuked the wind and waves and stilled the storm. God still calms storms and uneasy sailors today.
- This apostle was a prisoner aboard a ship when it sailed into a northeaster. The storm was so fierce that the sailors planned to escape on a small lifeboat, until soldiers cut away the boat’s ropes and let it go. But God saved Paul and all the 275 other men aboard the ship. All made it safely to the shores of Malta after the great vessel was shipwrecked.
John reminded me of my all-time favorite water rescue, which can be found in the New Testament book of Matthew, chapter 14.
In this account, Christ tells his disciples to get into a boat and go to the other side of a lake. Jesus then goes to a mountainside to pray.
In the meantime, the boat moves a long away from the shore and waves are hitting it.
Jesus then walks out on the lake to the disciples, who become terrified because they think they’re seeing a ghost.
Immediately, Jesus says, “Take courage. It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
Peter — one of Christ’s followers — suddenly says, “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.”
Christ tells him to come.
So Peter gets out of the boat and starts walking toward Jesus.
Yet when Peter sees the wind, he becomes afraid and starts to sink.
“Lord, save me,” he cries out.
Right away, Jesus reaches out his hand and catches Peter.
Stop a minute and let that soak in.
While Peter may have moved his focus from Jesus to the wind and waves of his circumstances, Christ never lost sight of his dear disciple.
And better than any Major League baseball player, Christ made a perfect catch. He didn’t drop the ball.
Jesus helps Peter get back on that boat, which will take them to the ministry that lies ahead.
I love so many things about this story. For one thing, it shows how we’re never out of Christ’s line of sight and watchful eye.
And he is with us.
During one of the darkest, roughest times of my life, I remember opening the Bible. Somehow it fell right to that story and Christ’s words: “Take courage. It is I. Don’t be afraid” — all but jumped right off the page at me.
I knew he was telling me not to fear. In the days ahead, I would be so sad and hurt.
But I don’t ever remember being afraid.
Is it because I’m just a naturally fearless person?
Not a chance.
I think it’s because the God who catches us was right there holding me.
Years later, I know those seven men on that river were never alone.
God had them in the palm of his hand all the time.
And he still does.
We will face many tough times in this life, but we still can find a safe harbor in the love of our God, who can bring us comfort and peace.
What’s more, the almighty, all-powerful and all-knowing creator of the universe still makes great rescues today. And he not only can save our lives, but our souls as we trust in him.
I had a nice time eating supper with Nancy and John the other night. I was so excited when John reminded me of my favorite water rescue story from the Bible that I nearly jumped out of the booth.
Nancy, who knows me pretty well, just looked at John and smiled.
“This is going to end up being a Spiritual Spinach (column),” she said.