March 18, 2009

Ask the Fish

“Ask the beasts, and they will teach you; . . . and the fish of the sea will explain to you” (Job 12:7, 8).*
2009 1508 page31 capHIS TEXT CAME TO MIND DURING A VISIT TO THE TENNESSEE AQUARIUM IN Chattanooga, a short distance from where I live. The height of a 12-story building, this freshwater aquarium is home to more than 9,000 creatures that swim, fly, and crawl. Comprising mostly numerous species of fish, the residents also include otters, snakes, and turtles from river systems throughout the world.
To learn about God, Solomon suggests we “go to the ant” (Prov. 6:6); Jesus urges us to “behold the fowls of the air” (Matt. 6:26, KJV). But fish? What can these creatures of the deep tell us about the eternal power and divine nature of our Creator-God? The answer, surprisingly, is “quite a lot.”
With these Bible texts in mind, I started out on a tour of the Tennessee Aquarium.

At the top of the building a large tank is home to various fish of the trout family. In a larger tank nearby, several river otters—members of the weasel family—frolic and play. Then as I walk down a passageway lined with more water-filled tanks, I am impressed with the vast variety of shapes and colors of the creatures living in them. I recall reading that 22,000 species of fish have been officially classified.
2009 1508 page31The trout is a popular choice for people who fish in North America, and as I observe the many colors displayed by trout, I understand why. The rainbow and golden varieties show off their red and yellow colors. The brook trout even sport red fins. The salmon show off even brighter colors: the sockeye salmon (red), the coho (silver), and the ocean variety (blue). Among the minnows, the shiners display a horizontal black stripe, but darters run their stripes vertically.

What a diversity of colors, markings, and shapes the Creator used to display His creative ability!
From tiny minnows to giant sharks, the bodily structure of fish is similar. Many have slender, streamlined bodies from head to tail. Thus the Creator provided for fast movement through the water as these creatures of the deep search for food—or try to avoid becoming someone’s dinner. Other fish develop thick, heavy bodies, fitting almost every conceivable dimension. The slow-moving southern stingray reminds me of a mobile pancake flapping its way slowly through the water.
The strangest-looking fish of all—at least to me—is the stonefish, which resembles a rock and appears not to move at all; yet it is one of the most venomous of fish.
In the setting of Job 12, all the fish declare that God is sovereign. Marvelous in form and color, each one seems to say, “God made us all.” Yet in all nature we discover that the innocent suffer, as did Job.
One of the most beautiful fish in the aquarium is called the lionfish. Its attractive lacy fins hide long spines full of venom, which causes immediate pain and paralysis. So, even though God is in control of nature, some of His creatures turn violent. How can we explain that?
As I turn to the book of Genesis, I find that when Adam and Eve chose to rebel against their Creator-God, He placed a curse upon the ground (Gen. 3:17). And the story of the Flood shows that the curse touched all living creatures (Gen. 7:21-23). Paul tells us that “the whole creation groans” (Rom. 8:22). What a picture of the present conditions in nature!
Our loving Creator, however, does not leave us without hope. He has promised that change is coming, and that in the new earth “they shall not hurt nor destroy in all My holy mountain” (Isa. 65:25).
I long for that day!
*Unless otherwise indicated, Bible texts in this article are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright ” 1979, 1980, 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Robert G. Wearner is a retired pastor and teacher living in Collegedale, Tennessee.