Into the Deep
In Luke 5:1-7 we find the account of Jesus teaching on Lake Gennesaret, and afterwards of the disciples launching out and letting down their nets for a draft of fish.
And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed upon him to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret, And saw two ships standing by the lake: but the fishermen were gone out of them, and were washing their nets. And he entered into one of the ships, which was Simon’s, and prayed him that he would thrust out a little from the land. And he sat down, and taught the people out of the ship.
Now when he had left speaking, he said unto Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught.
And Simon answering said unto him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net.
And when they had this done, they inclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net brake. And they beckoned unto their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships.
This account suggests many lessons of spiritual application.
“Hear the word.”
Before they launched out they heard the word of God. This is the first preliminary to all of life and service. The first thing we need to hear is God’s word. Before we can repent, or believe, or move out on life’s duty, we need to receive in our innermost being the living word of God. As the earth is dead until shined upon by the sun, so there is no capability of life or service in us until we hear the living word. “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word.” (Romans 10:17) It is the living word touching our faculties, piercing our conscience, melting our hearts, moving our will, and vitalizing our motives, which prepares us for obedience. In proportion as God’s word enters into us, in that proportion are we qualified for our mission.
When Jesus had finished speaking to the crowd, He said to Peter, “Launch out.” So it is with us—when we have heard His word spoken into us by the living Spirit, we are then prepared for the command to launch out. This implies the act of the will, which has been vitalized by the hearing of the living word. Before hearing that word, the will is sluggish and rebellious; it has no motive or energy along lines of righteousness. But the implanted word of life opens up motives, imparts strength, and arouses in the will the principle of choice and determination, which constitutes the taproot of moral character. There must be a fixed choice against all evil, and for all good. It is this fixed choice of the will which makes the central element of character. God watches the determination of the heart. This word launch implies throwing ourselves in utter dependence on the Lord—a co-operation with the Spirit, a giving up of our will to His guidance.
Perhaps we are seeking pardon, or sanctification, or healing, or to enter upon some special service. We have heard the truth on some line as the word is spoken in our hearts by the Spirit of God. And then, in various ways, there come a time where we are to boldly, with all our will-power, “launch out.’'
“From the land.”
To launch out requires leaving the land, shoving off from the shore. Leaving the multitude, the sights and sounds of terra firma; leaving home, and friends, and all that was on the land. How much this implies to us who will hear all the living word, and launch from the shore! It implies launching out from nature, with its laws, sciences, philosophies, its materialism. It implies launching from the natural mind, with its carnal reasoning, opinions, taste, its prudence, whims, and fashions. It implies launching from all our past—past failures and successes, all our past sins, and all our past righteousness as well. The cutting of the shore line that ties us to anything behind; the letting go of all things; so that, like a receding shore to the sailor, it may fade from our vision.
“Into the deep.”
How deep He does not say. The depth into which we launch will depend upon how perfectly we have given up the shore, and the greatness of our need, and the vision of our possibilities. The fish were to be found in the deep, not in the shallow water. So with us; our needs are to be met in the deep things of God.
We are to launch into the deep of God’s word. The Spirit can open up that word to us in such crystal, fathomless depth that the same words we have accepted in times past will swell with an ocean of meaning to them, by which our previous understanding will seem but shallow. Into the deep of atonement, until Christ’s precious blood is so illuminated by the Spirit that it becomes an omnipotent balm, food and far-reaching cure for the soul and body. Into the deep of the Holy Spirit, until He becomes a bright, dazzling, sweet, fathomless summer sea, in which we bathe and bask and breathe, and lose ourselves and our sorrows in the calmness and peace of His everlasting presence. Into the deep of the Father’s will, until we appreciate it in its infinite minuteness and goodness, and its far-sweeping provision and care for us. Into the deep of God’s providences, where we find the most marvelous answers to prayer, the most tender and careful guidance, the most thoughtful anticipation of our needs, the most accurate and supernatural shaping of events. Into the deep of God’s purposes and kingdom, until the Lord’s coming return and the consummation of His present reign are opened up to us; and beyond these the bright entrancing ages on ages unfold themselves, until the mental eye is dazed with light, and the heart flutters with inexpressible anticipations of its joy with Jesus and the glory to be revealed. Into all these things Jesus bids us launch. He made us, and to the fathomless depths of the word of God He has fitted our longings and capabilities.
“Let down your nets.”
Their nets were the instruments for making their living. To us it signifies letting down our gifts, talents, occupations, into the will of God. Whatever we can utilize of money or business, or voice or pen, or thoughts or labor, or influence or leadership, yielding it utterly to the sway of the Spirit—sinking it all in the sea of His will beyond the range of our vision, trusting all results with Him.
“All the night, and… nothing.”
At that very same place they had toiled all night and taken nothing. What failures they had experienced! How weary and discouraged they were! But God loves to take the most forlorn failures and turn them into successes. God loves to work in such a way as to outwit all the wise. By His gentle omnipotence, He takes disappointment, failure, trouble, desolation, and all sorts of losses, and out of them coins the gold of victory and success. Faber sings:
“God’s glory is a wondrous thing,
Most strange in all its ways;
And of all things on earth least like
What men agree to praise.
“For He can endless glory weave
From what men reckon shame;
In His own world He is content
To play a losing game.”1
[Frederick W. Faber; “The Right Must Win,” Jesus and Mary, 1849; alt.]
“At Thy word.”
The pivot on which Peter’s faith swung was the word “nevertheless.” Notwithstanding our failure all night, “at thy word I will let down the net.” This was simple faith embodied in obedience. Obedience is the body in which the soul of faith lives and moves. We are to believe and obey at His word, notwithstanding the awful failures of the past. Right on the spot of past defeat, over the same waters, with the same net, in the same boat, without any visible signs of success, we are to drop ourselves into His will. Simply obey, and leave it with Him, whether we take any fish or not. The more perfectly we see our past failure, the more perfectly can we enter into the meaning of this “nevertheless at thy word.”
“Their net brake.”
“The lame take the prey.” (Isaiah 33:23) The draft of fish was more than they asked or thought; it was larger than the measure of their nets, or the size of their boat, or the thinking of their minds.
This same Jesus stands on our sea of life, waiting for us to yield an utter obedience, and willing to do in us and for us “exceeding abundantly above all that we ask or think.” (Ephesians 3:20)