Summary: A message about the grace of giving
The Two Seas
Text: Proverbs 11:24-25
There were two seas that dominated the
land of Jesus,
the land where he was born and grew up,
the land in which he lived and ministered,
the land which some today call Israel,
and others call Palestine.
One of these two great bodies of water,
filled with fresh water,
fed by the headwaters of the Jordan River at Caesarea Philippi, was the center
of much of Jesus’ activity during his ministry.
It was a scene of sometimes tranquil,
sometimes fierce beauty;
for the length of its almost thirteen miles,
fish abound in its waters,
both in numbers and in kinds.
As a result, from before the time of Christ to the present day,
the boats of fishermen have dotted its surface and shoreline,
spawning cities, like Capernaum and Bethsaida,
that were haven and home to Jesus and his closest disciples.
It is encircled by pebbled shores and rolling green slopes;
trees huddle along its shores and sink their roots deep into the refreshment at water’s edge;
the surrounding countryside is a patchwork of teeming cities and valuable farmland.
At the southern tip of this sea,
the Jordan River,
having passed through the Sea of Galilee,
continues its southernly trek
through the land in which Jesus lived.
Seventy miles south, after winding like a snake through the countryside, the Jordan empties into the other sea.
This second sea Jesus knew boasted none of the characteristics of its northern counterpart.
It receives an average of six million tons of water every day from the Jordan River,
water that has collected mineral substances from the soil of the area,
substances such as
the chlorides of sodium, magnesium, and calcium.
There these substances abide, for, unlike the Sea of Galilee to the north, this sea has no outlet.
As a result, the water there is about four times as salty as the ocean;
so much so, in fact, that eggs will float on its surface.
A swimmer entering this sea will find himself buoyed as though he were wearing an inner tube, and upon coming ashore will find a greasy deposit of minerals on his skin, which is liable to irritate, and which will torture any scratch or inflammation.
The water is likewise bitter to the taste, undrinkable.
In this southern sea can be found barely a trace of life:
not even shellfish or coral are found beneath its surface;
The landscape all around is unoccupied, except by the hardiest of creatures.
It is desert:
dry, rocky, wilderness.
The dry, burnt look of the shoreline,
the sometimes overpowering heat of the region,
the lingering stench of sulfur,
the apparent lack of life in and around the sea
all combine to make its name—
“The Dead Sea”—
a fitting description.
I mention these two seas as a parable this morning:
one is a scene of beauty,
a center of commerce,
whose shores and depths teem with life;
the other is quite the opposite;
its shores are barren,
the atmosphere is harsh,
and its bitter waters cannot sustain life nor quench thirst.
The difference . . . is in the giving.
You see, the Dead Sea receives fresh water daily from the Jordan River, but keeps it all to itself. . . .
All the rich minerals and sediment of the Jordan Valley that course into the Dead Sea halt their flow within its boundaries. It hoards what it gets, and gives none of its riches to the wilderness of Zin, Paran, and Edom to the south.
The Sea of Galilee, however, sparkles with freshness because it not only receives the water that flows down from the northern mountains; it also gives itself to the winding Jordan River as it flows to the south.
I’ve been asked to speak this morning on the subject, “Why I Give Regularly”. . . .
That is, why do I take the first ten to fifteen percent out of my family’s budget,
and give it to my church;
and then, above and beyond that,
why do I also give to missionaries, parachurch groups, crisis pregnancy centers, charities, and so on and so forth?
I could say, “Because God’s Word commands me to.” God commanded the Israelites,
A tithe of everything from the land, whether grain from the soil or fruit from the trees, belongs to the LORD; it is holy to the LORD. (Lev. 27:30).
And Paul told the Corinthian believers,
On the first day of every week, each one of you should set aside a sum of money in keeping with his income [for believers in need elsewhere in the world] (1 Cor. 16:2).
I could ALSO say, “I give because I love the Lord.” In its purest form, my giving is just the response of a grateful heart to God. Like the psalmist sang,