Thought For The Month
Britain has many miles of coastline being an island with many isles around its shores. Some have said "the sea is in our blood." There are 3m recreational anglers in the U.K. and recreational angling is worth £1.4 billion to the UK economy. I even recall going mackerel fishing at sea in the past, coming back with some freshly caught fish and smelling of sea‑salt.
Fishing has been reported about more and more in recent years since the time of the Brexit vote. Knowledge of the percentage British fishermen are able to catch in UK waters compared to the previous arrangement by the E.U. has increased. Whose fish are whose? Do they spawn in one area and grow in another? We are more informed on the type of fish that is more popular in Britain from Continental Europe and the difficulties of exporting fresh and frozen shellfish.
Fish were first known to the Jews while they were in Egypt. Later on they abounded in the sea of Galilee and in the river Jordan and those rivers that flow into the Mediterranean. They were a valuable source of protein and full of nutrition hence it was no surprise they were used in the feeding of the five and four thousand.
Fishers of men (Matt 4:18‑22; Mark.1:16‑20)
Jesus’ first disciples were fishermen. Firstly Simon Peter and his brother Andrew when Jesus uttered those well‑remembered words "I will make you fishers of men." Then he met James and John, the sons of Zebedee and also invited them to follow him. Luke’s account (5:2‑11) expands on these accounts and records that they had been fishing all night without success till Jesus tells them to cast their nets once more and they catch a load so heavy the nets ought to have broken. What a miracle! No wonder they left at once. These were not the only disciples who were fishermen. John in the last chapter of his gospel records a time when they were fishing with Thomas and Nathanael, which means at least seven disciples who were fishermen.
Figure of fish as people
Habakkuk (1:14) likened the Israelites to fish. The prophecy given to him shows the nation being caught like fish in the net or on the end of a fishing line and being taken into captivity in Babylon. Fish in a net seem powerless and easy prey for a superior opponent. Hence the 70 years in captivity in Babylon before the return following the decree by Cyrus and the return at different times with Zerubbabel, Ezra, and Nehemiah.
"‘Behold, I will send for many fishermen,’ says the LORD, ‘and they shall fish them; and afterward I will send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them from every mountain and every hill, and out of the holes of the rocks.’" (Jeremiah 16:16 NKJV)
Jeremiah spoke at a similar time to Habakkuk. His lamentations were a sad and sorry prophecy for Judah. Yet there was hope with his message. In his account fishermen and hunters would bring back Israel and Judah to the land of promise. This has been in progress since the days of Benjamin Disraeli and Charles Russell when Zionists worked to encourage emigrants from all over the world to what was called Palestine, now Israel, which was formed with the help from other democratic countries in 1948. These were the fishers; the hunters were those who persecuted the Jews in the lands where they had been scattered and caused them to run to safety before and after the holocaust.
Having looked at the start of Jesus’ ministry on earth with the selection of disciples that would be fishers of men rather than fish, we can see at the end of his ministry on earth after his resurrection, when we find Jesus and fishermen disciples on the sea of Galilee. (John 21:1‑11) Once again at night they caught nothing. Then Jesus tells them to cast the net over the righthand side of the boat and the net was heavy with fishes—to be precise 153 fish. Numerically an odd number. One would expect 12.144 or 144,000 as symbolic of the bride of Christ. But the number is significant as it forms the shape of a triangle very much like a pyramid suggestive of a time when all are in harmony with the head at different levels.
The parable of the dragnet was used to convey a message to the listeners who would be familiar with catching fish. Also there was the incident of Peter finding coins in the mouth of a fish to show God’s provision for us. Fish can relate to the fall of a nation and its economy. Isa.19 declared the fall of Egypt and its economy, which was so dependent upon the Nile and seasonal floods, causing the failure of the crops and fishing showing how these would collapse reducing that nation’s power and strength.
Fish in Millennium or Messianic age
The final chapters of Ezekiel detail a Temple that has not been built even now. It looks forward to the future. It talks of waters, a river, trees, fish, and fruit. Chapter 47 of Ezekiel begins with water flowing East from beneath the Temple door. This stream gets deeper until it’s too deep to walk in and you would be able to swim in it. Trees grow on the riverbank, aided by the moisture there. It flows to the Jordan valley and descends to what we call the Dead Sea sufficiently enough to turn it fresh and pure so that fish can live there like the great sea that we now call the Mediterranean. Like that sea it supports sufficient numbers of fish that fishermen can work with nets and the nearby trees are fruitful too. The language is reminiscent of the first verses of the last chapter of the Bible. It’s a picture of life and hope which is surely the heart of the Christian message.