The Bible informs us that God created the fish of the sea. He created everything and that means every conceivable kind of fish. He created trout, salmon, halibut, cod; He created sharks, octopuses and whales. What God did not create were fishermen—they seem to have developed naturally and somehow a huge number of people love to fish. That is quite a phenomenon and when we see the extent to which people will travel to be able to catch a fish, one wonders if some sort of addiction has occurred.
It is evident that the cost per ounce of fish caught by the average fisherman is far greater than the cost per ounce to buy that same fish in the supermarket. Yet, we call it recreation and even regulations that prevent a person from taking a fish home to cook and eat have not had much of an impact on the number of people who love to fish. Catch and release is the latest regulation for maintaining the fish population and keeping those who love to fish happy.
There is a remarkable connection between God and the art of fishing. He seems to really appreciate and love the sport and those who enjoy it. We live at a time when humans have polluted most of the fresh water rivers and lakes in the world. Given enough time, they would all be polluted. God has foreseen this and made a couple of incredible promises for the future. He promises a river of pure clean water, with “swarms of living things wherever the water of this river flows” (see Ezekiel 47:9-10 Ezekiel 47:9-10 9 And it shall come to pass, that every thing that lives, which moves, wherever the rivers shall come, shall live: and there shall be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters shall come thither: for they shall be healed; and every thing shall live where the river comes.
10 And it shall come to pass, that the fishers shall stand on it from Engedi even to Eneglaim; they shall be a place to spread forth nets; their fish shall be according to their kinds, as the fish of the great sea, exceeding many.
American King James Version×, New Living Translation). Fish will abound in this river and it will not be catch and release.
Knowing Where to Fish
The life of Jesus Christ revolved around fishing in many ways. Many of the disciples God chose were fishermen. Simon, Andrew, James and John are named (Mark 1:16-20 Mark 1:16-20 16 Now as he walked by the sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and Andrew his brother casting a net into the sea: for they were fishers.
17 And Jesus said to them, Come you after me, and I will make you to become fishers of men.
18 And straightway they forsook their nets, and followed him.
19 And when he had gone a little farther there, he saw James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, who also were in the ship mending their nets.
20 And straightway he called them: and they left their father Zebedee in the ship with the hired servants, and went after him.
American King James Version×).
Luke records the story of three of these men fishing, and Jesus watching from the shore of Lake Gennesaret (Lake Galilee). They had quit fishing for the day because there seemed to be no fish. Jesus asked to be taken out into the water a short distance in order to speak to the throngs of people who had gathered. After Jesus finished teaching, he told Simon (later called Peter) to go out into the deep water and let down his nets. Simon admitted they had fished all day and caught nothing, but did as Jesus asked. The nets were soon so full of fish, they almost broke and the fishermen were amazed at how many fish they had caught (Luke 5:1-10 Luke 5:1-10 1 And it came to pass, that, as the people pressed on him to hear the word of God, he stood by the lake of Gennesaret,
2 And saw two ships standing by the lake: but the fishermen were gone out of them, and were washing their nets.
3 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.
4 Now when he had left speaking, he said to Simon, Launch out into the deep, and let down your nets for a draught.
5 And Simon answering said to him, Master, we have toiled all the night, and have taken nothing: nevertheless at your word I will let down the net.
6 And when they had this done, they enclosed a great multitude of fishes: and their net broke.
7 And they beckoned to their partners, which were in the other ship, that they should come and help them. And they came, and filled both the ships, so that they began to sink.
8 When Simon Peter saw it, he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, Depart from me; for I am a sinful man, O Lord.
9 For he was astonished, and all that were with him, at the draught of the fishes which they had taken:
10 And so was also James, and John, the sons of Zebedee, which were partners with Simon. And Jesus said to Simon, Fear not; from now on you shall catch men.
American King James Version×). How would you like an expert like that on board every day?
There is a delightful story about the disciples who returned to the Sea of Galilee (Sea of Tiberius). When those who love to fish get near water, their mind tends to wander—Peter said: “I am going fishing.” They all said, “We are going with you” (John 21:1-3 John 21:1-3 1 After these things Jesus showed himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias; and on this wise showed he himself.
2 There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee, and two other of his disciples.
3 Simon Peter said to them, I go a fishing. They say to him, We also go with you. They went forth, and entered into a ship immediately; and that night they caught nothing.
American King James Version×). This is a typical scene among fellows who have an opportunity to put a line or net in the water.
Once they were out and just offshore, Jesus appeared to them for the third time since His resurrection (John 21:14 John 21:14This is now the third time that Jesus showed himself to his disciples, after that he was risen from the dead.
American King James Version×). Not only did He tell them which side of the boat to fish from—but also by the time they realized who He was, He had already caught some fish and was cooking them for breakfast (John 21:9 John 21:9As soon then as they were come to land, they saw a fire of coals there, and fish laid thereon, and bread.
American King James Version×). There was no catch and release regulation here! It is obvious to anyone who loves fishing that Jesus had not only caught the fish, but had cleaned them and prepared them for cooking. He knew how to cook fish! If I had a friend like that who said, “Wanna go fishing?” I would jump at the chance! There must be some connection or reason for all the emphasis on the sport.
Most people who love to fish realize that success depends on a whole lot of things. First of all, there need to be fish to catch, and then you need the right equipment, license and bait. You also need a lot of patience and practice. Little children seem to be able to catch fish with a safety pin for a hook—but not us grown folks. Even when everything is perfect, you need fish with an appetite. I have sat in a boat and watched schools of fish below us—with nary a bite. All fishermen have tasted failure in that way.
Jesus, though, either knew a lot more about fishing than I do or had an edge of some kind. He knew where the fish would be, when to fish, what sort of hook to use and exactly what the fish would look like. He even knew if the fish was carrying anything. Once, Jesus told his disciples to go to the sea, throw a hook in and bring in the first fish that bites. He then said to open the mouth of the fish where they would find a gold coin with which to pay the tax for Himself and for them (Matthew 17:24-27 Matthew 17:24-27 24 And when they were come to Capernaum, they that received tribute money came to Peter, and said, Does not your master pay tribute?
25 He said, Yes. And when he was come into the house, Jesus prevented him, saying, What think you, Simon? of whom do the kings of the earth take custom or tribute? of their own children, or of strangers?
26 Peter said to him, Of strangers. Jesus said to him, Then are the children free.
27 Notwithstanding, lest we should offend them, go you to the sea, and cast an hook, and take up the fish that first comes up; and when you have opened his mouth, you shall find a piece of money: that take, and give to them for me and you.
American King James Version×). What a fishing partner He would be. Everyone wanted to go fishing with Jesus. He knew fishing!
God created every fish on earth. From the giant 20-ton, 50-foot-long whale shark to the tiniest colorful tropical beauty—they are all His. Many of the stories of the Bible involve fish. One of the most famous is the story of Jonah when God specially prepared a huge fish to transport the rebellious Jonah to the shores of Turkey so he could get to the city of Nineveh (Jonah 1:17 Jonah 1:17Now the LORD had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights.
American King James Version×). Job 41 is a whole chapter devoted to describing a huge Leviathan that no one could catch with a hook. This chapter implies that God can do all of those things—even with this big fish.
There are a number of stories in the Bible in which Jesus used fish or fishing for an example. One touching story is that of the crowd of possibly 10,000 people who Jesus fed with five loaves of bread and two fish (Mark 6:34-44 Mark 6:34-44 34 And Jesus, when he came out, saw much people, and was moved with compassion toward them, because they were as sheep not having a shepherd: and he began to teach them many things.
35 And when the day was now far spent, his disciples came to him, and said, This is a desert place, and now the time is far passed:
36 Send them away, that they may go into the country round about, and into the villages, and buy themselves bread: for they have nothing to eat.
37 He answered and said to them, Give you them to eat. And they say to him, Shall we go and buy two hundred pennyworth of bread, and give them to eat?
38 He said to them, How many loaves have you? go and see. And when they knew, they say, Five, and two fishes.
39 And he commanded them to make all sit down by companies on the green grass.
40 And they sat down in ranks, by hundreds, and by fifties.
41 And when he had taken the five loaves and the two fishes, he looked up to heaven, and blessed, and broke the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before them; and the two fishes divided he among them all.
42 And they did all eat, and were filled.
43 And they took up twelve baskets full of the fragments, and of the fishes.
44 And they that did eat of the loaves were about five thousand men.
American King James Version×, John 6:4-16 John 6:4-16 4 And the passover, a feast of the Jews, was near. 5 When Jesus then lifted up his eyes, and saw a great company come to him, he said to Philip, From where shall we buy bread, that these may eat? 6 And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do. 7 Philip answered him, Two hundred pennyworth of bread is not sufficient for them, that every one of them may take a little. 8 One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, 9 There is a lad here, which has five barley loaves, and two small fishes: but what are they among so many? 10 And Jesus said, Make the men sit down. Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, in number about five thousand. 11 And Jesus took the loaves; and when he had given thanks, he distributed to the disciples, and the disciples to them that were set down; and likewise of the fishes as much as they would. 12 When they were filled, he said to his disciples, Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost. 13 Therefore they gathered them together, and filled twelve baskets with the fragments of the five barley loaves, which remained over and above to them that had eaten. 14 Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world. 15 When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone. 16 And when even was now come, his disciples went down to the sea,
American King James Version×). A little boy had five barley loaves and two fish (little boys seem to catch fish easily). This must have been quite a little boy if he would offer up all the food he had brought for himself. No doubt Jesus was pleased, because He knew exactly what He was about to do (John 6:6 John 6:6And this he said to prove him: for he himself knew what he would do.
American King James Version×).
A lot of lessons were learned. The generosity of a boy, the need of thousands for physical and spiritual food, faith and trust in Christ and the responsibility God gives to His servants. Twelve baskets of food fragments were gathered after the thousands were fed. The lesson was that they were to believe in Him (John 6:29 John 6:29Jesus answered and said to them, This is the work of God, that you believe on him whom he has sent.
American King James Version×).
Now back to real fishing. Since God can command fish to be in a certain place at a certain time, to bite a hook, to carry money and men—it does not seem fair that God can be called a fisherman. A real fisherman does not command fish, but baits his hook carefully, tries to find out where the fish are and what they are feeding on, and hopes the fish are hungry. There is an element of doubt involved. Everything is prepared, but the fish are left to decide for themselves which lure they will take—if any.
When Jesus drew His disciples to Himself, He said: “I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19 Matthew 4:19And he said to them, Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.
American King James Version×). There are qualities that a fisherman has which God seems to want in His servants. God knows fishing. That is displayed in Him making His servants fishers of men. God prepares everything just right. He goes to where there are people, attracts them through miracles or teaching, having created a hunger or appetite in humans—so everything is just right—except that God does not program humans to take the bait. He allows them to choose when and if they will bite. That is real fishing!
Jesus explained this in the story about the marriage supper. Everything was made ready on the part of the host, invitations were sent out, but those invited were allowed to decline (Matthew 22:2-5 Matthew 22:2-5 2 The kingdom of heaven is like to a certain king, which made a marriage for his son,
3 And sent forth his servants to call them that were bidden to the wedding: and they would not come.
4 Again, he sent forth other servants, saying, Tell them which are bidden, Behold, I have prepared my dinner: my oxen and my fatted calves are killed, and all things are ready: come to the marriage.
5 But they made light of it, and went their ways, one to his farm, another to his merchandise:
American King James Version×). Others were then invited, but always allowed to say “yes” or “no.” God has determined not to force humans into conversion. He wants willing followers (Matthew 11:28-30 Matthew 11:28-30 28 Come to me, all you that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke on you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and you shall find rest to your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
American King James Version×) because what He offers is priceless and precious.
God is indeed a great fisherman. Perhaps when we stand on the banks of the river Ezekiel wrote about, Christ will be there—hoping the fish may bite!
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