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By David Bachelor, PhD
Pastor, Pearsall 1st Methodist Church
If you had a sinking feeling on Friday, it may have been because the headlines were full of stories about surface ships that accidentally became submarines.
Canadian news website Globalnews.ca had the story, “Halifax Group Remembers Titanic Victims 110 Years After Ship’s Sinking.” Friday was the anniversary of the Titanic disaster. Halifax played a major role in the rescue of Titanic’s survivors and the recovery of the bodies of those who perished. In Cincinnati, WKRC Local 12 News Station also had a story on the anniversary of the sinking. Local 12 noted the pretension of the Titanic, “Nicknamed the ‘Millionaire’s Special’ the ship was captained by Edward J Smith, who was known as the ‘Millionaire’s Captain’ because of his popularity with wealthy passengers.” As a conveyance for the privileged, the Titanic was “hailed as a wonder of luxury, power and style.” For over a century this opulence has been moored to the ocean floor.
On Friday NPR had the headline, “A Russian Warship In The Black Sea Was Sunk By Ukrainian Missiles, U.S. Official Says.” It is too soon to tell how long the Moskva will be residing on the seabed. While not luxurious like the Titanic, NPR notes, “Experts say the loss of the Moskva — the flagship of Russia’s Black Sea Fleet — is significant both symbolically and militarily.” Israel’s Haaretz states, “Moskva, with its batteries of air defense missiles, provided an umbrella for the rest of the Black Sea Fleet’s operations. Without it, the other warships will find it much harder to operate near Ukraine’s coastline.” NPR quoted a retired American admiral who said, “The flagship of any navy is ‘the biggest and the best and the brightest’.” Ukraine had nothing afloat that could match the Moskva.
Hubris and the sea had a tumultuous relationship in Bible times too. Judah’s King Jehoshaphat discovered this antipathy the hard way. The source of King Jehoshaphat’s pride was military superiority, material wealth and Jehoshaphat’s favor with God. During Jehoshaphat’s reign, Judah was invaded by two massive armies. God told King Jehoshaphat to march out with his troops, but God would do all the fighting (2 Chron 20:15-17). After the enemy armies were destroyed there was so much plunder that it took Jehoshaphat’s army three days to haul away the booty (2 Chron 20:25). After this victory, all the surrounding nations were afraid to tangle with Judah. Despite having all the plunder and having no reason to keep his military on campaign, King Jehoshaphat decided to build a fleet of ten ships to get foreign treasure (1 Kings 22:48). God did not like Jehoshaphat’s naval ambitions (and some of the military alliances Jehoshaphat made) so God destroyed these brand-new ships (2 Chron 20:37). Like the Titanic, these vessels never finished their maiden voyage.
The word “unsinkable” was often applied to the Titanic before April 15th, 1912. This term was never applied to the Moskva, but it was operating on the Black Sea as if it were impervious to Ukrainian weapons. The U.S. Navy has learned not to place too much confidence in any seafaring vessel, even the super-carriers. It is for this reason the Navy hymn, Eternal Father Strong to Save, has the verse, “O hear us when we cry to thee for those in peril on the sea!”