AN UNCOMMON FISH TALE

Trust in the LORD with all your heart And do not lean on your own understanding. 6In all your ways acknowledge Him, And He will make your paths straight.…”Proverbs 3:5

“Commit your way to the Lord . Trust also in Him and He will bring it to pass.” Psalms 37:5

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There are several “fish stories” in the bible. The fish became a Christian symbol in the early church. Jesus did a miracle with the loaves and fishes. There is the story of Jonah and the whale. Jesus preached by the Sea of Galilee. He knew fishing and fishermen well.

However, there is one fish tale that has stuck with me for a long time. It has puzzled me and I know it has puzzled many others. It is the fish tale from Matthew 17.

In Matthew 17 Jesus is speaking to the disciples as they were asking why they could not cast out a particular demon spirit from a child. He was speaking to them about their lack of faith. He made it clear to them that all they needed was faith even as small as a mustard seed and they could move mountains!

They failed to understand His strategy in delivering the child and He told them “this kind goes out only through fasting and prayer.” (Matt. 17:21)

The disciples were forever learning about faith, about the importance of it and they, in their human understanding, never knew quite how Jesus was going to do a thing. Sometimes He laid hands on a person to heal them and bring miraculous deliverance. Sometimes He spoke only a word. Now they are told this particular deliverance comes only by fasting and prayer.

Very soon after this teaching about fasting and prayer there came the uncommon fish tale.

Matthew 17:24-27 speaks of a time when Jesus was staying with Peter in his house in Capernaum where Jesus had come. Certain men had come to Peter there at his house and asked Peter if his Teacher paid the temple tax. This was something that was collected from people who lived in the city in order to provide for the Jewish temple needs. This tax was collected from Israelites and Levites for upkeep of the temple.

Notice they did not confront Jesus Himself but went to Peter and inquired of him.

When Peter went to tell Jesus about the inquiry, it says that “Jesus “anticipated” him. He already knew what was going on and why the men were there. Jesus knew His identity in God, that He Himself was the Son of God. He spoke to Peter and said the “sons are free.”

However, He said “lest we offend them go to the sea and cast in a hook take the fish that comes up first. When you have opened its mouth you will find a piece of money; take that and give it to them for Me and for you.”

This “money” was no casual amount. It was the exact amount of money that they needed to pay the temple taxes for two people, Peter and Jesus. The temple tax was a half shekel each and the amount of cash in the mouth of the fish was exactly a whole shekel which covered two people’s payment!

We can look at this and wonder, if God placed that shekel in that fish’s mouth, why did He not simply give it to Peter as He could just as well have placed the shekel in Peter’s hand instead of the fish’s mouth!

But God didn’t do it that way.

I am struck once again by the fact that we can never outguess God. How God will proceed to bring something to pass is not given always for us to know. It is often hidden from our understanding.

It would have seemed so easy for God to have simply caused Jesus to come up with a shekel and share it with Peter. After all, He was the One who multiplied the loaves and fishes!

But then again….I recall the times Jesus asked Peter , “Who do you say that I am Peter?” He also asked Peter “Do you love Me Peter?”  (Matthew 21 and Matthew 16)  Jesus said He never did anything He did not see the Father do.

Could it be possible that Jesus simply was aware, in His Omniscience, that there was a fish in the water that had a coin stuck in his mouth! The Word of God says that “even the hairs of our head are numbered” and we realize God knows everything because He is All Knowing.  I have read of numerous items found inside of fish that had been lost in the sea…one even being an ancient manuscript!

Jesus could simply have caused the fish with the coin stuck in his mouth to swim to shore and get caught. This would have provided relief in two ways: To Peter who needed the money for the temple tax but also to the fish who was probably relieved in getting this coin out of his mouth! Many times God will move on a situation that will affect more than simply one area of need.

As I meditated and prayed about this passage I strongly felt that Jesus was giving Peter a direction to follow and this was possibly a test of Peter’s faith in following through with the instructions given.  Can you imagine how it might seem for a spiritual leader in those days to tell a follower to go fishing and find cash in a fish? It must have seemed strange indeed to Peter. I believe Peter had many questions as he walked to the water with his fishing gear.

God was looking for those who would “become as little children” and believe Him no matter what! God had been pouring out messages about faith and even mustard seeds. Would Peter go for it with the faith of a child trusting a Father? God was looking for trust and commitment to obedience.

It can sometimes seem to us that we are doing everything we possibly can to help God along in answering our prayers! But truly what God desires is our “letting go” and giving it completely to Him. He wants to bring some things to pass HIS WAY….and He desires for us to FOLLOW.

It may seem strange; the path to fulfillment may not be paved or easy to walk. The Word says the “way is narrow.”

We may have to leave the shallow waters of doubt and fear to find the deeper waters where the hidden treasures are found. We may have to leave something behind. We may have to stand in faith believing when others think we are crazy.

The great thing about this uncommon fish tale is that the debt got paid.

It was not in the common way of natural understanding, but the debt got paid and no one was offended.

We cannot say within ourselves “This does not line up with logic or the way I would understand it. “…What we can say is “Have Your Way, God. If you want me to go catch a fish to get my prayers answered, I will go. I will submit to doing it Your Way however it is that You lead me! I want to Know You.”

There are many places to minister other than a pulpit. There are many ways in which God answers prayer. There are many revelations yet to find out!

We serve an Uncommon God! We serve a God who is full of hidden treasures, nuggets of gold in wisdom untold!

God gave Peter an uncommon fish tale.

I believe that, as we serve Him, and lean not to our own understanding, He will also give us uncommon stories of His Grace to share with others!

 

“It is the glory of God to conceal a matter but it is the glory of kings to search out a matter.” Prov. 25:2

 

Sondra Stallman

Sounds of Heaven Ministries

 

 

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