One summer, when the boys were young, we had one day left on our beach vacation. So, we used that day to give the boys a final opportunity to enjoy the ocean and pool. This had been the first year ever that Royce, our youngest, had enjoyed splashing around in the ocean more than splashing around in the pool. He had even used some of his own money to buy himself a boogie board in order to ride the waves properly.
Well, for a good while at the ocean that day, everything hummed along delightfully just as the week’s previous days had done. The boys played in the waves while Tonya and I laid on the beach. Then I joined the boys in the water, and Tonya waded in a few minutes later. So there we were, all four Mckinneys splashing around in the ocean, enjoying every minute of it.
But then suddenly, out of nowhere, I felt a brief but intense sting on my arm. It didn’t take me long to figure out that a jellyfish had stung me. The pain wasn’t enough to cause me to scream and head for the shore, but it did hurt, about like a bee-sting. Since I had no clue what to do and didn’t want to create a scene from the movie “Jaws,” causing hundreds to abandon the water, I decided to stay in the water and let the salt water disinfect the sting. I found out later that my plan was a good one. The worst thing you can do for a jellyfish sting is pour fresh water on it. That causes the toxins (or whatever they are) to spread.
After a few minutes, some small whelks raised up on my arm and I began to feel a slight tingling in my fingers. I thought, “If things get any worse, I’m going to have to get some medical attention.” Thankfully, though, that was the worst of it and before long my arm was virtually back to normal except for the small whelks. Okay, event over, right? Nope, not so fast.
About twenty minutes after I got stung, Royce rode an exceptionally large wave all the way into the shallows. But before he even fully emerged from the water, we heard him scream. And he kept screaming as he hurled himself out of the water, ran to our beach blankets, and buried himself in one of them. Honestly, Tonya and I would have feared that he had been bitten by a shark if not for the fact that I had been stung by a jellyfish just a few minutes earlier. That gave us a pretty good idea what had happened.
As it turned out, Royce’s sting was much worse than mine. It was as if a jellyfish had wrapped itself around his leg and kept stinging. He had big marks on the inside and outside of his leg and they were already becoming whelks. It was no wonder the poor little fellow had gotten out of that water so fast. I wouldn’t have hung around in there either!
As Tonya raced to comfort Royce, I made my way to our lifeguard and reported the two stings. The lifeguard immediately grabbed a spray bottle of vinegar and sprayed down my arm. Then she went over to Royce and did the same for his wounds. By that time, he was beginning to calm down somewhat, but he didn’t want any more to do with the ocean for that day. Consequently, we gathered up our things and headed for the pool.
Now, here’s the thing that you ought to know about those two jellyfish stings. All week long, as we had ridden those ocean waves, a warning sign had been posted just next to the lifeguard’s chair along the shoreline. What did that sign warn about? Jellyfish! You see, Royce and I, along with dozens and dozens of others, had been swimming at our own risk all week because jellyfish had been reported in the area and the warning sign was in place.
Accordingly, the spiritual application to this story is simple: God’s word, the Bible, is like that warning sign, and when your actions go against it, don’t be surprised when you get stung. Sure, you might swim around for a while and get along fine. You might even have some fun and enjoy the fleeting pleasures of sin. Ultimately, though, God will not be mocked and His word will not be ignored without consequence. Jellyfish stings hurt, but those stings are nothing compared to the hurt that we bring upon ourselves by sin. And just as Royce and I could offer no legitimate objection to us getting stung, neither can the sinner who has been warned by God’s word and blatantly ignored it.