As a parent I’m always watching for the moment when I need to step into my child’s life to give them a defense for the Bible. I often catch myself in the mindset of waiting for the ‘big day’ when a peer or teacher questions my child’s faith, something I experienced in university. Occasionally, I probe my kids after school to see if they’ve had a key conversation with a friend or a teacher. These conversations usually begin with, “So what did you learn today, did your teacher/friends say anything interesting?” But most of the time the answer I get is, “I learned about fractions,” or “the Smiths got a new hamster!”
Recently I found myself reflecting on the life of Matthew Maury (1806-1873). He is the father of modern oceanography and meteorology, recognized for having scientific insight and intuition years ahead of his contemporaries. There is a monument in the state of Virginia dedicated to Maury and his contributions as an American naval officer and oceanographer.
The plaque mounted on the monument reads:
“Matthew Fontaine Maury, Pathfinder of the Seas, the genius who first snatched from the oceans and atmosphere the secret of their laws. His inspiration, Holy Writ, Psalm 8:8; Ecclesiastes 1:6.”
I find Matthew Maury’s example of faith extraordinary. More accurately, it isn’t entirely Maury’s story that most interests me but, more specifically, his father’s influence on his life.
Every morning and every evening Maury’s father read a Psalm to his children. He did it in such a way that young Matthew could provide an accurate citation upon being given chapter and verse in the Psalms even later in his life. Is it any wonder that when Matthew read Psalm 8:8, “whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas,” he took it at face value and then looked for it in the physical world and discovered that the oceans have subsurface currents and regular circulation patterns?
A single verse, illuminated by the Holy Spirit, led to a textbook worth of scientific data! This was a revolutionary idea in Maury’s day and his findings continue to impact the scientific world today.
Interestingly, he took the same approach with Ecclesiastes 1:6: “The wind blows to the south and turns to the north; round and round it goes, ever returning on its course.”
By applying this verse to his study of the physical world Maury was credited with the discovery of atmospheric circulation! I am always fascinated to discover that a single verse in the Bible is evidenced by an encyclopedia worth of data in the physical world. This is equally true for the spiritual truths found in the Bible!
As a parent, the thing that is most important to me is that my four children each walk out the calling God has for them. A significant part of that calling is for them to apply the Word of God to their lives.
I am so encouraged by the example of how a godly man applied two short verses and then brought about revolutions in the fields of oceanography and meteorology. The world saw this as the product of ‘genius’ in a man, but rather it is a product of a man applying less than one percent of the Bible!
Little does the secular world know what could happen when you apply the entire Word of God to your life! Have we as Christians even begun to appreciate this truth?
The example of Maury’s life and his father’s impact on him has encouraged me not just to be focused on shoring up the defenses in my children’s lives, but to be purposeful in passing on a love for the Word of God and by doing that, I know they will change the world around them. At the end of the day Maury did not make any extraordinary claims; the Bible did. Maury just reaped the rewards of faithfully holding the Word of God as truth.