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The Mystery of the Greenland Shark

How does the slowest shark in the world catch its food? Living in frigid, near-freezing waters, the Greenland shark swims at less than 1 mile an hour. It takes seven seconds for one full sweep of its tail to propel it forward.

Researchers, however, have found remains of seals in the sharks’ stomachs. Those findings have marine biologists wondering how one of the slowest fish in the sea can catch a fast-swimming seal.

In the past, some have suggested that the Greenland shark is actually a scavenger that eats the remains of dead animals. But recent findings indicate that the sharks are taking live seals.

Two theories have been suggested. One is that slow-moving sharks sneak up on seals that are sleeping in the water in frigid regions to avoid polar bears. Another theory is that the shark uses a powerful sucking action to pull in an unsuspecting seal that swims too close.

In an attempt to get answers, scientists are planning to use underwater cameras in hopes of catching “the slowest chase on record.”

While researchers look for answers, maybe the Greenland shark can help us think through a similar question.

If it seems like a slow-moving shark should be no threat to a fast-moving seal, doesn’t it also seem like a defeated predator like the devil should be no threat to those who, according to the Bible, are more than conquerors in Christ (Romans 8:37)? Doesn’t the apostle Paul also ask with rhetorical confidence, “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31 NKJV). In another letter, the apostle John declares, “Greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world” (1 John 4:4 KJV). Then there’s the apostle James who assures us that if we resist the devil he will run from us (James 4:7).

Yet, in spite of all these assurances, the Bible still warns us about the devil. It sounds like a wake-up call. But what is at stake when the apostle Peter urges his readers to remain awake, watchful, and vigilant to avoid what he calls being devoured by the devil (1 Peter 5:8)? Let’s take a closer look.

Peter’s warning may recall the night that he, James, and John fell asleep in the garden of Gethsemane even though Jesus repeatedly warned them that this was a time to pray and not to sleep.

This wasn’t their only wake-up call. Earlier that night at the Last Supper, Jesus had told His disciples that something terrible was about to happen, and that one of them would betray Him. At first, the disciples wondered among themselves who He was referring to. But that question apparently led to arguing about which of them would be greatest in the kingdom of God (Luke 22:14-30).

Peter seemed to consider himself in the running. Even after being warned by Jesus that Satan was stalking him, Peter assured his Lord that he was ready to go to prison or death for Him.

Looking back, it’s apparent that Peter was dreaming. His words of self-confidence were like the sound of a sleeping man snoring.

Within hours, all of the disciples had abandoned Jesus. While the others merely hid in fear, Peter, the boldest of them all, panicked when recognized by a servant girl of the high priest. Ambushed by his own fear and weakness of faith, he repeatedly denied that he ever knew the teacher from Nazareth (Luke 22:54-62).

Such memories must have lingered in Peter’s mind as he later wrote his letter urging followers of Christ to be clear-minded, wakeful, and vigilant in light of a real spiritual enemy. He’d learned the hard way that by the daydreams of self-assurance (Luke 22:33) or by the nightmares of sheer terror (Luke 22:54-62), we can be distracted from clear-minded trust in our God.

Peter also had seen all too clearly that even if our ultimate rescue is assured, and even if, in the end, He who is for us is greater than he who is against us, the devil can temporarily devour our sense of well-being in Christ (1 Peter 5:8-9).

Looking back, it seems apparent that God let Satan shake down Peter to wake him up—not only for his sake, but for ours (Luke 22:31).

In the providence of God, we can now learn from Peter’s loss. Through his stumbles we can be reminded that our greatest danger is not a devil we cannot see. Our biggest problem is that self-confidence, distraction, and prayerlessness shows our lack of spiritual consciousness.

That’s apparently why Peter goes on to urge his readers to watch out for one another in ways that show that they are acutely aware of how much God cares for all of us (1 Peter 5:1-8).

The result goes far beyond whether we become like sleeping seals to a Greenland shark. According to Peter, the humility and alertness we need to resist our enemy bring us to God and make us good for one another (1 Peter 5:1-10).

Father in heaven, thank You for using even our spiritual enemy to help us see how much we need You. Slowly it’s dawning on us that the tactics of our predator can be heard as Your wake-up call. —Mart DeHaan

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26 Responses to “The Mystery of the Greenland Shark”

  1. remarutho says:

    Good Morning Mart & Friends,

    Peter knew too well the galvanizing chill of fear that suddenly caused him to forget his first love there in the courtyard of the high priest’s house. Three times he denied the Lord he had so passionately sworn to follow, before his amnesia melted away and, meeting Jesus’ eyes, “Peter remembered the word of the Lord, how he had told him, ‘Before a cock crows today, you will deny me three times.’” (Luke 22:61)

    Peter afterward urgently reminds the churches in his letters, “The end of all things is at hand; therefore; be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer. Above all, keep fervent in your love for one another, because love covers a multitude of sins.” (1 Peter 4:7-8)

    Mart, you wrote:
    “Then there’s the apostle James who assures us that if we resist the devil he will run from us (James 4:7).”

    It seems to me James, along with Peter, urges each of us to cling closely to Jesus. James offers a proverb in the context of God’s abundant grace: “God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6) It seems to me we are not effective resisting the devil without radical submission to God. We must draw near to God in Christ, and seek his grace, the only powerful force that protects us.

    Can it be the all-too-human desire to wield power ourselves – even spiritual power – causes us to step out carelessly, arrogantly, maybe even recklessly to confront evil? Our humility has fallen asleep in that case. Our pride is wide awake and is blind to the danger. It is the proud who are devoured. The proud are fair game for Satan.


  • SFDBWV says:

    I too read the *discovery* surrounding the Greenland Shark some time back. It is an interesting story because it flies in the face of everything the experts thought they knew about sharks.

    The idea that a predator slowly creeps toward its prey all the while the prey thinking it can get away only to caught and eaten by it reminds me of two stories.

    The first is the fable of the tortoise and the hare; of course that story isn’t about being eaten, but is about misplaced confidence.

    The second is about death…Who among us can out run the *reaper*?

    While we explored earlier the fact that the Bible is a tell all account of its characters it stands to reason then that we are only able to accurately learn from them because of the honesty in how they are presented.

    Behind every self proclaimed tough guy is a coward whom is overcome by aggressive behavior.

    Peter is recorded as being both bold and cowardly.

    I hesitate to go into the abilities or lack thereof concerning *the devil* at this time, but lets suppose that the devil knew that hidden under the tough exterior of Peter lay a coward.

    And then let’s suppose it was his desire to use that cowardess to destroy Peter’s self confidence.

    Interesting that it is recorded that Satan ask permission to *sift* Peter. Also interesting it is recorded that he goes about seeking whom he might devour; it seems Satan is on a leash.

    Very interesting is that God used Satan in order to *heal* Peter of misplaced *self* confidence.

    We all have a weakness, or *that* secret sin, how the devil knows about it I am not positive about, but when the enemy knows your weakness he will attack from that vantage point.

    “Praise the Lord and the devil will flee from you”.

    But how do you flee from yourself?

    Peter changed once he was forced to confront his fears; James also had to confront his own personal demons in order to mature into the mature Christian.

    We can expect no less if we are to expect to grow into mature Christians ourselves.

    Our Bible once again shows us the way and shows us that through our weakness we can become stronger and are not condemned for it, and finally able to be used of God for His purposes.