The older I get the more I know I tend to leak, the more I know I need his frapping.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are-yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:15-16 (NIV)
Mercy and grace. So often I need mercy and grace. Mercy and grace to help right at my time of need – which is really all the time. God’s very throne is a throne of grace. And we can go right up to him as his child that he delights in because of what Jesus did for us on the Cross. And because he has gone through it all before us, and knows what we need, he can empathize with us.
Mercy is compassion: “kindness or good will towards the miserable and the afflicted (and that I am!), joined with a (or plus the) desire to help them.” He has a deep desire, a passion, to help us.
Grace is unmerited favor: “good will, loving-kindness, favor, the merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ (and turns them back to Christ), keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues.”[i]
He helps me, keeps me, strengthens me, keeps turning me back, over and over again, to Jesus. Then there is the word translated “help.” This word contains a breathtaking, and comforting, revelation of God’s compassion and love toward us. The word is boétheia (βοήθεια) and it is only used twice in the New Testament. It means “help, aid, specially, a rope or chain for frapping a vessel.” So then, of course, I had to look up what “frapping a vessel” meant. Elliot’s Commentary of the Bible defines it this way.
“The process described, technically known as ‘frapping,’ consisted in carrying a strong cable several times round the ship from stem to stern, so as to keep the planks from starting (to become loosened or forced out of place), and guard against the consequent leakage. The practice has always been a common one. Thucydides mentions the Corcyreans as having recourse to it. The Russian ships taken in the Tagus in 1808 were kept together in this manner in consequence of their age and unsound condition.” [ii]
Age and unsound condition – I can relate to that! The older I get the more I know I need his frapping. In my storms faith and trust tend to start leaking without his help. Webster’s Dictionary defines frapping a vessel as: “Lashing or binding a thing tightly or binding things together. (Naut.) To draw together; to bind with a view to secure and strengthen, as a vessel by passing cables around it; to tighten; as a tackle by drawing the lines together.” It was the procedure of passing ropes under the ship to hold it together. In a storm the sailors would wrap cables around the ship’s hull and winch them tight. The ship would then be better able to withstand the severe pounding of wind and sea.
Many believe that the book of Hebrews was written by Paul, and if it was, he may have had some firsthand experience with boétheia, or frapping. The only other place this word is used in the Bible is describing the wreck of the ship which was taking Paul to Rome.
When the men had hoisted it [the lifeboat] aboard, they passed ropes (boétheia) under the ship itself to hold it together. Fearing that they would run aground on the sand-bars of Syrtis, they lowered the sea anchor and let the ship be driven along. Acts 27:17 (NIV)
The ship was bound and lashed tightly with ropes to hold it together long enough for them all to be saved. In like manner, Paul writes here in Hebrews that we can come to God, in the midst of our pounding storm,and he will wrap us tightly in the Arms of mercy and grace that will hold us together.
In your time of need, just when you think you are going to be pounded to pieces or smashed on the rocks – go, trusting, fearlessly, to the one who understands what you’re going through, and receive what He has for you. He will not let you fly apart. Or leak.
The eternal God is your refuge, and underneath are the everlasting arms. Deuteronomy 33:27 (NIV)
Image in the Public Domain: Sailing-ships in a storm, by Pieter Jansz van der Croos http://kokoelmat.fng.fi/app?si=S-1998-166
[i] Thayer’s and Smith’s Bible Dictionary (text in parentheses is mine)