On May 26, 2013 at 4:30 AM the Jascon 4, one of three tugboats towing an oil freighter off the coast of Nigeria, started to sink. Harrison Okene, the tugboat's 29-year-old cook, immediately knew something was wrong. As the vessel descended 100 feet to the floor of the Atlantic Ocean pitched upside down, Okene was tossed to-and-fro in his small quarters. He groped his way in the pitch darkness through the icy waters, finally finding a cabin with a four-foot air pocket. He made a make-shift platform and stacked two mattresses together in his attempt to escape the rising water.
Dressed only in his boxer shorts, Okene sat on the mattresses and waited for help. But the thought of being rescued seemed remote. So Okene, a follower of Jesus, started to pray the Psalms: “Oh, God, by your name, save me,” and “The Lord sustains my life.” Okene told reporters, “I started calling on the name of God . . . reminiscing on the verses I read before I slept. I read the Bible from Psalms 54 to 92. My wife had sent me the verses to read that night when she called me before I went to bed.”
Harrison Okene discovered
Two-and-a-half days later, Okene was certain the rest of the eleven-man crew had drowned and that he would also drown. Then he heard the sound of rescuers and started banging on the steel walls of his cabin with a hammer. The Dutch divers who found him couldn't believe their eyes. As they reached out for a hand of a man they assumed was dead, the hand grabbed theirs.
To this day, Okene believes his rescue after 72 hours underwater was the result of divine deliverance. He told a Nigerian newspaper, “The rest of my life is not enough to thank God for this wonder. It is incredible.”
I read that story not long after studying the book of Jonah and I saw immediate parallels. As many of you know, Jonah is the story of a prodigal prophet. In chapter one he runs from God, but in chapter two he runs into God, “And the Lord appointed a great fish to swallow up Jonah. And Jonah was in the belly of the fish three days and three nights” (1:17).
The belly of a fish is not a great place to live, but it is a great place to learn. Sloshing around in the gastric juices, saltwater and seaweed, Jonah received Divine discipline in the darkness.
For 72 hours, Jonah was allowed to reap what he had sowed. The fish was not only God’s prison and God’s passage for his prophet, but it was also his prayer closet. In chapter two, Jonah learned how to pray while in a whale of a mess. “Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the belly of the fish, saying, “I called out to the Lord, out of my distress, and he answered me; out of the belly of Sheol I cried and you heard my voice” (2:1-2).
As you examine the rest of his prayer, you’ll quickly notice that Jonah quotes copiously from the Psalms. He was saturated in the Scriptures and alludes to ten Psalms in his distress. Which speaks to us of the value of hiding God’s Word in our hearts.
Two castaways—Jonah and Harrison Okene, survived their darkest moments by leaning on God’s Word. What about you? Do you have any of God’s Word stored up in your heart for such a desperate time? Chances are when and if a moment like that arises you won’t have time to access a Bible. Calamity seldom gives a heads up before it strikes. The best time to prepare for hard times is now and the best way is store up God’s Word so we will have something sturdy to hold on to when everything is topsy-turvy. -DM
 Liz Klimas, “Watch the Incredible Moment Divers Inspecting Capsized Ship Find a Man Alive After Nearly 3 Days,” The Blaze, 2 December 2013 <http://www.theblaze.com/news/2013/12/02/watch-the-incredible-moment-divers-inspecting-capsized-ship-find-man-alive-after-nearly-3-days/>