Lessons from a Shrimp
You shall not follow a crowd to do evil… (Exodus 23:2)
What can this text and title possibly have in common? Recently, I read some interesting facts about shrimp and crowds that in God’s infinite wisdom forever link these two topics.
According to marine findings, “the lowly shrimp has an interesting way of changing clothes six or eight times a year through a process called molting. By scraping around on the rocks, the shrimp begins to shred and loosen the older outer layer which then reveals the new covering underneath. At each molting, another interesting phenomenon occurs. In response to some primitive instinct, every shrimp deliberately places a grain of sand in a special place in its head. At every molting cycle the grain of sand is discarded along with the old skin, and a new grain of sand is put carefully in place. These grains of sand are absolutely necessary for their survival. Without them the shrimp would be constantly confused and disoriented. In the wake of surging tides and currents they are tumbled over and over and upside down. It is only by feeling the slight tug of gravity on the rock in their head that they can recognize whether they are upside down or right side up.
Because of the unique function of those rocks, they have been named “status stones” or “stones of standing”. In the 1800’s an Austrian marine biologist named Kreidl conducted an experiment on several shrimp, which had been placed in a large aquarium. In the bottom of the aquarium the scientist placed steel filings instead of sand. When molting time came, each one of the shrimp picked up a piece of steel, instead of a rock, and placed it in its head. Then the biologist brought a powerful magnet and placed it over the top of the aquarium. Immediately all the shrimp flipped upside down and began to swim around in an inverted position. The pull of the magnet on the steel sliver was stronger than the tug of gravity and they believed that up was down and down was up. To make the experiment more dramatic the scientist then brought a shrimp from the ocean and placed it in the aquarium. Naturally this newcomer on the scene was paddling around in the proper upright position”.
Whether they believed it or not, the shrimp involved in that experiment were not swimming correctly. The foreign object they had placed in their head coupled with the outside influence of the magnet had distorted their reality so that they thought right was wrong and wrong was right. It was only the single, shrimp who had a true ‘stone’ in its head that was not affected by the ‘magnet’. It had maintained its equilibrium in the midst of the intense pressure of a ‘crowd’ swimming the wrong way.
Every born again child of God is like that single shrimp tossed into an ‘aquarium’ that is full of people ‘swimming’ the wrong way. We live in the midst of a wicked and perverse generation where outside influences are consistently trying to redefine what is right and wrong. There is a persistent ‘magnetic’ pull by the devil and his hordes whose entire agenda is to get you and me to conform to the crowd and yield to temptation. However, in His amazing grace God has not only given us His Son as a sure and tried ‘Status Stone’, He has also given us His Word. If that were not enough, the Lord has also sent His Holy Spirit to “lead us into all truth” as well as to comfort us during those times when it seems as though we are ‘swimming’ alone.
One of the clearest themes found in the Bible is the reality that in order to stand for truth we will often have to stand alone. In fact, throughout the Scriptures, whenever a large crowd was involved in a decision, inevitably the majority was wrong and the minority was right. For example, because of obedience, Noah and his seven family members were saved while the rest of the world perished in the flood. And although over two million people left the bondage of Egypt, it was only two men, Joshua and Caleb that supported the truth against the crowd and entered God’s Promised Land. During Babylonian captivity, it was only three Hebrew men that refused to bow down to Nebuchadnezzar’s golden image while the rest sheepishly followed the crowd.
This pattern continues into the New Testament as Jesus the ‘Status Stone’ of God makes this challenging declaration; “For many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14). The consequences of this text are not the Lord’s desire or will, but rather they are the result of our insatiable desire to follow the crowd or our own feelings rather than pressing into the Lord’s kingdom no matter who else comes or what it may cost us. How foolish it would have been for the shrimp with the true stone in its head to give in to the other shrimp and begin swimming upside down. Yet, how often do you and I yield to the pressures of our society and violate the Word of God which is in our head and heart.
Like the shrimp with the steel stones in their heads, countless ‘believers’ have neglected the Word of God and have instead been putting foreign objects into their heads. Because of this, many of them are “swimming upside down” no longer able to discern right from wrong. They have been attracted by the ‘magnet’ of this world’s system from which God clearly commanded us to be separated. In fact, many of today’s mega-churches, denominations, and television personalities are contributing to this destructive behavior by preaching ear-tickling sermons about becoming a better you or getting everything you can while on the earth, rather than the upright and life-producing gospel of the fear of God, holiness, and self-denial. In many ways, much of the ‘Christian’ community has been trying to win the world by becoming like the world. This runs contrary to every single thing our Bible teaches.
Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. (Romans 12:2 NLT)
No matter what the cost, like the great saints before us, you and I must reject every attempt at being molded or shaped by anyone or anything other than the Lord. We must steadfastly stand against all that violates the ‘status stone’ of God’s Word and never, ever give in to the demands of the crowd. Jesus promised that in this world, we would have tribulation. We will be tossed, turned, and perhaps even disoriented. But if we keep God’s Word deep in our hearts and in the frontlets of our minds, like the lowly shrimp, we will not only reject the crowds we will always know which way is up!
“Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You… Through Your commandments, You make me wiser than my enemies…” (Psalm 119:11, 98)