A letter written by a Titanic passenger sold at auction last Saturday for 126,000 pounds ($166,000). Alexander Holverson wrote the letter to his mother on embossed Titanic stationery and tucked it inside his pocketbook.
The next day, his ship hit an iceberg and sank. Holverson did not survive, but his body was recovered. His letter was found and given to his mother. When he wrote it, he had no idea his words would make global headlines more than a century later.
In a week, the world will observe the five hundredth anniversary of Martin Luther’s nailing of the Ninety-Five Theses to the door of the Wittenberg Church, an act instrumental in beginning the Protestant Reformation. Historians agree that Luther had no idea his action would birth such a legacy. But if you are a Protestant Christian, you can trace your spiritual roots to his courage.
If you were on a Bible quiz show and the host asked you to identify Gad the seer, what would you say? When you’ve finished reading this Daily Article, you’ll discover how his story connects to the Titanic and the Reformation, and you’ll see why it is so relevant to your life and culture today.
Meet ‘David’s seer’
We first encounter Gad when David was fleeing from murderous King Saul and “the prophet Gad” gave him guidance that led him to safety (1 Samuel 22:5). “Prophet” translates the Hebrew nabi, describing a person who speaks from and for God.
Many years later, King David demanded that a census be taken of his nation’s military capacity. Such a prideful act glorified the king rather than the Lord and demonstrated greater trust in his army than in his God.
The king soon realized the sinfulness of his action and prayed for forgiveness. The next morning, “the word of the Lord came to the prophet Gad, David’s seer” (2 Samuel 24:11).
“Seer” translates the Hebrew hozeh, from the root Hebrew word for “vision.” The word means “one who sees” and describes Gad as a person who was able to receive and transmit visionary revelation from the Lord. Through his spokesman, God rendered his judgment on the king for his sin.
Then God came to David a second time with instructions to “raise an altar to the Lord on the threshing floor of Araunah the Jebusite” (v. 18). The king did as he was instructed and “the plague was averted from Israel” (v. 25).
By calling God “David’s seer,” the Bible suggests an ongoing partnership between the two men (cf. 2 Samuel 24:11–19; 1 Chronicles 21:9–19; 2 Chronicles 29:25). In addition, the acts of David were recorded in “the Chronicles of Gad the seer” (1 Chronicles 29:29), which were not preserved by history.
God occupies only thirteen of the Bible’s 31,102 verses. Here’s why his often overlooked ministry struck me and connects to our news stories: he left a legacy he had no ability to anticipate.
Gad’s prophetic ministry helped save the life of a man whose descendants would include “Jesus Christ, the Son of David” (Matthew 1:1). His work as David’s seer saved the nation from plague and led the king to purchase land that eventually became Solomon’s temple (1 Chronicles 22:1; Josephus, Antiquities 7.13.4).
That temple would lead God’s people into his holy presence for the next five centuries. And the nation saved from judgment would give birth to the Messiah whose Spirit now inhabits God’s people as God’s temple today (Galatians 4:6; 1 Corinthians 3:16).
Follow his example
C. S. Lewis preached “Learning in War-Time” to Oxford students as World War II was beginning for England. In calling them to focus on their calling rather than their circumstances, he noted: “Happy work is best done by the man who takes his long-term plans somewhat lightly and works from moment to moment ‘as to the Lord.’ It is only our daily bread that we are encouraged to ask for. The present is the only time in which any duty can be done or any grace received.”
When you wonder if your actions today can change your culture tomorrow, remember Alexander Holverson, Martin Luther, and Gad the seer. Then choose to stay faithful to the last word you heard from God and open to the next.
T. S. Eliot: “For us, there is only the trying. The rest is not our business.”