4 minutes reading time (796 words)

Crossing Out Dragons

     Okay, I’ll just come right out and confess it: I am addicted to maps. I’m not sure what they call that addiction (cartoholism?), but whatever it is, I have it and I don’t really want to be cured. 

Sharilyn once bought me a huge, beautiful book called Early Sea Charts: it's one of the treasures in my office at home. I read books about the making of maps, and find them perfectly entertaining. If I were stuck in a waiting room with a rack full of magazines, a blaring TV and a globe over in the corner, guess which one I’d choose? When I go on my hikes, I bring mysteries and westerns to read in my downtime, but half of that time I’ll just look at my maps: those beautiful topos! There’s nothing finer! 

One of the things you’re bound to notice when you look at an ancient map is that collection of monsters and dragons in the corners, at the edges of the world, warning the traveler against going too far. Ptolemy’s Atlas, written in the 2nd Century, has them. Roman maps and travel books warned of monstrous tribes of dog-headed people and cyclopses. There was even a tribe of headless people.  

From as late as the 13th Century,  we find the Psalter Map and the Ebstorf map, with dragons rising up out of the sea. There’s the Borgia Map of 1430 that has a dragon in the eastern seas, and the words: “Here be huge men with horns four feet long, and serpents so large they can eat an ox whole.” 

Other maps had similar things written on them, in Latin of course, but they read: “Here be dragons,” “here be demons” and “here be sirens”. 

One of the reasons why Columbus’ men were so hesitant to continue sailing west was the fact, I’m sure, that on the maps they were using, they were sailing right over dragons and monsters. 

There was a great deal of fear in the world back then. Wherever the world was still unexplored, there you could expect something dreadful to dwell. “So geographers, in Afric maps, with savage pictures fill their gaps,” writes Jonathan Swift in one of his satirical poems. 1 

I read the most beautiful thing about Sir John Franklin, the great 19th Century British Explorer who charted so much of Canada and the Arctic. I read that, in the chartroom of his ship, he actually had one of those ancient maps—a novelty of course and probably a facsimile—but he kept it there with his more up-to-date charts during his great explorations of the Arctic Circle and other unknown regions of the world. And the story goes that, whenever Franklin sailed into one of those regions where the map read “here be dragons” or “here be monsters,” Franklin would pick up a quill pen and cross out the monsters and those words and write very boldly: “Here is our God!”

How beautiful! All the fears of centuries-past, proven wrong, and crossed off the map! Franklin was a faithful Christian. Time and again, he wrote in his journal about the beautiful works of God’s creation and the evidence of His goodness. 

Wouldn’t you love to find Franklin’s map; with those dragons and monsters crossed out one-by-one? And those marvelous words written there instead: Here is our God!

Well, any maps that Franklin had were lost when the Erebus got crushed in the ice, and he and all his crew scattered away to perish in the brutal white. 

But—you know?—you and I have something better than Franklin's map! We have this awesome, priceless treasure called The Word of God! The Bible is our map of the world, of course, and—oh!—how thoroughly the monsters and dragons have been 'crossed off' of it! All of them boldly refuted by the work of our Savior! 

I don’t know if you’ve noticed it or not, but our world today has just as much fear and just as much dread about what’s on the horizon as the world in Ptolemy’s day! Maybe even more, since we live in such a rebellious age! 

But when Jesus Christ came into the world, He came to conquer every dread and cross out every fear: the power of sin; the bondage of the past; the burden of guilt, our Accuser the devil, and our last great Enemy ‘Death’. What a marvelous topography of hope and forgiveness; of love and life everlasting we now find here on these beautiful pages! And every time we open them up, we can cross out another monster! 

I’m sure that’s why you come every Sunday! God bless you for loving His Word as you do! 

 

See you there. Bring your ‘map’!   RAS 

 

1. Jonathan Swift 1667-1745, Poetry: a Rhapsody. 

 

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