“The remains of a fleet of 17th century French warships, victims of a fatal navigational mistake, have been discovered off Venezuela, more than 300 hundred years after a reef dashed Louis XIV’s hopes of seizing the Dutch Island of Curacao.”
Seven of the fleet’s 18 ships and 500 men were lost because the fleet was off course by one degree. The aim of Vice-Admiral Jean d’Estrées to capture and subdue the island was thwarted by human error after the attack had been minutely prepared with the best artillery France could supply – half of it finishing at the bottom of the sea.
A one-degree error and the timber hulls of the ships were just torn apart as they sailed for shore. They had unwittingly headed for a reef off the Island of Las Avas, 50 miles east of Curacao. Mr. De Bry, head of archive research, said that “d’Estrées was a good soldier and an incompetent sailor,” but was later promoted to rank of Marshal of France – nothing changes!
When Civil Engineering contractors undertake a tunnelling project they start both ends at once and meet in the middle, well that’s the theory, and it usually works. But, if they are out by less than one degree there can be serious implications and they certainly don’t meet in the middle – I know I was a trained as a Civil Engineer.
I was once asked to set out a 275 KV substation to an accuracy of one eighth of an inch to three hundred and sixty feet (old imperial measure). Almost impossible, but it had to be done because of the rigid aluminium connectors between the concrete arms. We went through the seven correcting exercises to ensure we were accurate, especially as we were using a steel tape that measures differently with each degree of temperature!
Accuracy is essential in many walks of life, not least in our standing before God. If anyone is accurate it must be God, for his eyes see everything and can measure our shortcomings better than anyone else. His is the standard against which all is measured. This is what Amos the prophet said: “Thus he showed me: and, behold, the Lord stood upon a wall made by a plumb line, with a plumb line in his hand.” (7:7 KJV). This is why the Ten Commandments are so important.
A plumb line is a heavy weight, usually made of lead, on a strong wire line that hangs down; it is not a linear measure, but tests verticality. Anything out of true by even a fraction is highlighted. In 1955 I was once in charge of building one of the tallest cooling towers in the country at Hams Hall ‘B’ Power Station, they were 350 feet high (107 metres) and to do this we hung such a plumb line with the bottom lead weight hanging in a 20-gallon barrel of oil to resist swinging.
When we stand against God we can see not only a one-degree error but also that we are wide by a few inches (millimetres) or miles (Kilometres). We all miss the mark and would all have the hulls of our lives dashed open if we were not guided by God.
He came as our plumb line and then put his Spirit within us so that we can live right to his standard or measure. God now measures us against His Son who has made us in his image – “Christ in you the hope of glory.” What a relief! I may be incompetent but God isn’t. Changing back to the first metaphor, He knows where the rocks are, and has navigated a safe passage for us. We won’t miss God by any fraction; if we are saved we are dead (live) on course for eternity – no rocks.
Lastly, when the winds of adversity blow he will sometimes hang us in oil (Holy Spirit) to resist the pressures of life. Clothed in the Spirit is a good place to be and condition to be in.
 The Daily Telegraph