Jamaica Versus Bible Times

By Bobbie Jean Cook Burnette

Recently, I was privileged to accompany my husband on one of his foreign preaching trips to Jamaica, an island country about 156 miles long and 51 miles wide, in the West Indies. One would think that it would be no problem to cover this territory. However, this is not true because the roads are barely passable. In fact, I reason that this must be the “pothole” capital of the world.

As I traveled in this country I began to consider how so many things reminded me of Bible times. Thus, I began notes for this article.

First, I noted that the people are ready to go everywhere they can to preach and teach the gospel. It reminded me of Matthew 28:19. Someone has aptly noted that God contains the word go while Satan contains the word sat. Constantly teaching in home Bible classes as well as publicly was done. It was 10:30 almost every night when we would get home.

Secondly, I observed the poor were ever present. Not only did I witness poor as in poverty, but I saw the poor in spirit as well. Scriptures such as Job 24:4; 29:12; Deuteronomy 15:11; Psalms 34:6; 40:17; Matthew 26:11; Proverbs 30:9; 14:31; 19:15,24; and many others came to mind concerning the poverty of this people. Yet others came into focus such as Isaiah 41:17; Matthew 5:3; Luke 6:20; and Zechariah 11:11 revealing the attitude of the Jamaican people who were willing to study and learn from God’s word.

Another similarity in Bible times that was so vivid was the presence of beggars on every corner, in front of prominent buildings, and on every hand. Again, I was reminded of scriptures such as Psalms 109:10, 20:4, and especially Luke 16:3,20-3 1, telling about the famous beggar, Lazarus.

Of course, one would constantly be aware of another great commodity so prominent in Bible times – water. Jamaica is surrounded by the beautiful Caribbean Sea so blue, clear, and wide. One could just visualize the Sea of Galilee, the Mediterranean Sea, the Red Sea, and the Caspian Sea, very visible in Bible times.

Along with the prominent seas are also many rivers in Jamaica which flow into the Caribbean. As we traveled we could see these rivers as they joined the waters of the sea. I could almost picture in my mind the mighty Jordan River where John baptized Jesus and did so much of his work because there was much water as we find in John 1:28, Matthew 3:13-17, Luke 3:21-22, Mark 1:9-11, and especially John 3:23. This is basically where the Jamaicans baptize the sea or the rivers – for most of the buildings for worship are not equipped with baptisteries as here in the States. One can just see the Scriptures come alive before his eyes as he witnesses the rivers sweeping away into the seas as in Judges 5:21.

Rivers of pleasure abound in the country of Jamaica causing Psalms 36:8 to come into focus. They have a resort called Hedonism II in the city of Nigril where, I am told, “anything goes.” I saw several school buses in the city of Savanna La Mar with this advertised on them. When I inquired about its meaning, I was informed about this place. Later, in one of our journeys we passed this resort which appears as others with beautiful flowers, trees, shrubs, etc. Isn’t this the way sin always presents itself?

One cannot go to Jamaica without realizing that transportation is so much like that in Bible times. Donkeys are everywhere. One morning I walked out on the veranda and saw a donkey going down the middle of the city street. Very few Jamaicans own cars. The most prominent mode of travel is walking. Some ride donkeys or carts pulled by donkeys. Others do have access to public buses or vans. Bicycles are used extensively, too. Yet amid all this lack of commodious travel opportunities, one finds brethren getting to worship on the Lord’s Day as well as for their mid-week services which may vary from Wednesdays to Thursdays or even Fridays. On Sundays they meet only once but for three and four hours once they assemble, With treacherous roads, presence of robbers, pedestrians everywhere along the roads, and animals tied to the sides of the roads, Jamaicans can still be seen traveling to worship God not unlike the Ethiopian eunuch as in Acts 8:27-39. And, we will stand in the judgment with these same ones who battle many hardships while we have access to good roads, comfortable vehicles with air conditions, buildings with padded pews and every conceivable convenience, and still we find many who continue to forsake the assembling together no matter when it is!

These Jamaicans remind me of bands of disciples in Bible times, who, in spite of poverty, heat, danger, and treacherous roads, still met together to praise God and worship him.

“Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall. There hath no temptation taken you but such as man can bear: but God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation make also the way of escape, that ye may be able to endure it” (1 Cor. 10:12,13).

The word temptation (peirasmos) “is used of (1) trials with a beneficial purpose and effect [cf. James 1:2; 1 Peter 1:6]; . . . (2) Of trial definitely designed to lead to wrong doing; . . . (3) Of ‘trying’ or challenging God, by men” (Vine, Expository Dictionary of N. T. Words, p. 622). The first definition has to do with trials which test and/or prove a person; i.e. how real, sincere, or true is his faith. The se Genesis 3:9 could not have been more highlighted than when I listened to one of the Jamaican brethren tell of his labors in the sugar cane fields for eight or nine hours per day to be paid only the equivalent of $2.50 in our money. Hera, that same man was there each service that week singing praises to God, praying, and studying God’s word. I could also imagine James 1:11 and Matthew 20:12 as I listened to his story.

Other things such as storms quickly forming over the sea accompanied by floods would also remind me of Bible times. One day we were caught in one of these floods, and I was quickly reminded of Paul’s journey in Acts 27 and 28. Although we were in a different kind of vessel, I, too, knew in whose hands our safety lay. And, I believed God would protect us as he did Paul. Acts 27:25, “for I believe God.”

Zeal was so much manifested in the lives of the Jamaicans. Some of this is as in Romans 10:2. For its size, I was told Jamaica has more religions than any other country. Yet most is zeal without knowledge as Paul observed in Acts 17. However, we witnessed much zeal according to knowledge as in Psalms 69:9, 2 Kings 10:16, 2 Corinthians 7:11, and Colossians 4:13 in the lives of so many Jamaicans.

Certainly we could not conclude our thoughts about these similarities without mentioning that the Jamaicans are anxious as those in Bible times to triump through Jesus Christ. Scriptures again surface to remind us of their desire, as should be ours as well. Exodus 15:1, Psalms 25:2, 92:4, 106:47. The Jamaicans seem to thrive on the words of Paul in Philippians 4:13 when he said, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.” I seem to hear the Jamaicans say to me, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ.” Do these words resound in your ears, too?

Guardian of Truth XXXVI: 18, pp. 556-557
September 17, 1992