"For you shall not go out with haste, nor go by flight; for the Lord will go before you, and the God of Israel will be your rear guard.” Isaiah 52:12 (NKJV)
The Sergeant Major fish is one of the most common reef fish seen in South Florida. Normally docile creatures, these black-striped, yellow and white fish are frequently seen in large schools snacking on floating sargassum weed. However, during breeding season which occurs during the late spring and summer months, the males undergo a change both physically and temperamentally. It is during this time of the year that females lay large patches of eggs that appear as a layer of purple felt on the side of submerged rocks. Males have the God-given responsibility to protect the eggs from being eaten by other fish and they take this role very seriously. The normally docile male Sergeant Majors become vigorously aggressive towards any other fish in the vicinity of their patch of eggs. Their behavior becomes frenetic as they chase away any nearby fish, sometimes more than one at a time. To advertise their no-nonsense attitude, their sunshine yellow scales turn a beautiful stormy blue, a color that must mean business in the reef fish world. Throwing concerns of their own safety to the wind (or perhaps the currents), male Sergeant Majors will even challenge fish larger than themselves. During the photoshoot where I was able to capture this image, this Sergeant Major tolerated my presence for a while until he thought that I infringed too closely on his guarded area. Once my camera was deemed too close, he angrily charged the lens until I retreated to a safe distance.
In my underwater experience, there is no other fish that I have observed that has so well displayed the definition of guarding. And in this characteristic, we can also see the nature of God on display via His Creation. The Bible tells us that God is both our front and rear guard. He protects us on all sides from threats both known and unknown. As we consider the effectiveness of an assertive and protective reef fish, how much greater is the protection offered by the Almighty God? Perhaps it is something akin to this thought that led Paul to write to the Roman church: “If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31). Who indeed?