April 08, 2009

God's Word for the flood

My parents live on the Red River in Moorhead, MN, so we have spent the past couple weeks sandbagging and battling the flood waters, and are getting ready for a second crest next week. There were many sleepless nights, and it was touch and go a number of times. So far, they have emerged with some water damage to the lower level, including losing all of the carpet. But they were able to stop the leak and pump the water back out, so the house itself seems fine, as is the furnace. The first night I did dike duty over night, my cousins Ricky and David and I sat up in my parents' sun porch watching the pumps and listening to the radio, and at about 2:30 AM, we heard the report that our school, Oak Grove Lutheran School in Fargo, ND, had sustained a dike breach. (The whole school was severely damaged in the 1997, and a permanant flood wall was built after that flood; they are also just completing a multi-million-dollar renovation of the campus, including a new fine arts center, fitness area, and other major renovations.) And as we listened over the next two hours, we heard the agonizing news that the permanent wall had indeed failed, and that the National Guard was unable to stop the water. Two buildings sustained major damage, and there was fear that the whole campus could again be inundated. This was very discouraging news.

A little later, around 5 AM, I picked up the Book of Common Prayer off a nearby shelf to help me stay awake, and came immediately upon Psalm 29. Let me preface this by saying that Psalm 29 has held no special meaning to me before, and in fact I could have told you nothing about what it said. (None of these things applies any more, as you will see.) But as I read the Psalm, I was overwhelmed by how powerfully these words spoke to the situation that night.

1 Ascribe to the LORD, O mighty ones,
ascribe to the LORD glory and strength.

2 Ascribe to the LORD the glory due his name;
worship the LORD in the splendor of his [a] holiness.

3 The voice of the LORD is over the waters;
the God of glory thunders,
the LORD thunders over the mighty waters.

4 The voice of the LORD is powerful;
the voice of the LORD is majestic.

5 The voice of the LORD breaks the cedars;
the LORD breaks in pieces the cedars of Lebanon.

6 He makes Lebanon skip like a calf,
Sirion [b] like a young wild ox.

7 The voice of the LORD strikes
with flashes of lightning.

8 The voice of the LORD shakes the desert;
the LORD shakes the Desert of Kadesh.

9 The voice of the LORD twists the oaks [c]
and strips the forests bare.
And in his temple all cry, "Glory!"

10 The LORD sits [d] enthroned over the flood;
the LORD is enthroned as King forever.

11 The LORD gives strength to his people;
the LORD blesses his people with peace.

I have been struck by the power of God's Word before on many occasions, but I was awe-struck by the amazing power in those words, as if God wrote them just for that morning. Imagine reading the words in bold as you sit looking out over record-level flood waters that are threatening to devastate whole towns, and as you have just heard about unexpected and serious devastation to Oak Grove. It was quite an experience. But what struck me most was the final lines of the psalm, that in the midst of all of this, God gives strength and peace. And I was called back to the beginning of the psalm, called to ascribe glory to God. I have no doubt that God has already used the flood, and the devastation at Oak Grove, for his glory. He certainly has in my life. And listening to the president of Oak Grove, Bruce Messelt, talk to the media the next morning with such confidence and thankfulness to God despite the flood's destruction, all I could think was that the psalm was being lived right there as I listened, and I'm confident that it will continue to be lived as the weeks and months pass.

It is awesome to be confronted by God's Word, and even greater to know that God's Spirit is using it even still, speaking powerful and true words right down to today. God is a great God, more powerful than flood waters, glorified even amid devastation. How awesome to know and be known by such a faithful God.

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