Yesterday evening our church prayed for the people in Houston and Louisiana in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. As we prayed, the following verses came to mind:
The floods have lifted up, O LORD,
The floods have lifted up their voice,
The floods lift up their pounding waves.
More than the sounds of many waters,
Than the mighty breakers of the sea,
The LORD on high is mighty. Psalm 93:3-4
Now, I realize that the “flooding” in these verses is a metaphor. The Psalmist isn’t thinking about literal water; he’s thinking about enemies or trials or something. God is mightier than all those things, no matter what they are, in just the same way as he is mightier than the literal ocean.
Yet obviously that presupposes that God is mightier than the ocean waves. If the metaphor of the waves is applicable to persecution or financial troubles or hardships of other kinds, how much more is it applicable to the literal flooding caused by Harvey?
As I prayed, I thought of the incredible destructive power of a hurricane, and then of how God is mightier than all of that. It was encouraging.
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Later in the evening, I was thinking about the ways of God, in that he chooses at times to allow us to be attacked by the spiritual forces of darkness (whether through temptations or trials or outright demonic activity) and other times keeps them from us. Sometimes he puts a hedge of protection around us; other times, as in the case of Job, he lets the enemy have at us. It occurred to me that perhaps sometimes he lets us be not merely attacked but flooded by the enemy, just so he can show us his power in the middle of it. In those moments, if they occur, when the attack washes over us like a wave, knocks us off our feet and leaves us no serious chance of resisting by ourselves, all we can do is to wait and look to God to deliver us. (For another picture of that kind of deliverance, consider Jonah 2.)
I was still thinking about this when we took communion. It occurred to me that whether or not we ourselves are ever exposed to this kind of flooding, Jesus was. On the cross, all the wrath of God and all the hostility of Satan washed over him like a flood, so that we could be spared from it. As a result, as the hymns say, we can be “sinners plunged beneath the flood” of his blood shed for us and we can say “my anchor holds within the veil”. (See also Hebrews 6:19).
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Around midnight, a friend asked me about Ezekiel 47. In that passage, Ezekiel sees a vision of a river of water flowing from the temple out to the sea, giving life wherever it goes. Later in John 7:37-39, Jesus speaks of the Holy Spirit as a river of living water flowing from our innermost being. He may be deliberately referring to the vision Ezekiel had and telling us that the Holy Spirit is that river.
Anyway, back in Ezekiel, this happened:
When the man went out toward the east with a line in his hand, he measured a thousand cubits, and he led me through the water, water reaching the ankles. Again he measured a thousand and led me through the water, water reaching the knees. Again he measured a thousand and led me through the water, water reaching the loins. Again he measured a thousand; and it was a river that I could not ford, for the water had risen, enough water to swim in, a river that could not be forded. He said to me, “Son of man, have you seen this?” Then he brought me back to the bank of the river. – Ezekiel 47:3-6
The point of the man’s measuring seems to be to say this: Ezekiel, you already see that the river is here. You see that it gives life. You see that it purifies. But I want you to understand how deep it goes. You can get in a certain distance, and may think that’s how deep it is. But it goes deeper. You can go still further … but it goes deeper. You could walk in until it was clear over your head, and it would still go deeper. That’s how deep the life-giving water of God goes. It never runs out, and it always goes deeper than you’ve yet experienced.
This is another kind of flooding, both holy and wonderful. The Holy Spirit generally refrains from overwhelming us with His glory, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there and isn’t mind-blowing.
This is the awe-inspiring God we serve. The Father reigns over even the most terrifyingly powerful floods. The Son endure the flood of God’s wrath in order to become our anchor. The Spirit reveals to us only what we can bear, but behind what we experience is a flood of life and holiness and glory we cannot even imagine.