“Save me, O God! For the waters have come up to my neck…”
(Psalm 69:1 ESV)
Yesterday I had the opportunity to go to Sioux City to join with the hundreds of volunteers filling sandbags in preparation for the coming flood on the Missouri River. The enormity of this flooding is beyond belief, and the photos don’t do it justice. Water is pouring into all the low lying areas along the banks, and slowly creeping up through the ground as well. Business along the riverbank, and some well away from the river, are quickly building makeshift levees and dikes around their property, hoping to hold back the oncoming flood.
Conversations over the bagging were varied; some volunteers were light hearted, joking while they worked, making the best of the time. Others were pensive and quiet; I wondered if they had already had to leave their homes because of the flood. Still, the conversations always drifted back to the flood; whether this all could have been avoided had the water been released earlier in the year, or incredulity over those who would build such enormous homes right on the river front.
For me the day was a blessing. I got to meet some interesting and wonderful new people, share with them in work and prayer, and, having avoided the intense heat of the first two days of the week, I spent a glorious day outside doing physical labor, a nice change from the office routine. The drive home was time for quiet reflection on what I had seen and heard – not a bad way to spend the day.
There is continued debate as to whether the flood of 2011 is a natural disaster or man made. An article by the Associated Press noted how one resident of Fort Pierre, SD thinks the “U.S. Army Corps of Engineers blew it, waiting until too late to begin releasing water through the Missouri’s six dams to give itself a cushion against potential flooding. Corps officials insist otherwise. They say they were in good shape to handle spring rain and melt from a massive Rocky Mountain snowpack until unexpectedly heavy rains of 8 inches or more fell last month in eastern Montana and Wyoming and western North Dakota and South Dakota. ‘This is just a massive rain that fell in the exact wrong place at the exact wrong time,’ said Eric Stasch, operations manager at Oahe Dam, the huge structure that controls the Missouri’s flow just above Fort Pierre and nearby Pierre, South Dakota’s capital.”
But seriously, when you home is destroyed by the 150,000 cubic feet of water released per second into the river, it is empty pandering to try to place blame. Whether natural or man made, the flood has come, lives are turned upside down, and it will take months, if not years, to completely recover. Driving home I couldn’t help but think of Psalm 69 and offer it as a prayer for those in the path of the rising water, “Save me, O God! For the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me.”
Still, I also know that the flood waters mentioned in Psalm 69 are a metaphor, a word picture, for the enemies that had encircled David. Betrayed, abandoned, beset by enemies, David called out to the Lord, “Deliver me from sinking in the mire, let me be delivered from my enemies and from the deep waters. Let not the flood sweep over me, or the deep swallow me up, or the pit close its mouth over me” (Psalm 69:14-15).
I think we all know how David felt. Maybe we’ve been in the flood waters before. I know Cherokee has, and I grew up with flooding in Augusta, KS, too. Perhaps you feel betrayed and abandoned like David, for no good reason those you thought were your friends have stabbed you in the back. Or maybe, you are your own worst enemy, struggling with the same sins, over and over, and you feel that your sins have overwhelmed you, you are “weary with crying out; [your] throat is parched. [Your] eyes grow dim with waiting for [your] God” (Psalm 69:3).
As with the flooding, there are those who will split hairs about where these sins originated(those that you are struggling to overcome, and those that are committed against you). Do they come from the corrupted heart of man, or are they more of a cultural tradition that is learned and passed along from generation to generation. I think that Scripture’s teaching on Original Sin and Total Depravity would say both are true – and regardless of its origin, we are in terrible need of salvation. Like those in Dakota Dunes and Sioux City, the deluge is coming and nothing short of a miracle will save them now.
Isn’t it good to know that at least one flood in our lives has been permanently diverted. God in His great love for us, gave us His Son as the propitiation for our sins, that we might be cleansed from our guilt. As the Psalmist says in Psalm 40, “Psalm 40:2 “He drew me up from the pit of destruction, out of the miry bog, and set my feet upon a rock, making my steps secure.” “The Lord is my rock and my fortress and my deliverer, my God, my rock, in whom I take refuge, my shield, and the horn of my salvation, my stronghold” (Psalm 18:2).
There is a lot of talk today about flood insurance, and I can’t imagine going through this crisis without it. But even more unimaginable would be to go through life without the salvation assurance that we have in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Today, pray for those whose lives have been, or will be, affected by this recent flooding along the Missouri. But remember also to give thanks and praise for the deliverance we have been given through Christ our Lord.