Water water everywhere

Water water everywhere

By on May 3, 2014 in Blog |

When you’re immersed in something, there’s often nothing better than trying to step back and look at the situation through God’s eyes. I have not quite been literally immersed in it, but the recent flooding affected me wherever I went.

A few weeks ago I started with trying to get to the King’s Centre in Oxford for a Sunday meeting of our church, with waters lapping against it. Then from Oxford to Swindon by train on Monday morning, with the train travelling at a walking place where the water covers the tracks. Only to work in an organisation which funds flooding research and to work closely with the Met Office and Environment Agency on this. Mercifully, I live up a hill, so only a flood of Noah’s proportions could affect me there!

The flood recorded in Genesis 6-9 was the “natural” event that delivered an irreversible step change in the planet. Many of those taking a creationist position on the origin of the world reflect on the fact that ‘the waters above the firmament'[1] may have been a water vapour layer above the earth’s atmosphere that led to a highly protected environment where dinosaurs could live and woolly mammoths could later be found in an arctic location where they would not have survived the cold[2]. The flood was caused by this water falling on the earth. Whatever your inclination concerning these early stories of Genesis, it is fair to say that traditions of deluge are found amongst all the great traditions of the human family and these agree to a substantial degree with the Biblical account. The most remarkable of these traditions is that recorded on tablets prepared by order of Assur-bani-pal, the King of Assyria, with copies dating back to 2000 BC[3].

There is one major difference in the Bible from the other narratives: the flood story ends with a covenant, reinforced by a rainbow (another natural phenomenon)[4]. God promises never to flood the earth again. I find it fascinating to see that, in spite of localised flooding occurring at different points in the Bible, when it reaches the climax of history, the judgements of God in Revelation are accompanied by earthquakes and hailstorms rather than floods.[5] (Interestingly, earthquakes and hailstorms are two of the main phenomena which scientists and the global insurance industry find it most difficult to predict and therefore price; perhaps there’s an emphasis there on God being in charge!) .

Joshua faced the Jordan in flood, probably the most difficult time to attempt a crossing, but God had spoken, so he trusted him and sent the priests in first, but “as soon as the priests who carried the ark reached the Jordan and their feet touched the water’s edge, the water from upstream stopped flowing. It piled up in a heap a great distance away, at a town called Adam in the vicinity of Zarethan, while the water flowing down to the Sea of the Arabah (that is the Dead Sea) was completely cut off”[6]. This is an astonishing demonstration of God’s power over creation. I’ve always been intrigued as to what it would have looked like in Adam. That’s some flood defence! It’s as though God is making a point in this story that he leads his people through the flood to the promised land, symbolically, and possibly spiritually, overcoming the curse of the flood. His people are on their way back to his blessing and provision.

In the later books of the Bible, flooding is used by several authors and commentators as a picture of judgement. Zophar[7] and Eliphaz[8] refer to this in Job, David in the Psalms[9] cries out to God with this and Isaiah uses flooding to describe the effect of sending the King of Assyria against Samaria[10]. Jesus even uses flooding as the picture for the main test of a person’s life, whether their house is built on rock or sand[11].

What shall we do about all of this? Some have taken more of a spoof approach to the current UK government’s handling of the floods. We shouldn’t fear a cataclysmic flood and indeed we can recognise God’s power over creation from Joshua’s story. However, for me the main reflection is to make sure that my life is built on solid ground and that I am trusting him every day.

 

[1] Genesis 1: 7 King James Bible

[2] What about origins? White, A. J. M. (2010) DayOne, Leominster, UK.

[3] Easton’s Bible Dictionary. Third Edition. (1897) Thomas Nelson, Edinburgh.

[4] http://robbellcom.tumblr.com/post/66199714202/what-is-the-bible-part-2-flood

[5] Revelation 6:19-20

[6] Joshua 3:15

[7] Job 20:28

[8] Job 22:11

[9] Psalm 69:15

[10] Isaiah 8:7

[11] Luke 6:48

 

 

photo by: Mike_fleming
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