Mean old levee taught me to weep and moan, [X2] Got what it takes to make a mountain man leave his home, Oh, well, oh, well, oh, well.
Don’t it make you feel bad When you’re tryin’ to find your way home, You don’t know which way to go?
[When the Levee Breaks Led Zeppelin]
O Lord my God, When I in awesome wonder, Consider all the worlds Thy Hands have made; I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder, Thy power throughout the universe displayed.
Chorus: Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee, How great Thou art, How great Thou art. Then sings my soul, My Saviour God, to Thee, How great Thou art, How great Thou art
[How Great Thou Art Carl G. Boberg and R.J. Hughes ]
The only time I experienced anything close to a hurricane was when I was fourteen. My mum and I were in Hong Kong visiting family. We were staying in an Aunt’s apartment on one of the upper floors of a tall apartment complex. The view was spectacular.
Then a typhoon warning came. We had to board up all the windows. The danger passed after a while. But I will never forget how strong the wind was. I will never forget the sound of the boards creaking, the windows vibrating, the howling of the winds as they sought entrance. I was scared.
Last year the tsunami hit Asia. We are still counting the cost. We are still rebuilding. I am not sure we will ever be able to fully grasp the magnitude of the event. And now Katrina.
Psalm 104: 1-4 reads:
Praise the LORD, my soul. LORD my God, you are very great; you are clothed with splendour and majesty. The LORD wraps himself in light as with a garment; he stretches out the heavens like a tent and lays the beams of his upper chambers on their waters. He makes the clouds his chariot and rides on the wings of the wind. He makes winds his messengers, flames of fire his servants. [TNIV]
If winds are God’s messengers, what is the message this time? That the people of New Orleans are more sinful than the people in Houston? Or Paris? I don’t think so. I think the lessons are simpler:
God is real. God is powerful. God is our enemy.
It seems God doesn’t care to be politically correct. In a day and age when it is considered rude if not down right dangerous to make absolute statements about God, God shows up and reminds us that He is no mere idea of human construct to be tossed about like intellectual football.
In a day and age when humankind has pretensions of divinity because of our technology God shows up and puts us in our place. As we construct modern towers of Babel, civilizations that do not take seriously the reality of God and His ethical demands, He sweeps away whole cities like sand castles.
And as some of us protest loudly that God is love, and rightly so I think, He reminds us of another message, that He can also be our enemy if we make Him one. And that we make Him one when we reject Him.
“You adulterous people, don’t you know that friendship with the world means enmity against God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God. Or do you think Scripture says without reason that he jealously longs for the spirit he has caused to dwell in us? But he gives us more grace. That is why Scripture says: “God opposes the proud but shows favour to the humble and oppressed.” [James 4:4-6]
We can debate all we want about God but it is kinda hard to debate with a hurricane. Or a tsunami. Victor Hugo said that there is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come. But God is always powerful and it is always His time. And once in awhile He reminds us that beyond the levees that shore up our views of reality, there is Another, wild, dangerous, uncontrollable by none save His own character and purposes. And once in awhile, the levees break.
If God is real, powerful and our enemy, is there no hope then?
There is, but only because another barrier was broken two thousand years ago. Two thousand years ago, God came, Jesus came, to offer us afresh His friendship. We killed Him and imprisoned Him in a grave, behind a rock, behind impenetrable barriers of hate and death. He broke through that too when He rose again on the third day.
His offer of friendship still stands. But if we continue to ignore it we remain His enemy. Lately, He seems to be sending us more signals as to what a terrible enemy He can be. And that we ignore Him at our peril.
Make no mistake, in the face of horrendous tragedies like Katrina and the tsunami, the Christian response must be sacrificial compassion.
But in a time when God is trivialized and ignored, and too many assume that God is on their side, Katrinas are object lessons to take God seriously. And to realize afresh that the question we have to face is not “is God on my side” but rather, am I on His.
It is a time to remember that God may be good but He is definitely not safe. As Mr. Beaver tells the children in C. S Lewis’ classic, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe:
“Is — is he a man?” asked Lucy.
“Aslan a man!” said Mr. Beaver sternly. “Certainly not. I tell you he is the King of wood and the son of the great Emperor-Beyond-the-Sea. Don’t you know who is the King of the Beasts? Aslan is a lion — the Lion, the great Lion.”
“Ooh,” said Susan, “I thought he was a man. Is he — quite safe? I shall feel rather nervous about meeting a lion.”
“That you will, dearie, and make no mistake,” said Mrs. Beaver, “if there’s anyone who can appear before Aslan without their knees knocking, they’re either braver than most or else silly.”
“Then he isn’t safe?” said Lucy.
“Safe?” said Mr. Beaver, “don’t you hear what Mrs. Beaver tells you? Who said anything about safe? ‘Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you.”
Let’s bow down afresh before Him.
Your brother, Soo-Inn Tan