“The Lord sits enthroned over the flood”
There’s an intersection of blue highways south of town that most everyone calls “million dollar corner” because long ago the state put in what seemed a very expensive bridge. They did so because of a death, two deaths. Almost one hundred years ago, a farmer and his daughter, somewhere in the vicinity, tried to cross a flooded creek in a horse-drawn wagon. Both died. When the flood receded, the girl’s body was found downstream, hung up in a tree.
A flood, here on the edge of the Plains? There is no river.
But there was (and is) rain, the kind of torrent that David’s been showing us in Psalm 29. Eleven inches of rain fell in an hour in the valley of the West Branch Creek, which otherwise barely exists. For a couple hours there was a river, a deluge, and there was death, tragic and totally unforeseen horror at the Million Dollar Corner.
Maybe ten years ago a similar storm dumped a foot of rain on the northern-most reaches of the Loess Hills. The water that washed down has to go somewhere of course, and eventually it channeled into
Perry Creek, a skinny little ravine that runs into Sioux City. When its bed filled, it flooded the low lying
neighborhoods. Some people escaped their
homes in boats—that kind of flood.
My father-in-law and I went in a couple days later to help with flood relief. After getting required tetanus shots, we wallowed into basements and shoveled muck until our backs gave out. I don’t remember doing more decidedly unpleasant work at any time in my life. That flood filled basements with sludge-like mud three and four feet deep, every last inch of which had to be shoveled out. At one house a library had fallen in. The muck was loaded with paperbacks, each of them a brick.
An old African-American woman in rimless glasses sat upstairs in her dining room, surrounded by pictures of her family. Something like a doily lay neatly on the table before her. She was herself a Depression-era photo.
The only way to get the muck out of her basement was to lug it up the stairway in 20-gallon buckets. By the time we left, those steps were an absolute mess, as was her hallway and breezeway. All the while we were working, she sat at that table, looking at us directly, it seemed, but seeing nothing, her clay-like eyes in a vacant stare.
It would have been criminal for me to lug this verse of David’s song into her life just then: “The Lord sits enthroned over the flood.” Not all the verses of Holy Scripture bring joy or peace or relief all of the time.
Here, the KJV is even more expressive: “The Lord sitteth upon the flood.” I know what David means. I believe it. But to those millions who have lost loved ones in last year’s hurricanes, the image is not comforting.
“The government,” the old text says, “shall be upon his shoulders.” God rules. Every believer knows God is not lollygagging outside of our lives. But where was he when
flooded? At Million Dollar Corner? At Perry Creek Auschwitz?
Tragedy is deeper by far for the believer than it is for the unbeliever, says Elie Wiesel, the only member of his family to survive the Holocaust. I believe he’s right.
The Lord sits enthroned above the flood, David says. I believe that.
I really do. I really do. I really do.