Flood for thought

Call them tornados, or hurricanes or typhoons, call them by any cutesy female name, they have been churning up the waters, dumping megatons of water on land and causing terrifying floods in many countries. Millions of people had to be evacuated to safer ground, numerous homes were destroyed or damaged, massive unemployment resulted when companies, factories and shops were closed or destroyed. In fact, whole cities, like New Orleans, were devastated and will have to be extensively rebuilt. That will give new meaning to the word "New" in "New Orleans". Even Chiang Mai, a city up in the mountains of Northern Thailand, was not safe from flooding in this year of terrifying storms.!

Since floods are having such destructive impact on Mankind, not to mention on animal and plant life, is this not a good time to refresh our memory about what the Bible has to say about floods? Given the destructive effect of floods on human life, the Bible, not surprisingly, talks a great deal about floods. Almost four chapters of the very first book in the Bible [Genesis 6-9] are devoted to the great worldwide Flood that God brought upon the earth because "He saw how great manís wickedness had become" [Genesis 6:5] and "the world was corrupt in Godís sight and full of violence" [Gen 6:11]. Is the world any less corrupt, wicked and violent today? How angry God must be. And how patient He has been with Mankind.

After the Flood, God made a covenant with Man, that "Never again will all life be cut off by the waters of a flood; never again will there be a flood to destroy the earth" [Gen 9:11]. The covenant was so important to Mankind that God said it twice, and in different ways, so that there was no ambiguity. There would be no flood that would destroy all life on earth. But does that mean that there would be no floods that would destroy a city, a state or even a country? No, God did not promise such a thing.

The next flood mentioned in the Bible is in Joshua 3:15: the River Jordan was at flood stage when Joshua was leading the Israelite people towards the Promised Land. The flooded river prevented them from crossing over into the Promised Land. Then God dramatically and suddenly stopped the flood and the whole of Israel crossed "on dry ground" [Joshua 3:17]. In the great Flood, God demonstrated His almighty power to cause a worldwide flood, and in the crossing of the Jordan He demonstrated His power to stop a flood suddenly and completely; in a word, miraculously. Those of us who have seen a river in flood know how awesome and powerful is the flow of water, and how utterly difficult it is for Man to suddenly stop that flow. Yet God can do it for He has full control over floods, and we will do well to remember this in an era of floods. Our God is no weakling of a god, but THE Almighty God. He can save us from floods, and from other dangers.

There are some 35 passages in the Bible that talk about floods or flooding. But perhaps the one most often remembered by Christians is Jesusí parable about the importance of digging deep and laying the foundation of a house on solid rock. The man who does this is like the man who hears Jesusí words and puts them into practice. "When a flood came, the torrent struck that house, but could not shake it, because it was well built" [Luke 6:48]. In contrast, the man who hears Jesusí words but does not put them into practice "is like the man who built a house on the ground without a foundation. The moment the torrent struck that house, it collapsed and its destruction was complete" [Luke 6:49].

Jesus was a carpenter, and could be expected to talk knowledgeably about houses and how to construct them. But isnít it a bit strange that he talked about floods in Israel, a land which received little rainfall and where floods did not occur very frequently? Also, would a sensible man build a house in a place where floodwaters would run through?

There are three main reasons why someone might build a house in such a dangerous place. One is that human nature is such that many people think that a misfortune will not happen to them. Perhaps they think they are too smart for that. Perhaps they heed the advice of others around them, or the assurances of so-called experts. Or perhaps they just donít think enough? The people of New Orleans clearly trusted in their flood prevention levee system, even though many parts of their city were below the water level of the rivers and drainage canals around them. When Hurricane Katrina came, the surge of water up the rivers and waterways burst the levees and massive flooding occurred.

The second reason could be the belief that because a place had not been flooded before in living memory, it would not flood, ever. Take the case of Chiang Mai. Who would have thought that a city built on the side of a mountain would be hit by a flood? But it was!

Thirdly, there are places which suffer flooding practically every year or two, and yet tens of thousands, even millions, of people have built their homes there. One such area is along the mighty Yellow River of China. There have been serious floods there, with loss of life, since time immemorial, but the floods spread fertile silt over the farmland, enriching the soil and improving crop yields. So the farmers stay on stoically, despite the floods, often in houses not built on stilts, nor built to withstand floods.

Some floods are predictable, and some arenít. We never know when a flood might hit our homes, however unlikely that might seem to us. All it takes is for a few drains to get clogged up when heavy rain falls, or a surge of water up the waterways because of a tsunami or a massive explosion at sea. Are our homes built to withstand such flooding?

Similarly, troubles may hit us like a flood. Are we heeding Jesusí teachings and putting them into practice? Or will we be swept away by the spiritual storms of our lives, because our lives are not built upon God the eternal Rock [Gen 49:24; Psalms 18:2; Isaiah 26:4, etc.]? When torrents of trouble come, will our faith hold? Or will we, like the people of New Orleans, blindly believe that it canít happen to us, or that it wonít happen because it never happened before, or that there is nothing we can do about it?

In Proverbs 1, Wisdom speaks of calamities like the storm and the whirlwind [= hurricane], and cries out:

"For the waywardness of the simple will kill them, and the complacency of fools will destroy them; but whoever listens to me will live in safety and be at ease, without fear of harm" [Prov 1:32].

In this world of physical and spiritual storms, hurricanes and tsunamis, we need to heed the voice of Wisdom, who is none other than God, the source of all wisdom. We need to act wisely.



The speaker at chapel today (21 September) was Debbie Lee, a part-time student at BGST, and a free-lance instructor who teaches Business English at several of the local polytechnics. Debbie is also the first and only student who, having completed the first year of speech classes at BGST, sat for and was awarded the Associate diploma in Spoken English in Religion from the London College of Music & Media in 2003.

The title of Debbie's sermon was "From Pain to Gain", and she told the story of how Joseph, through much pain and trauma, was God's instrument for the alleviation of suffering and the calling-out of God's covenant people.

The speaker began by pointing us to personal trauma highlighted in the media - Huang Na's death and a Filipino maid's murder. How might these events make sense to their loved ones? They probably did not. Neither did the events in Joseph's personal life make sense. In Debbie's words, he had been "sold, framed and forgotten."

How might one manage such personal injustice? Debbie's proposition? Accept. Forgive. Move on.

We need to learn to accept the things we cannot change. Many people find this difficult, and end up carrying emotional excess baggage all their lives. While the feelings of being aggrieved might be real, the conclusions drawn from such pain may not always be valid, viz., the need to get even.

How might one break free from one's painful past? Debbie's prescription: to forgive, something which Debbie herself found hard to administer to herself. The speaker went on to spell out her 5 axioms for practical forgiving.

(1) It is a decision that lies in the will, and not the heart.

(2) God knows it is in our best interest to forgive.

(3) Forgiveness is the only way to find release from hatred, anger and resentment.

(4) It sees no distinction between the sin of the aggressor and the sin of the aggrieved.

(5) Forgiveness does not justify the deed or its perpetrator: only God could do that ultimately.

It is only through the willingness to forgive that we could take the third and final liberating step of life: to move on. Only then might the flood of God's light pour into our lives, and so both Potiphar and the Pharaoh saw the light in Joseph. In God's awesome majesty, He purposed to make His redemption known through one man that He could trust, somebody "impervious to charm and flattery" - and that man happened to be Joseph.

The speaker ended with an appeal to her listeners to trust God for "every inch of our past, present and future." We might think our individual lot particularly trying, yet none quite matches the Psalmist's description of Joseph's lot (Psalm 105: 17-19). It was time we broke free from the emotional prison-house of our own making to fulfil God's chosen purpose for each our lives.

(Summary by Ng Seng Chuan)

A Blessed Birthday toÖ

Mr Kwek Khee Leng 3/10

Mr Frederick Lee 3/10

Mr Winston Tay 3/10

Mr Leong Kwok Hoong 4/10

Mr Chan Siew Kong 4/10

Mr Ralph Amirtharaj 4/10

Mr Frederick Yong 5/10

Mr Richard Ang 5/10

Mr Wong Chee Meng 5/10

Mr Chan Wang Ho 6/10

Ms Caroline Lee 8/10

Ms Christina Goh 9/10

Mr Adrian Ang 9/10

Ms Lois Teo 9/10

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This page was updated on 29 Sep 2005. 
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