When the Floods Recede: God’s Promise in Psalm 46

Inspiration-Lessons of Hope for South Sudan
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[Juba, South Sudan,TCT] When the rivers flood in South Sudan, and the great wetlands rise, the waters cover the earth. Birds and fish make a new home where there had been land. After the waters recede, rich grasses grow in the flood plain. This is called toch, a place where the cattle feed.

Every year, the earth shifts, the rivers change their course, the land is ruined — but the floods also bring new life, rich food for the cattle, wild animals, and the people of the floodplain.

This is the meaning of Psalm 46:8, which says, “Come, behold the works of the Lord, see what desolation he has brought on the earth,” and 46:2, “We will not fear, though the earth should change…” God created the rivers with floods, the oceans with tides, and the cold regions of the earth with snows. These things bring ‘desolation’ to the earth, meaning destruction, but a life-renewing kind of destruction, a land-restoring, resource-enriching kind.

South Sudan’s floods are very ancient. They are part of a natural rhythm in which we see the handiwork of God. The waters rise and fall. The sun rises and sets. The birds migrate and return. The fish swarm and lay their eggs. Life flourishes.

However, there are also new things in the land that destroy life and do not restore: the AK-47, the hand grenade, the tank, and the warplane. Psalm 46 does not count these things as part of the natural rhythm. It says that God reviles them: “He makes wars to cease to the end of the earth; he breaks the bow and shatters the spear; he burns the chariot with fire” (v. 9).

The psalm points us back to a time when men and women used to walk the land without any AK or khaki, without fear. It promises us that they will do so again. The wars will cease. God will dwell with his people beside a mighty river and its tributaries (v. 4-5). Though the land is now in the midst of a nightmare, “God will help it when the morning dawns” (v. 5).

God is our “refuge” (v. 1, 7 11) in this dark time. “The nations are in an uproar, the kingdoms totter,” yet God’s voice is above it all: “He utters his voice, the earth melts” (v. 6). This earth is melting away, the flood is receding, and a new life is about to come.

Let us trust him to do this great work. Let us quiet our hearts to hear his voice: “Be still and know that I am God” (v. 10). He will be lifted in South Sudan, and in all the earth.

The contributor is a seminarian who has worked with Christians in South Sudan for several years.

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