Readings: Joshua 3: 1 – 4: 18, Psalm 107: 1-9, 33-38
When we arrived in Worcester in December of 2005, we went for a drive to the surrounding areas and on the road to Brandvlei/ Rawsonville, we crossed over a relatively long bridge that runs over the Breede River. We stopped after the bridge and walked back over it to look at the river because we couldn’t see it from the car and a few meters below the bridge was this tiny little stream a few centimetres wide flowing under the incredibly wide bridge and hidden between the reeds. In our estimation, it was not so broad after all.
Six months later, after some good rainfall and snow on the mountains around us, we drove over the same bridge and this time the river was at least 1 ½ km’s wide and was lapping over the bridge as it flowed in strength. In my few years there, I buried a number of people who had drowned in that very same river, just a little down river of that bridge (there is a picnic spot). That little stream could become a massive body of water that was deep enough to completely hide the form of grown ups in full stretch as they succumbed to the slow but relentless flow of the water. We had been fooled by what we thought was the timidity of nature, but we learned a valuable lesson that winter and that was that nature is not timid. Neither is the God of nature timid.
We can block damns, we can harness energy, we can push back seas and we can do amazing things as we attempt mastery over nature, but in the flash of an eye; nature is able to take back what we think we have won. I sometimes think nature gives us space to expand our wings, but we can see that when we become too arrogant and push too far, nature resets its boundaries (you shall not pass). We can do everything we want to stop a river flowing, but when the river is in flood, nothing we can do can stop it.
I was listening to an excellent talk by a good friend (Ralph Travers) this week about some of the work he had been involved in as a civil engineer and one of the sites was a railway bridge on the Umfolozi River in KZN when Cyclone Demoina passed through the area in January of 1984. The water from the 700mm rainfall flowing down the river at the rate of 16 million litres per second (16 000 cubic metres per second) moving at a speed of 2,6 metres per second, churned the soil of the river bed to a depth of 18m and carried in its path the 10 spans of the bridge, each weighing 160 tons; carrying some a number of them downriver and burying the rest. As Ralph had said: “The forces of God’s nature can be colossal and way beyond man’s ability to control”
It is all beyond man’s ability to control, but God is no man. The Jordon river was in heavy flood when the priests stepped into the river and instantly, the river flowing downstream was cut off and damned up as the Israelites crossed over on dry land and they even had time to go back, get stones and have a stone laying church service as a reminder of what God had just done…
God may be gentle, but God is not timid. There are many rivers that seem too wide, too deep and too turbulent for us to cross, and they probably are, which is why we need the God who can stop the waters as we pass through those rivers on dry ground under His protection and guidance. Keep your eyes fixed on Him and follow where He leads you.