When the levee breaks

It began to rain and it seemed that it would never stop. The tributaries rose steadily and without abatement for months. Slowly, the disaster began to take shape. Finally, in the spring of 1927, the levees along the great Mississippi River began to fail. Tens of thousands of square miles were inundated. Hundreds of thousands of people lost their homes and their jobs. The waters did not fully recede for months.

Many songs were written in the aftermath of the flood, including “When the Levee Breaks” by Kansas Joe McCoy and Memphis Minnie. It detailed the sorrow of the inevitable. Where do you go when your protection fails and the flood waters surge?

2700 years ago Jeremiah’s levee failed. The flood waters of the Babylonians washed over Jerusalem and destroyed everything. The great prophet, whose life had been dedicated to speaking God’s warnings to a rebellious people, was now left to mourn what had been.

“How lonely sits the city that was full of people! How like a widow has she become, she who was great among the nations! She who was a princess among the provinces has become a slave” (Lamentations 1:1).

The punishment of the people, no matter how justified, afflicted Jeremiah’s soul. His flesh and skin wasted away and his bones were broken (Lamentations 3:4). He suffered from bitterness and tribulation (Lamentations 3:5). His soul was bereft of peace and his mind had forgotten happiness (Lamentations 3:17). Jeremiah’s levee failed. The flood washed over him.

What did Jeremiah do when his levee failed? What should we do when our levee breaks?

Present your grief to God

“Remember my affliction and my wanderings, the wormwood and the gall! My soul continually remembers it and is bowed down within me” (Lamentations 3:19, 20).

It is normal, and in many cases reasonable, for us to be filled with grief. Our Savior is prophetically described as “a man of sorrows” who is “acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3). He presented that grief to the Father (Mark 14:32-42). It is because of the incarnation that we know that God will listen and will help (Hebrews 4:15-16).

Proclaim his goodness

“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the LORD never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:21-23).

Moses began his admonition to the people with praise toward God (Deuteronomy 32:3). In the greatest of sorrows, David praises God (Psalm 57:5). In prison, Silas and Paul sing praises (Acts 16:23-25).

Praise in sorrow is powerful, because the joy of the Lord is our strength (Nehemiah 8:10). Notice carefully Jesus’ quotation of Psalm 8:2 when he cleanses the temple, “Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise” (Matthew 21:16). Jesus substitutes “praise” for “strength” in the Psalm. Praise produces strength!

Place your hope in him

“The LORD is my portion, says my soul, therefore I will hope in him” (Lamentations 3:24).

Perhaps Jeremiah could have found hope in his own ingenuity or some charismatic politician, but the wise find their hope in God.

“Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit” (Jeremiah 17:7-8).

Let us entrust our souls to a faithful Creator and do good (1 Peter 4:19).

Patiently wait on him

“The LORD is good to those who wait for him, to the soul who seeks him. It is good that one should wait quietly for the salvation of the LORD” (Lamentations 3:25, 26).

When God delivered his people out of the hand of Pharaoh, he placed the nascent nation with their back to the sea as Egyptian chariots charged toward them. Moses said to the people, “Fear not, stand firm, and see the salvation of the LORD, which he will work for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall never see again” (Exodus 14:13).

When our levee breaks, when our hearts are agitated like pots of boiling water and our feet wish to flee, the great I AM speaks peace to us, “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).

Patience leads to deliverance. Commit these words of Micah to memory: “But as for me, I will look to the LORD; I will wait for the God of my salvation; my God will hear me. Rejoice not over me, O my enemy; when I fall, I shall rise; when I sit in darkness, the LORD will be a light to me” (Micah 7:7, 8).

Not all godly people were physically rescued from their plight. Jeremiah did not live to see the glory of Jerusalem restored nor her people returned. But his patience led to eternal life. Our citizenship is ultimately not here but in heaven (Philippians 3:20), and we eagerly await our Savior (Hebrews 9:28).

Has your levee already broken? Perhaps, you are like those who sat upon the levee, moaning at the rising flood waters, and pleading for the rain to stop and the mounds to hold. God knows your sorrow, but tell him anyway. God is great, praise him. God is faithful, hope in him. Jesus is coming again, wait for him.

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