Therefore let all who are faithful offer prayer to you;
at a time of distress, the rush of mighty waters shall not reach them.
I wonder what image came to mind as the poet wrote this phrase, “the rush of mighty waters.” Has he been in one of the wadis of the Judean desert when a flash flood swept down the canyon? Has he been caught in one of the cascades of the Jordan when it drops down from Mt. Hermon? Is he thinking of the overwhelming emotions of fear and anxiety when a child lies sick? Has he wrestled with a desperate shame? Is there some allusion here to the primal waters of chaos to which God brought grace and order by his Word? I wish I knew.
What is clear from the psalm is that the internal war that comes with the refusal to see and acknowledge one’s sins is a deeply troubling one. Denial drags us down into chaos as we struggle against realities that demand to be named if we are ever to be free. When fault is denied, when blame is put on others, when protestations of innocence are too loud, the ties that connect us to others are rent. We lose the communion upon which life depends. We are swept up in a storm of guilt and anger that is aptly compared to floodwaters threatening to swallow us.
But those who are rooted in the faithfulness of God are able to pray the prayers that need to be uttered, are able to speak the words that must be said, are able to name the truth that must be named – and with that confession, find safe haven. It’ s not a simple peace, the conscience still winces and blushes, but the floodwaters do not overwhelm. We do not drown. We do not perish.
We draw near to Good Friday, to that moment when we must stand with a human race that slaughters the innocent. We draw near to that telling mirror that reminds us how easy it is for us to choose Barabbas, the man of action, the man of the sword, over the man of peace. We draw near. It is not an easy confession. But those who know the faithfulness of God are able to make it. Those who are familiar with the landscape of prayer find their way, ultimately, to the place where the body lay and see that the tomb is empty and grace rules over all.