Lessons from the waterfall
By the Rev. Kathy Brumbaugh, Special Writer
Background text: Amos 5:24
Devotional text: Romans 12:1-2
Waterfalls. They come in so many shapes and sizes. Some fall straight down from their precipice, while others fall in gradations. Some cover a wide area, while others are less wide. Either can be steep or short. Some flow over the rocks as blips in a stream.
I’ve always been attracted to waterfalls, from the mighty roar of Niagara Falls with rainbows appearing in the mist, right down to the subtle flowing of a waterfall from one level of rocks to another.
As the waterfalls at Niagara remind me of God’s power and might, and his rainbow promise to us, the sounds of water cascading down in a flowing stream from a gently sloping height, reminds me of God’s peace and comfort.
I’m thankful I live in a place where I can spend time at waterfalls that are as close as a 10-minute drive from home.
The closest waterfall to my home actually took me more than seven years to find. Once I did locate it, I discovered I had been passing by it for years but not seeing it because I had been always looking for it in the dry season. The waterfall was there all along but since it wasn’t flowing I would pass right by it.
Then, one day, a friend offered to take me to it, and it happened to be in the right season. The sound of the water rushing over layers of the stone cliff alerted me that we were close. And there it was. What a beautiful sight.
We sat on benches close by and watched the falling streams of water. What peace; what beauty.
After I posted some pictures of it on Facebook, the organist from my church responded with a question, “I wonder what makes waterfalls so attractive to us?”
This one question got me thinking of God and nature, particularly waterfalls. We all know there are a number of references to water in both Old and New Testaments, but what about waterfalls?
Let’s take a look at Amos, the Old Testament prophet who spoke against the injustices of his time, where the poor and the needy received little to no help and were often sold into slavery so they could survive. It was a time when many of the wealthy thought only of themselves and their luxuries. The tenets given to them (and us today) by God were not in their minds or hearts.
We find in Amos 5:24 a reference to waterfalls as he stated to the people, “But let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an overflowing stream.”
As Amos spoke of justice rolling down like water and righteousness like an overflowing stream, I thought of an analogy to the waterfall. This is like the righteousness taught to us by God. For God has told us to love one another throughout the word of the Bible.
As we seek to live by the word of God, we find that love leads to righteous action. As the righteous stream, born of love, overflowed, it rolled down like the waters of a waterfall. As we overflow in our righteous actions, the need for justice for all fills our hearts and minds.
Why are waterfalls attractive to us? They remind us of God’s nature as he teaches us to be righteous people through his flowing words of acceptance, forgiveness and love. This then, is an example of who God is and of what God expects us to do: that we never stop doing what is good and right for one another.
God asks us to replace selfish desires with love for our fellow human beings.
Notice the water is not thundering down the cliff, but rolling down from an overflowing stream. It is the soft, loving touch of God by which we readily seek to serve him by serving those in despair.
The next two references remind us of mighty waterfalls and power. They come from the Book of Revelation 14:2 and 19:6. Let’s take a look at each of them in turn.
“And I heard a voice from heaven, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder, and the voice which I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps.”
In chapter 14 of Revelation, we leave the terror on earth caused by the evil one found in chapter 13, and we turn to a glimpse of heavenly glory. It is the voice of God, loud and authoritative, yet sweet and loving like the sounds from a harp. It is God calling us to our eternal life.
The second verse from Revelation reads thusly, “Then I heard something like the voice of a great multitude and like the sound of many waters and like the sound of many peals of thunder, saying, ‘Hallelujah! For the Lord our God, the Almighty, reigns’.”
These are the voices of the heavenly angels and the voices of all believers, making a thunderous sound in praising the God of our creation, our hope, our very life.
Why are we so interested in waterfalls? Maybe because they stand for the living water offered to us by God. Maybe they remind us of God’s faithfulness to us and his everlasting guidance and protection for his people. Perhaps they even remind us of cleanliness as the flowing waters wash us clean, as God purifies us and renews us (see Romans 12:1-2).
Next week, we will continue the theme of water by looking at God’s living water.