6waters shall break forth in the wilderness,
and streams in the desert;
7the burning sand shall become a pool,
and the thirsty ground springs of water.
As we watch our lawns die, take brief showers and conserve what little water we have, the image of a lush and abundant wilderness gains power to us in California.
But more than our drought, I think of the refugees we see on the television attempting to walk from the desolation of Syria through the Balkans and into Europe. Refugees seem to end up in arid places. Those led by coyotes across the border from Mexico carry milk jugs of water hoping not to perish in the desert. I remember the anxiety on a hot afternoon backpacking across an extended stretch of rocky ground when the water bottle slipped from my grasp and spilled, leaving my daughter and I only a sip. I did not know how far it would be before we came to a water supply.
Water is life. Lush water is luxury. Swimming pools, mountain lakes, cool streams, they all speak to us of abundance and joy.
Waters shall break forth in the wilderness,
and streams in the desert;
The exiles in Babylon are fully aware of the arid lands that lie between them and their home in Jerusalem. Their parents and grandparents have walked those lands in chains as they were carried away from home and their destroyed city. Now comes the promise that God will turn that desert into lushly watered lands. God will make a way for them to come home.
There are arid times in our lives, in our marriages, in our work. Times when loss is great and hope is thin. Times when the future bodes ill. It is the nature of life east of Eden. And there is no promise that every time of trial will be followed by health, wealth and prosperity. But there is the promise that God will bring us home. The deserts shall yield. The river of life will flow from the temple. The heart of the believer will be an eternal and overflowing spring. The wilderness will give way to the promised land.
There is a deep and abiding hope at the heart of Biblical faith – not mere wish, but a confidence born by God’s hand and God’s promise. God has shown his character. God has revealed his purpose. He is a God who redeems. He is a God who delivers. He is the defender of orphans and widows. He binds up the wounded and frees the prisoner. And the God who has shown himself as deliverer has promised the healing of our world, the writing of his law on our hearts, the inspiration of all creation with his Spirit, the beating of swords into plowshares, the lifting of the veil, the desert become a lush garden.
We live by that promise. We live in that promise. It is like those whose lives are changed by falling in love – or those whose lives are made radiant by a long, deep and abiding love. The sorrows of the world lose their dark shadows. A child’s body lying in the surf breaks our hearts but not our hope that our humanity will be restored. For we have seen the empty grave. We have tasted the Holy Spirit. We have heard the promise of the deserts breaking forth into bloom. The world belongs to a redeemer God and he will bring us home.
By this we live.