In with the New

desert streams

Isaiah 43:19-20 “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland. The wild animals honor me, the jackals and the owls, because I provide water in the desert and streams in the wasteland, to give drink to my people, my chosen…”

God’s new thing forms an interesting contrast with the crossing of the Red Sea. At the Red Sea there was too much water, it seemed. The Lord had to make a dry place through the middle of the sea so that his people could cross it to safety. In the new thing God is doing, there is too much dry, trackless desert his people need to cross. That’s why God creates streams of water–so that they can survive their journey and cross the desert to safety.

One might guess Isaiah is referring to his people’s return from captivity in Babylon. Isaiah had predicted this captivity was coming. He even gave the name of the man who would let them go home when it was done: Cyrus, the future king of Persia. When the time finally came, and the people could come home to Jerusalem, they certainly had to cross a very dry, very lonely desert to get there.

That crossing of the Arabian desert may have begun the fulfillment of this prophecy. But we have no record from either the Bible or history of literal streams appearing in that desert on the Jews’ trip home. It’s also hard to think of the return from Babylon as being a more momentous event than the crossing of the Red Sea, whether for its historical or for its spiritual significance.

But there was another time ahead for God’s people when he was making ways in the wilderness and providing drinks in the desert. Remember Isaiah’s words describing John the Baptist? “A voice of one calling: ‘In the desert prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God.’” Remember Jesus’ words to the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well? “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” The reason God led his people home from Babylon to Jerusalem was to bring them the Water of Life later in the person of Jesus. Then they could cross the spiritual desert in which they were living to safety with him.

Look at this new thing God has to show you. Do you see how it is blessing you in the present? These wonderful works of God were not done in a vacuum. They were not merely awesome displays of his power far removed from us. We still drink from these streams in the desert. God says that he has given them “to give drink to my people, my chosen.” That includes you and me. Does it occur to you that you have been personally privileged to experience an even greater miracle than the crossing of the Red Sea?

Less than two years after Israel had crossed the Red Sea, the impact of that miracle had worn off for most of them. After the people refused to enter the Promised Land on their first trip to its borders, God complained to Moses, “How long will these people treat me with contempt? How long will they refuse to believe in me, in spite of all the miraculous signs I have performed among them?”

But you believe in him. You haven’t seen all kinds of astounding changes in the forces of nature. You simply heard the name of Jesus. You heard him inviting you, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

When he promises you that your sins are forgiven, you can’t see that it is so. But when you drink from that promise, your soul is refreshed and your strength is renewed.

Jesus has sent you no postcards of your heavenly home. He has never invited you to come and inspect the foundation or check out the furnishings before you move in. But though you have never seen it, its very mention fills you with longing to go there. Its promise is sometimes all that keeps you going when your life has become uncomfortably hot or dry.

Is that not a miracle? We are a uniquely jaded and skeptical people. By nature the human heart is closed to the spiritual truth about God. But on the force of some promises flowing from the loving life and sacrificial death of Jesus Christ nearly 2000 years ago, God has opened a way through the wilderness into your heart. He has poured the cooling drink of his love into your soul, and you live with the present blessing of believing it is so.

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