Streams in the Desert
Have you ever been so discouraged that you began to question your faith? Have things ever hit you so hard that you suddenly felt uncertain about everything in your life? This happened to John the Baptizer when he was in jail. He began to question Jesus’ messiahship in that dark and foreboding place. When Jesus heard this, he sent a message through a friend to say that indeed, he was the Messiah, and he quoted today’s passage from Isaiah as proof.
“4 Jesus responded, “Go, report to John what you hear and see. 5 Those, who were blind, are able to see. Those who were crippled are walking. People with skin diseases are cleansed. Those who were deaf now hear. Those who were dead are raised up. The poor have good news proclaimed to them. 6 Happy are those who don’t stumble and fall because of me” (Matthew 11:4-6, Common English Bible).
John was soothed in his dismay when he heard these familiar words from the prophet Isaiah. They were a foretelling of a future Messiah, which John realized had now arrived in Jesus.
Isaiah 35:5-10 (Common English Bible)
Then the eyes of the blind will be opened,
and the ears of the deaf will be cleared.
6 Then the lame will leap like the deer,
and the tongue of the speechless will sing.
Waters will spring up in the desert,
and streams in the wilderness.
7 The burning sand will become a pool,
and the thirsty ground, fountains of water.
The jackals’ habitat, a pasture;[a]
grass will become reeds and rushes.
8 A highway will be there.
It will be called The Holy Way.
The unclean won’t travel on it,
but it will be for those walking on that way.[b]
Even fools won’t get lost on it;
9 no lion will be there,
and no predator will go up on it.
None of these will be there;
only the redeemed will walk on it.
10 The Lord’s ransomed ones will return and enter Zion with singing,
with everlasting joy upon their heads.
Happiness and joy will overwhelm them;
grief and groaning will flee away.
As we read these words, they are a reminder that God provides for our needs in the dry places. They are an assurance that God’s saving power is strong enough to ignite miracles such as sight and hearing in the blind and deaf. They bring hope. As is often the case in Isaiah’s writings, we are invited to visualize things such as streams in bleak deserts and the thirsty ground turning into a pool of clear water. These word-pictures tell of illusions turning into reality through the power of God. Indeed, the translation of the word pool in the seventh verse is translated as “mirage,” a further reminder of the illusion of water that God transforms into fountains that feed the thirsty ground.
Isaiah invites us today to travel on a highway called the “Holy Way.” It is a place for the redeemed to safely walk in righteousness and holiness in pursuit of the Lord. This causes us to ponder where we are. Are you walking the Holy Way, or have you lost your way? Are you pursuing Zion and its promises of redemption, or are you chasing after worldly things? Wealth, fame, fortune, and leisure are things that people pursue that aren’t offered on the Holy Way. What do you need to do to get back on the highway?
We are offered “everlasting joy upon our heads” and are assured that happiness and joy will overwhelm us when we travel this way. Grief and groaning are not part of this path.
As you meditate on these words, ask yourself this: is it time to get back on track? God always makes a way.
Walking the Highway by Sallie Williams