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.

Jesus responded, “Go, report to John what you hear and see. 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

The Disrespectful

When did it become acceptable to be so disrespectful?

Regardless of what side you take on a political or social issue, you will find loud statements of disrespect on both sides. Name calling, snide remarks, hate words, slander…all these are weapons in the war of words which society fully engages in day after day. Social media is very anti-social. News is not so much newsworthy as it is opinionated, and those who are privileged with opinion platforms are loud, inappropriately angry, and seethe with disrespect.

What does this do to us as we listen? Do you walk away from these encounters discouraged, defeated, detached, and with your blood pressure elevated? Me, too.

In our Psalm today we are reminded that happiness can’t be found among the disrespectful.

Psalm 1 (Common English Bible)

The truly happy person
    doesn’t follow wicked advice,
    doesn’t stand on the road of sinners,
    and doesn’t sit with the disrespectful.
Instead of doing those things,
    these persons love the Lord’s Instruction,
    and they recite God’s Instruction day and night!
They are like a tree replanted by streams of water,
    which bears fruit at just the right time
    and whose leaves don’t fade.
        Whatever they do succeeds.

I have a friend who initially gave up social media for Lent and then decided to stay off due to the constant disrespect he experienced when he expressed his political beliefs. He discovered that his “friends” quickly went on the attack, even if he was trying to respectfully argue a point. I have another friend who is a retired police officer who suffers daily from what he reads on the internet.

I think it is important to remember that the celebrity “news” people and your so-called “friends” on social media platforms are merely dust that blows away. The trick is to not let it get in your eyes as it blows past you. We need to keep clear eyes focused solely on the Lord’s instruction. That helps us to be like trees that are planted by the water that will bear fruit for the kingdom if we focus on keeping the righteous things in the foreground.

That’s not true for the wicked!
    They are like dust that the wind blows away.
And that’s why the wicked will have no standing in the court of justice—
    neither will sinners
    in the assembly of the righteous.
The Lord is intimately acquainted
    with the way of the righteous,
    but the way of the wicked is destroyed.

God blesses the righteous with happiness and destroys the disrespectful.

Perhaps we should all closely monitor the things we engage in that are making us unhappy. My guess is that spending less time engaging with angry people will result in feeling more peaceful. Reading God’s word day and night will result in an intimacy with him that brings calm to our hearts.

And thank you so much for reading At Water’s Edge! May you find peace, hope, and contentment today as you carry his word in your heart.

Come and Sit