Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Week Five - Deserts, Droughts, and Desperation

My brother-in-law manages the water plant in his town.  We lived there, too, during our furlough in   The city and the wider area had not had sufficient rain for five years.  Lakes and reservoirs were so low they only had enough city water for three more months when we arrived.  My brother-in-law was out trying to make deals with landowners and the Osage Indians to redirect any available water into the city supply.  They were fervently praying for rain.  It was quickly becoming a desperate situation.
     God answered, and it did begin to rain.  And when it came, it did so with a vengeance.  They went from no rain to too much rain, from dry lakes to overflowing lakes.  It rained for several months.  Their drought was officially over.
   Isaiah 41:17 speaks of extreme drought, saying, “When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue faileth for thirst.”  I’ve never been in that situation.  However, for many around the world, is it a sad, heart-wrenching, current experience. 
    God uses the example of a physical drought as a picture of the dryness of our soul.  Here in Isaiah 41, I see six promises for those wandering on dry land.

1.     He will hear.  V 17, God hears when his children cry.  He is aware.
2.     He will not forsake. V17 It might get very dry, but God is still there.  There is no place one can go to be abandoned by God.
3.     He will open rivers and fountains above and around. V 18
4.     He will place pools of refreshment and water to spring up nearby.  V 18
5.     He will provide, as Albert Barnes describes, “unanticipated sources of comfort” that comes in the form of trees indigenous to the desert. V 19
6.     And even in the desert time, V 19, the poor and needy will find plant growth providing shade, beauty, and sustenance.

Why does God give these promises for desert times?  Verse twenty tells us it is so we may “see, and know, and consider, and understand” that the Lord is the one taking care of us.  He wants us to focus our minds back to His goodness and provision, even when we feel dry.
      Questions started in my mind, “How do we wind up in desert places? Why do we so often wait until we are in the wilderness failing for thirst before we cry to the Lord?
    I’m afraid too often we wander away and find ourselves parched for no reason other than stubbornness and rebellion.  We dry up because we have not been feeding on the Word.  We shut off the streams of refreshment through unforgiveness or have angrily turned our backs on God and headed straight to the desert to pout.
    We could have come asking for rain before the drought set in.  We could have received refreshment and water from His Spirit and the Word.  We could look and see places of shade, beauty, and sustenance, but instead, we lay on our waste ground feeling abandoned and alone.  Our cries aren’t honest cries for help as much as they are muttering, complaining, and self-pity.  And often, our circumstance is one of our own making.   
   You know what?  God is still there and hears prayer. Desperate situations do not cancel God’s promises. He is always listening. He has the water and comfort we need, and He is ready and willing to supply if we will but acknowledge His hand.
   Verse twenty-one is the Lord’s response to this situation.  What does He say?  “Produce your cause and bring forth your strong reasons.”  In other words, “What’s wrong, tell me why you are here.  Bring forth proof that you are in the right place.”
    Did your parents ever put such a challenge before you?  Mine sometimes did.  I would get into a foolish mood, and they would take me by the shoulders, make me look straight into their eyes, and ask, “What are you doing?  Why are you acting like this?”
    That would catch my little mind caught off guard.  I didn’t know why I was acting like that most of the time, but sometimes I was angry with my sister, or I didn’t want to do what was asked of me.  I knew my childish heart was guilty.
   Well, when God’s eyes meet ours, we melt in the same way.  We might have ignorantly wandered away, but most usually, we know the angst in our hearts and the excuses we are giving. It’s time for us to accept the refreshing waters and the comfort of the shade beneath His wings and allow our souls to be replenished.  There is no reason for us to continue in the desert when God takes us by the shoulders!

Barnes, Albert, Barnes Notes, Isaiah. P 90-91

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