Streams In The Desert

“When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none, and their tongue is parched with thirst, I the LORD will answer them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them.  I will open rivers on the bare heights, and fountains in the midst of the valleys; I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water…” (Isaiah 41:17-18)

In this Reading from Isaiah, the prophet is describing the power of the holy God of Israel and the assurance that God will come to their help, even while recognizing that Israel’s failures are many and very serious in God’s sight. The image he uses here is of streams in the wilderness and pools in the desert. This stretches right back, of course, to the roots of Israel’s history and all those times God provided water from the rock during the Exodus and provided drink for his people when their tongues were, quite literally, “parched with thirst.”

So, water is symbolic here, as it is so often throughout Scripture, for salvation – for rescue and for new life. But, in a land where water is always the issue, it had more than symbolic power. In today’s world over 1 billion people still lack access to safe water near their homes for drinking, cooking and washing. More than twice that many lack a safe and effective way to dispose of their bodies’ waste. And that’s why nearly 5,000 children in the developing world die every day from disease caused by unsafe water, sanitation, or hygiene.

My step son, Andrew, lives here in the city and has gotten involved in something called “WaterAid.” It’s based in London and is the world’s champion of safe water, effective sanitation, and hygiene promotion. WaterAid provides practical, sustainable solutions, made more effective through local and international collaborations and is involved in advocacy, education and poverty reduction in some of the world’s poorest countries

Drew works in management in the Border’s Book Store system, and has arranged a volunteer program for people to wrap Christmas gifts in several stores for free in exchange for a donation to WaterAid and an opportunity to share information with customers about the program. We’re really proud of him! And he can provide more information for anyone who might want to get involved!

Because water is surely a sign of salvation and new life… but it is also the actual conveyer of salvation and new life! Jesus says, of John the Baptist, in today’s Gospel: “See, I am sending my messenger ahead of you, who will prepare your way before you.” (Matthew 11: 10) In Advent, we remember that John was sent to prepare the way for the salvation Jesus brings. Perhaps programs like WaterAid and similar efforts to alleviate hunger and thirst around the world can provide a similar “John the Baptist” ministry.

Preparing the way for the Lord…and providing – quite literally – streams in the wilderness…pools in the desert!



One Response to “Streams In The Desert”

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