Isaiah 43:19 "Rivers in the Desert" (Restoration - Week 2)

Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. ESV

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the wilderness and streams in the wasteland. NIV


Dive Deeper:

Let me ask you a question. Are there desires in your heart that seem impossible? Are there dreams you long for that you’ve stopped praying about because they seem too good to be true? Are there hopes that you once held close that now seem like nothing more than wishful thinking? If that’s you today, understand this. God loves to bring restoration into neglected places. He loves to bring healing where there was once brokenness. He loves to make light shine into the darkness and cause hope to overwhelm hopelessness. The Story of Redemption — our story — has an ending that is far better than we could ever imagine. 

In Isaiah 43:19 we read, “Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” When you read that verse, you may think, “Why is the writer talking about rivers and deserts? And, what does that have to do with restoration?” 

Great questions. Let me paint the scene for you. 

The book of Isaiah was written to the Nation of Israel, some of whom had been taken captive by the Babylonians and were living in a foreign land. They were exiles.

Imagine what that would have been like. 

They would have grown up hearing stories about God’s deliverance. From a young age, they would have heard about how God saved them from captivity in Egypt. They heard story after story of God’s faithfulness in the midst of brokenness. And yet, when they looked around, their circumstances were bleak. They were captives in a land far from home, surrounded by worship that mocked the one true God, and unable to save themselves. Needless to say, the nation of Israel experienced doubt, hopelessness, and fear. But it’s into this context that God declares His plan to deliver and restore His people (vs. 43:14). 

If you’re the Nation of Israel, it would have been easy to think, “Yeah right. Look at our circumstances.” It would have been easy to feel overwhelmed by hopelessness or disillusioned by seemingly unanswered prayers. And so God does two things. First, He reminds them who He is. And second, He reminds them of what He’s done. In Isaiah 43:15 God says, “I am the LORD, your Holy One, the Creator of Israel, your King.” He reminds them that He alone is the sovereign ruler of the universe, not the Babylonians. 

Next, God reminds them of what He’s done. Specifically, He reminds them of their deliverance from captivity in Egypt. He says in Isaiah 43:16-17, “Thus says the LORD, who makes a way in the sea, a path in the mighty waters, who brings forth chariot and horse, army and warrior; they lie down, they cannot rise, they are extinguished, quenched like a wick.” God reminds them in a poetic way that when it’s all said and done, He will have the last word, not the enemy. Or, to say it another way, God brought restoration before, and He can do it again. 

And that’s exactly what we see in Isaiah 43:19. God says, “Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” The last time God showed up, He made a way in the sea (vs. 16-17). This time He will make a way in the desert. 

This promise of future deliverance seems almost too good to be true (i.e., rivers in the desert). No one expects water in the wilderness or deliverance in the desert, but that is exactly the promise we see in these verses. God promises to bring restoration to his people in unexpected places and in unexpected ways.

The message of the gospel — the Story of Redemption — is not that you and I will have a carefree life. The world has been profoundly marked by brokenness and sin. Instead, the message of the gospel is that salvation is possible and restoration in coming. God delights in making dead things live and broken things new. So regardless of the circumstances you face today, be encouraged. 

Restoration is coming. One day water will spring forth in the wilderness, and deliverance will be found in the desert — all that is sad will be made untrue. This is the hope that’s ours in Christ. 

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