TODAY’S READING: PSALMS 107-111
“He turns rivers into a desert, springs of water into thirsty ground, a fruitful land into a salty waste, because of the evil of its inhabitants. He turns a desert into pools of water, a parched land into springs of water.” – Psalm 107: 33-35
The Old Testament view of God was that he did both good and evil. If you obeyed him, then God did good to you. But, if you disobeyed him, then God would do some sort of evil – a plague, a pestilence, a conquering enemy – to you.
In Psalm 107, the writer says that for God’s enemies – the evil inhabitants of a land, God turns rivers into a desert and a fruitful land into a salty waste. God turns a river, which is life giving, into a desert, which is a place of death since it lacks water. God turns a fruitful land, something productive and continually producing life, into a salty waste, something unproductive and incapable of producing life. However, the writer says that God does just the opposite for his people.
Does God really do both of these things?
The only way to know is to look to Jesus.
What do we see Jesus doing?
Does Jesus turn rivers into deserts or deserts into rivers?
In the gospels, John the baptist comes preaching in the wilderness to prepare the way of the Lord. Throughout the Bible, the wilderness and the desert are synonymous. I believe we are to understand that this to mean more than John was preaching literally in a desert. Rather, we are to understand that the people he was preaching to were a desert. The people themselves had become a dry wilderness.
Jesus came into this desert, this dry wilderness. But, Jesus did not cause the people to be in this condition.
Why were the people a desert, a dry wilderness?
The psalm gives a clue. Verse 34 says “because of the evil of its inhabitants.” However, the psalm doesn’t reveal the whole story because it still says God turned the rivers into a desert because of the evil of the people of the land.
But, Jesus reveals that God didn’t do this because of the evil of the land’s inhabitants.
First, in Matthew 5:45, Jesus said, “For he [God] makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends his rain on the just and on the unjust.” The psalmist believe that God dried up the water of the land of the wicked, the evil, the unjust. But, Jesus contradicts this. He said God does just the opposite. God treats the good and the evil the same by sending rain on their land. God is watering the land of all people.
Second, in John 10:10, Jesus said, “I came that they may have life and have it abundantly.” Jesus explicitly came to give people life. To do this, Jesus would have to give water not dry it up.
Third, in John 4:13-14, Jesus said, “Everyone who drinks of this water will be thirsty again, but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again. The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” Jesus promised to give an unending supply of living water to any who would drink from it. Indeed, not only would that person have this living water to drink, but Jesus said this person would have rivers of living water flowing out of his heart (John 7:38).
Instead of drying up rivers and turning places into deserts, Jesus turned deserts into well watered places. Metaphorically, this all speaks about what Jesus. So, we see that the psalmist was correct in Psalm 107:35.
So, if God doesn’t turn rivers into deserts as the psalmist said, then who does?
Jesus brought living water to every dry place. Yet, despite his having this living water, the life of God, inside of him, Jesus became a dry place. The river of life became a desert.
Where and when did this happen?
In John 19:28, while on the cross, Jesus said, “I thirst.”
The river of life had been dried up.
By the hand of God?
Then how was the river of life dried up?
By the evil, darkness, wickedness, and violence of man.
The cross symbolizes all the wrath, rage, fury, evil, wickedness, and violence that man could conjure up. And, it was all poured out on Jesus, drying up the man that had a river of life flowing out of him to the point that he said, “I thirst.” Jesus was a river turned into a desert, a wilderness, because of our evil and violence.
Therefore, it is not God that turns rivers into deserts. We do that ourselves. We made our own hearts a wilderness because of the wicked and evil intentions of our hearts.
Through Jesus, God came to change all of that. We know this because we never once see Jesus drying up water to create a wilderness. He’s always doing just the opposite.
And, this is what God desires to do to all of our hearts – turn the desert into a pool of water and the parched land into a spring of water.