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.
I will put in the wilderness the cedar,
the acacia, the myrtle, and the olive.
I will set in the desert the cypress,
the plane and the pine together,
that they may see and know,
may consider and understand together,
that the hand of the Lord has done this,
the Holy One of Israel has created it. Isaiah 41:17-20 ESV
He turns a desert into pools of water,
a parched land into springs of water.
And there he lets the hungry dwell,
and they establish a city to live in;
they sow fields and plant vineyards
and get a fruitful yield.
By his blessing they multiply greatly,
and he does not let their livestock diminish. Psalm 107:35-38 ESV
A desert is a very dry place, and often there aren’t many trees or plants growing there because there isn’t enough water. Africa has large areas of land that are deserts, and it’s hard to grow any crops in these dry areas to feed the people who live there. One solution to this problem is to grow grains that don’t need as much water, such as some types of maize, millet, sorghum, and groundnut. Another big help to growing crops in the desert is to have trees like the acacia tree, which grows well in a desert climate because it doesn’t need much water. Trees help fix nitrogen in the soil, which helps the crops to grow, and the interesting thing about the acacia tree is that it sheds its leaves at the same time that farmers plant their seeds. The fallen leaves fertilize the soil for the grain, and the bare branches of the trees let the sunlight reach the ground. In some areas of Africa acacia trees and others like them are making a big difference to the amount of food that can be grown in the desert.
God spoke through the prophet Isaiah using the picture language of trees growing in the dry desert. Farmers today work hard to make food and trees grow in Africa’s deserts, but the Lord spoke about opening rivers and fountains and letting pools of water form in the driest wilderness to quench the thirst of poor and needy people and to nourish all kinds of beautiful trees–cedar and acacia and myrtle and olive and cyprus, plane and pine trees all growing together in beautiful groves. This is all a picture of the way God changes things that are hopeless and dead and makes them beautiful and alive.
We were all hopeless and dead, cut off from God and from everything that could give us life with God, and there was nothing we could do to bring ourselves back to life again. We had this problem because we had fallen into sin and had made ourselves God’s enemies. But God loves us, and he came to us in Jesus to bring us back to himself. Jesus died on the cross and rose again from the dead to defeat sin and death for us. He gives us new life in him, a life that starts in the waters of baptism. In baptism God washes away our sins and gives us all the gifts Jesus won for us on the cross. He makes us his people and gives us a new and beautiful life with him, now and forever.
Dear Jesus, thank you for dying and rising again for us, and for giving us new life in you. Amen.