Making the Deserts Bloom
When the Messiah
comes, the deserts will bloom.
One nice thing
about living on the western side of the mountains here in Washington
is that you can always drive across the mountains to eastern
Washington and see the desert. We all have had that experience,
where we start of this side of the mountain where it is raining, of
course, and we start driving up over those mountains. As you get
into the mountains, it is very green, with moss and trees and ferns.
The underbrush is so thick you couldn’t walk through it. You get
to the top of the mountains and there is some snow, and you cross
the pass, and you notice that something is different. The trees
aren’t so numerous. The underbrush isn’t so thick. Gradually, as
you come off the mountain, the land becomes drier and drier and
pretty soon you start moving out into the desert. As you drive
across the desert, you start to notice a couple of things. You
notice those gigantic wheels that look like they are about ten feet
tall. And you notice those pipes between the wheels. Wherever there
are wheels and pipes, you notice that there is water spraying from
those pipes and the land all around the irrigation pumps is green.
Irrigation is a wonderful miracle as you see the beauty of the
blossom and grow.
there were irrigation pipes, someone had a dream, a vision, visual
image of a desert blooming. Before there were irrigation
pumps, someone dreamed of divine possibilities for the brown,
parched, barren land…that it could blossom like a garden. The
dreamers imagined that blossoming desert could happen, and from
their hopes, their imaginations went to work and they asked, “How
can we make this desert bloom?” To ask such a question meant that
they had visions of hope, visions of divine possibilities, visions
of glory. Visions of fields and waving wheat in the wind. Then,
after their imagination of possibilities, it took an immense amount
of hard work. After the hard work, it took a great deal of patience.
And after several years of hard work, finally…a miracle happened
right before their eyes.
That is, the desert began to bloom. It is always wonderful to
watch a miracle unfold, but it is always better to help a miracle
When the Messiah
comes, the deserts will bloom.
I think of another
example of blooming deserts. I think of the land of Israel a
thousand years ago. About
a thousand years ago in the land of Israel or Palestine, they cut
down all the trees. Why would they cut down all the trees? Because a
thousand years ago, the Turkish government was the most powerful in
the world and the Turks had a law that for every tree, you had to
pay a tax. If you had to pay a dollar tax for every tree, obviously,
you are going to cut down all the trees. So in the land of Israel,
they cut down all their trees. What happens when you cut down all
the trees? You change the climate. As soon as you cut down all the
trees, you don’t have moisture gathering and condensing and
eventually you have the beginnings of a desert. That is what
happened in the land of Israel. At one time, the land was flowing
with milk and honey and gorgeous trees. They cut them all down, and
the land became a desert during the next four to five hundred years.
What is that famous saying that “the mills of God grind slowly,
but they do grind.” Cut
the trees and the deserts eventually come.
But, beginning in
1948, the Jewish nation was again established. That in itself was a
miracle for the Jews, to have their own land after so many centuries
of not having a land. The Jews said: “Let’s change our land.”
So in 1948, they started to plant trees; they started to
irrigate; and they started to change their climate. … Any time you
have a miracle, it means that there were visions of hope. Their
imaginations became active and they asked an important question,
“How can we make this desert bloom?”
They had to have their imaginations and visions of hope.
Then, it took an immense amount of hard work and finally patience.
The desert didn’t blossom overnight with no work and patience.
Gradually, and gradually, and gradually, a miracle was born. It is
grand to see a miracle, but it is ever better to be part of a
When the Messiah
comes, the deserts will bloom.
There is a Sahal desert in Africa. Right now, as you know,
Africa is experiencing one of its worst droughts. Back in 1973 and
1974, the Sahal desert was really bad and we learned the word,
“desertification.” Desertification means that the desert is
growing, expanding, and enlargening. That means there will be
massive hunger and starvation for those twenty-two nations in that
part of the world. You wouldn’t want to be living there along
banks of the Sahal desert. The land was overpopulated; the cows,
sheep and goats ate all the grass and denuded the ground. The people
cut down the trees for firewood. Anytime that you get rid of all the
grass and cut down all the trees and grow cash crops, and don’t
rotate the land, the land is going to become a desert. A desert is
growing in that part of the world.
say to themselves and each other, “We’ve to change that.” Hope
is born. Visions of hope are born. Imaginations go to work and ask
the question, “How can we stop this desert from growing? How can
we make the edges of this desert bloom?” The people started to
plant thousands upon thousands of trees. It also requires patience
because it will take thirty to forty to fifty years for those trees
to grow. As the trees grow, gradually, the climatic conditions will
change. It is a
pleasure to watch the deserts bloom. It is grand to see a miracle,
but it is even better to be part of a miracle enfolding.
This same process
of desertification has happened in the land of Haiti, where our
sister church is. I once saw a TV special where the camera was way
high above Haiti, and you could see where the land had been denuded
and now even the ocean beaches were becoming brown deserts with no
life, plants or fish in them.
When the Messiah
comes, the deserts will bloom.
It is with these
images that we approach the Old Testament lesson for today. If you
add up the several of the Bible verses from Isaiah 35, the Word of
the Lord says, “When the Messiah comes, the deserts will bloom.”
What was the
historical situation that caused the prophet Isaiah to write these
words about the blooming deserts? The year was 700 B.C., and life
had become like a desert to the people. Life is like that; life can
become a desert, as many of you so well know. Life had become brown
and burned out, dead and dry, with blowing sand.
What happened? The
people were now in captivity. Their capital city had been
incinerated. Their religious temple had been destroyed. Their sons
had been killed. Their king had been blinded by the enemy. Their
cities and farms had been burned, and they had been in captivity for
nearly fifty years. The people were feeling burnt and brown and
broken down. It was then that the prophet Isaiah wrote these
incredible words: “When the Messiah comes, your desert will
bloom.” The prophet said, “I will make your wilderness a pool of
water and your dry land, I will make into springs of water. I will
put trees in your desert: the cedar, the acacia, the myrtle wood. I
will plant trees in her desert, and I will make her desert like a
Garden of Eden and her wilderness will be like the garden of the
Lord. So shall it be when the Messiah comes. When the Messiah comes,
your deserts will begin to bloom again.”
Life can be like
that. Life can be like a desert where life is dried up, burnt and
brown. Such as after a death of a husband, wife or child. Life can
become very dried up. Inevitably, it always happens after death.
Life, then, becomes dried up like a desert.
Or, such as after
years of marriage with a love between a man and a woman, and that
love slowly dries up and their marriage becomes like a desert.
Or, such as during
an illness like multiple sclerosis or like cancer. During severe
illness, life can feel much like a desert.
Or, some of those
accidents that leave people crippled or paralyzed for life. It
happens and life feels like a desert, so dried up and dead.
Or, such as the
time when a person loses a job and the loss of income and you
don’t know where to turn because there seems to be nowhere to
Or sometimes in
periods of loneliness and depression, when the walls talk back to
you and you have lost your energy and life has lost its challenge.
Or, such as this
time of year, during this Christmas time. Christmas time is the
worst time of year for people who feel that life is like a desert. I
know many people who are praying for Christmas to be over. Christmas
begins two or three days before Thanksgiving, and these desert
people further wilt under the Christmas pressures to be happy. Are
you aware that Christmas time is the number one time for suicide and
depression? Why? Because for many people, life is a desert, and life
seems even more deserted at this time of year. Life can be like a
desert for each one of us.
This is illustrated
by a story that I read and would like to share with you. It is a
story about a woman in her mid forties. She came to visit a senile
old lady at a nursing home. I imagine her over at Good Samaritan
home nearby. The woman in her forties comes into the room and says
to the senile, old lady in her eighties, “How are you?” Long
pause. “Just fine,” the old lady responds. Long silence. Five
minutes of silence. The old lady asks, “Where did the leaves
go?” The woman in her forties responds, “It’s fall; the leaves
have fallen.” Long silence. For two hours, the movement of words
is ever so slow. A short comment punctuated by long periods of
silence. The old lady asks, “Do you have a daughter?” “Yes, my
daughter is twelve years old.” Long silence. “Do you have any
sons?” the old lady asks? “Yes, our boy is sixteen.” Long
silence. “What is his name?”
“Mark. He is such
a tall boy, almost six feet four.” “My, he is a tall boy.”
These two women talked back and forth with silence, with long
periods of silence in between.
It was like the forty year old was a visitor to a shut-in,
following through with her Christian love and duty.
It finally came time to leave and the younger woman said,
“I must be going now.” The old lady asked, “Do you live far
away?” “O yes,” was the reply, “almost three hundred miles
away.” The two of them went together to the outside door, the
older woman being pushed in her wheel chair by the younger woman.
The old lady said, “This has been nice. You are pretty. Come see
me again. But, but, but
I don’t know your name.” The middle-aged woman choked back the
tears and said, “My name is Lorraine.” And then for a moment,
there was a blinding flash of recognition in the old lady’s mind,
then shame, then sorrow, then nothing. The younger woman turned and
ran to her car, tears streaming down her face, glad that her mother
had called her “pretty.”
Life can be like
that. Life can be like a desert.
When love and love tragically dries up. When God seems so
very far away. When love seems so very far away. When the marriage
is dead. When the husband is dead. When the mom is dead. When the
energies have died. Life can become like a desert. In fact,
somewhere along in your life and mine, life will be a desert for
you. Inevitably, sometime, somewhere, someplace, each of us will
walk a desert path.
The Word of the
Lord is this: “When the Messiah comes, your deserts will bloom
In the New
Testament, the Messiah came. Jesus came to earth and found all kinds
of people whose lives had become like deserts. Jesus helped those
people’s lives to bloom again. Let me give you some examples. The
prostitute. She was a woman whose life was a desert for her, as is
true of all prostitutes, past and present. The prostitute heard his
words, “Your sins are forgiven. Go and sin no more.” Jesus
Or, the story of
the prodigal son. The prodigal son had gone to the far country, and
his life was a total mess. His life had become a wilderness, a
desert, parched and brown. Dead. He came to his senses and finally
back to his father who put a ring on his finger and a coat on his
back and killed the fatted calf for a grand celebration. Suddenly,
the prodigal son was the celebrated son. His life was blooming
Or, the woman who
had five divorces, five epochs of her life at the worst and Jesus
came to save her, to help her.
Or, the centurion,
whose son was falling into a fire with epileptic seizures.
Or Zacchaeus, the
Or Matthew, the tax
Again and again and
again and again and again, when Jesus came into people’s lives,
their lives were like deserts and when Jesus left them, their
deserts were blooming once more. It is absolutely true: when the
Messiah comes into your life, Jesus helps the deserts of your life
and mine to bloom again.
People always ask,
“How did he do that? How is it that he works the miracle and helps
the deserts bloom?” It always begins with water. You gotta have
water to make the deserts bloom. It begins with living water. Jesus
said, “I am the living water. Whoever drinks of me will never
thirst again.” What
does that mean, to drink the living water? To drink the living water
means to have the Spirit of Jesus come inside of you. His
forgiveness. His patience. His kindness. His moral values. His
goodness. To drink the living water is to have the Spirit of the
Living God come and live within. That is the most important thing
that could ever happen to your life and mine.
At first, you drink
a little bit. A sip. A
sip of the living water. Then you try a swallow. Then you drink a
cup. Then a large glass. Then a bucket. And pretty soon, you don’t
even know what is happening, but there are rivers of living water
flowing into you and rivers of living water flowing out of you.
Where did all that water come from? The deserts begin to
bloom when we experience the living water of God’s Spirit inside
of us. When the living water is inside of us, we begin to dream
dreams and imagine possibilities.
The next step is
for your imagination to go to work. That is the next thing that
always happens. Your imagination goes to work. The imagination goes
to work and asks the big question, “How can this desert
blossom?” Just like it took loads of imagination to make the
deserts in Eastern Washington bloom and just like it took loads of
imagination to make the deserts bloom in Israel, so it takes
imagination to make our deserts bloom. … And the imagination asks
this question: “God, what can you and I do to make this situation
better? What can we do to make our situation better?” You ask that
question rather than make the questions, “God, what’s wrong with
me? God, how come I have such a rotten place to live in? God, how
come I have such a crummy life?” When you finally move beyond
those questions and feelings; when you finally begin drinking the
living water, you ask another and more important question, “God,
what can you and I do to help my desert bloom? To help the deserts
around me to bloom?”
When you finally
ask that question about life, things start to happen. Then? Then, it
takes hard work. To make the deserts bloom in eastern Washington,
Israel, Kenya, or Haiti, it takes hard work. Anyone who doesn’t
think that miracles take hard work doesn’t understand the nature
of miracles. People often say, “God, you do it for me. Do it for
me, God. Come down here and do the work for me.” That reminds me
of my children at certain times in their young lives, “Come down
and do the work for me, so I won’t have to work so hard.” Such
people don’t understand that miracles take hard work. It always
takes hard work to make a desert bloom. I have never seen a desert
bloom without hard work. Not one. Nor have you.
Then, it takes
patience. A great deal of patience. I see people go over to eastern
Washington and look what happened to the miracle in that desert, and
then come back to their own farm and question, “Now how come my
farm isn’t blooming like that?” In eastern Washington, it took
thirty, forty, fifty years for that desert to bloom, yet some
farmers come back and say, “I want my farm to bloom in one month
or one year.” It takes patience for a desert to bloom.
Let’s see. Living
water. Imagination. Hard work. Patience. Miracles do happen because
it is true. When the Messiah comes, the deserts will bloom. When the
Messiah comes to your life and mine, those deserts will start to
bloom again. Amen.
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