“The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom.”
I grew up on the desert plains of a West African country among a nomadic people group called the Fulani. I know what it means to see dry ground in the desert. Every year the earth would shrivel up completely after 8 months of no rain, turning the landscape into many variations of brown and tan. The parched ground in what should have been riverbeds would crack open and just beg for the summer monsoon rains to come. And then, after weeks and months of desperate longing, the clouds would gather black in the distance and thunder would help us welcome the rains.
Within days of that first rain, the desert would blossom into something completely new. The riverbeds would fill with water, and green shoots would appear all over the horizon. The valleys the riverbeds flowed through would turn into little oases of green vegetation, and the paths the Fulani women would walk through to get to market every week led them through these beautifully green areas. Everyone’s eyes would feel rested as we finally saw green after so many months of only seeing brown and feeling dust and heat.
And the women would walk. Just like in dry season, but now their flip flops no longer kicked up dust clouds as they came walking in a line along the single-file paths through the lush undergrowth. Their brightly colored dresses made them look like flowers in the newly transformed world.
It has been years since my eyes saw that view, the world of dryness and longing transformed by the rains into a beautiful place of hope and newness. But as I read the words of Isaiah 35 last month, my heart began to ache with a familiar longing and an accompanying flashback to that scene.
The prophet continues, “Like the crocus, it [the desert] will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy… they will see the glory of the LORD, the splendor of our God.” Just like the landscape of Burkina would burst into bloom as the summer rains came, I believe that one day, the landscape of heaven and earth will blossom forth in the newness of life because we will all see the glory of God!
“The burning sand will become a pool, the thirsty ground bubbling springs.” What refreshment! What new life! What hope and freshness and feeling satisfied!
But there’s more!
“And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness; it will be for those who walk on that Way…. only the redeemed will walk there, and those the LORD has rescued will return.”
Those words bring tears of longing to my eyes. Just like the barren desert plains burst into life, I long for the day when God pours out His Spirit on the desert plains of people. The day when Fulani men and women have the blinders of Satan’s lies removed from their eyes so they can see God’s love for them and enter in to walk in full relationship with Him because of Jesus’ sacrifice on our behalf. The day when my Rohingya friends realize that although they may not have a home country on this planet now, they have an eternal home in Heaven with all who follow Jesus.
We will all be there one day, in Heaven, walking on that Highway. Where the dryness and barren parts of this world and this life have passed away. Where every tear is wiped away. Where every longing is fully satisfied in the Presence of our Savior and King. And where people from every nation, tribe, and tongue worship Jesus together, side by side.
I pray the Fulani women in their brightly colored dresses will be there.
I pray that my Afghan friends in their head coverings will be there.
I pray that my Rohingya friends will be there, persecution and fleeing man left far behind because they walk free and secure as God’s people.
And I pray that someone would go tell them about how to be redeemed so they can walk on that Highway!
May we long for the newness of God’s Spirit to pour down and transform our lives like the rains transform the desert.
May we long for the Highway where we will one day walk with all God’s people shouting praises to our victorious King.
And may we go tell our neighbors, both those God has brought near and those to whom we must go, about our God who makes all things new through Jesus’ work done for us.
May we all walk together there one day!