Dear Radio Friends,
In the last weeks we have been following the beautiful chapter of Isaiah 35 as it speaks to us of the glorious and wonderful blessings of the coming of Immanuel, God’s Son in the flesh, and of the great salvation that He will bring. All questions of who the prophet is speaking about in Isaiah 35 are answered in verse 4 of the chapter: “He will come and save you,” we read, or, literally, “He himself will come and save you.” Immediately faith recognizes that this is a prophecy of Jesus Christ. Salvation has been brought to us in the birth of Jesus Christ. And we must grasp that wonder with all of our heart. The result of the birth of Jesus Christ is the most marvelous gift of God. In figurative language, Isaiah 35 spoke of a marvelous transformation: the desert shall blossom as a rose—a picture of the solitary desert now carpeted with spring flowers, and having cedars and pastures where once there had been a barren landscape—a wonderful change.
And we saw that this means that the gospel declares that totally depraved sinners are loved graciously of God, and those who are evil are renewed by the gift of Jesus Christ. They are changed, changed from the desert of hate and indifference to the life of God’s love in Christ. Salvation in Jesus Christ is not a reformation of the character. Salvation is not a gospel that comes to give a cosmetic change to a person’s life. But it is a marvelous transformation of the mighty grace of God.
Still more. We see in this chapter that God commissions a word to be spoken to those who are weak of hand and feeble of knees. That word was, “Be strong and fear not.” Why? Again, the answer was, “He will come and he will bring a marvelous salvation.” “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped. Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing.” We shall be changed by the marvelous grace of God. By the birth of Jesus Christ, those who are spiritually blind, dumb, and lame are changed spiritually to know, see, love, obey, and walk with God.
And this glorious transformation will also affect our bodies. For the day will come when Jesus Christ returns. And He shall change our bodies (Phil. 3:20, 21), and make them like unto His most glorious body. We will have a new body, a spiritual change in the body too, in the last day, when Jesus comes to raise our bodies from the grave.
Do you believe this? This is what has been brought to us when Immanuel, God’s Son in the flesh, was born in Bethlehem.
Continuing today in Isaiah 35 we come to verses 6 and 7: “For in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert. And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water: in the habitation of dragons, where each lay, shall be grass with reeds and rushes.”
The word “parched ground” is, literally, “to glare” or “quivering glow” or “mirage.” The idea is that the mirage shall become a pool of water, the point being that in a world of false hopes and delusions, disappointments and frauds, the salvation that Christ brings is no such delusion or fraud—no mirage. But it is real. It is satisfying. And it is absolutely glorious! Christ and the salvation that He brought to us are no mirage. Jesus said, “He that believeth on me hath life.” He said, “I am come that they might have life.” He said, “If any man thirst, let him come unto me and I will give to him living water.”
So the point of the passage now is this: that in a world of delusions and false hopes and despair and vanity, God has sent His Son into the flesh to bring to us a real, full, and complete salvation. The mirage shall become a pool of water.
The Old Testament believer would be very familiar with the picture of life that is given in Isaiah 35:6, 7. It is the picture of a traveler, or a nomad, one who is on a journey. He must pass through a wilderness, a desert. It is trackless—no roads or paths. And it is waterless. The hot sun would beat down upon his head and the destination would seem as if never to come. He would become weary, and his spirits would drop. He would begin to long for water to slake his deepening thirst. A sense of panic and confusion would seize him. He would become obsessed with the thought of water. In the distance he would see what appeared to be a pool of blue water stretching over the horizon. And he would say to himself, “I have only now to reach that pool and I shall have water and rest, for an oasis must be there.” Only to find that when he got to that place in the desert, he saw only parched ground—literally, glowing, shimmering sand. The sun shining on the sand gave the appearance of water. He had been deceived. His mind had deceived him. It was an illusion. He would go on again. And this would happen again and again. Each time he would become more convinced that he would find water there. But each time he would be deluded by a mirage.
So, says God’s word, is this life, apart from and outside of God and Jesus Christ. Man, according to the Bible, is on a journey. He is a traveler. He is passing through this life. We do not have to go far in this life before we become very tired as we journey through a wilderness. For the curse of sin is upon this present life. Soon the rose-colored glasses come off our face. There are problems. There are sorrows. There are pains. There is sin and difficulty and disease and cancer and poverty and collapse of business and break-down of family and home and marriage. There is depression, despair, anxiety, panic. And man is always looking for those things that will bring to him satisfaction, joy, and peace—perhaps a relationship, or perhaps some religion. He looks into the future and he says, “Oh, if ever I can attain unto this, if I can have this person, if I can obtain this thing, or get this job, or be brought to this position. Then my inner thirst shall be satisfied.” Only to find that when he arrives at that place, he sees that all thathe had pinned his hopes upon was only a delusion; that while it appeared from the distance to be able to give happiness and satisfaction to the soul, it could do none of those things. Only again to turn to something else, someone else, a different object that promises to give rest and peace and life and relief, and to find once more that this, too, is a mirage. When we get there, it is only sand. We find it to be empty, not what we thought, and it does not satisfy.
In the versification of Psalm 63: “Apart from Thee I long and thirst, and nought can satisfy.” In the words of Isaiah 57: “The wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest.” The emptiness of our souls cannot be filled with anything of this present time or life. It is all sand. Man tries to find satisfaction, rest, peace, and happiness. But all that he finds is disappointment and disillusionment. The world and the devil offer up many a mirage for people to pin their hopes upon, as something that promises to bring happiness to their souls. There is the mirage of pleasure and entertainment. Everything that is needed, we are told today, can be obtained through pleasure and entertainment. Your happiness is found simply in partying harder. Booze, sex, drugs, getting high—that will bring happiness to your never-dying soul, says man. Or, get a video and cheer yourself up, so that you will not be lonely. These are the things that will get rid of your troubles. Or sports. Become consumed by your team—if they win the pennant or the Stanley Cup or the Rose Bowl. Or the pleasures of sin—another woman, drunkenness, stoned out of your mind, party. These things will satisfy.
The whole world is based upon this belief. Billions and billions of dollars are spent out of this belief that pleasure and human entertainments can satisfy and bring peace to a soul.
Do you believe that? Is that what your life is predicated upon? It is a delusion.
There is the delusion of wealth, that earthly things and power of money can bring satisfaction—the belief that money will be able to buy happiness and provide real protection. And then one begins to pin his hopes on his economic situation. If it collapses, his life collapses. Success in business is all that matters. So, what brings peace is a bigger home, more clothes, toys, cars. These will be the things that will make us happy. In the words of the rich fool of Jesus’ parable, men and women then say, “Soul, take thine ease. Thou hast much goods laid up for thyself.”
Do you believe that? Do you believe that things and stuff and possessions are what life is all about and that these will bring to your soul peace? The Bible says this is a delusion.
But then there is the whole delusion today of the realm of inner peace and improvement and change. When men realize how shallow pleasure and things and money appear, they say that the way to true peace and happiness is learning, art, music, self-improvement, philosophy, self-help, yoga, New Age, Dr. Phil, Oprah, developing inward discipline. You get satisfaction by making yourself all that you can be.
Or, change. If only I could have a change—new people, new joy, new husband, new wife, new friends, new situation. If I can find that—something new, a new beginning—this will bring me peace.
Do you believe that? Do you believe that satisfaction and happiness for your soul is to be found within yourself and with some change? This is a delusion.
And then there is the mirage, offered up by the world and the devil, of the false religions. Whatever false religion it may be—Islam, Hinduism, or even a Christianity that is not rooted in a reverence for the Bible, God’s word; does not require a forsaking of sin; considers the Bible to be fallible; is not at heart in awe of God’s grace, but can, rather, be defined by what God can do for you and how He serves your inner purposes—a Christianity that allows for a cutting off from the Bible all that one finds difficult to swallow, and for accepting what one would like the message of Christianity to be.
Is this what you believe? Do you believe in a false religion? Do you believe in a Christianity that has gutted the truth of personal sin and salvation by grace only?
We read in Jeremiah 2:13, “For my people have committed two evils; they have forsaken me the fountain of living waters, and hewed them out cisterns, broken cisterns, that can hold no water.” What is evil? Evil there is described as forsaking God as the only treasure, as the only water of life. And then, it is putting your lips to the sand and sucking and sucking and sucking, thinking that you shall find refreshment apart from God.
All of these are a mirage. They are a delusion. They will leave you empty. In the words of the church father Augustine, “Unquiet is our soul until it rests in Thee.”
Jesus Christ, and the salvation that God brings through Him, is no mirage. He will come and save you. For in the wilderness shall water break out, we read, and streams in the desert. And the parched ground shall become a pool and the thirsty land springs of water. Jesus did not come into the world as another mirage. The gospel is not, “Well, try Jesus.” Jesus does not join the list of possibilities of potential help out there. The gospel does not belong on the medicine shelf of the world. The gospel is not, “Well, if Christianity or Christ works for you, fine for you.” But the gospel is this: Jesus Christ, born of the virgin in Bethlehem, God’s Son in the flesh, Savior of the church—this Jesus alone, alone, can satisfy the soul of a man. Salvation is to be found, and rest and peace are to be found, in Him alone.
If any man thirst, said Jesus, let him come unto Me and drink. He that believeth on Me, as the Scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. Jesus said, “Whosoever drinketh of this water [that is, the water of the world] shall thirst again. But whosoever drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst. But the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up to everlasting life.”
No more mirages. The very first thing that the grace of God in Jesus Christ does to a sinner when it saves him is to give him to see himself and this world for what he is and what the world is. Grace is a dose of realism.
We are sinners in a perishing world. Do you know that? Sin and death are in you right now. And the world in which you live is passing away and can give you nothing. All its glitter and hope are sand and dust. You are a sinner. You are traveling through this wasteland, this desert. Your journey will end. The grave opens up for you, and it leads to eternity and to judgment.
First, grace opens the eyes of the blind. First, grace unstops the ears of the deaf. You cannot save yourself. And the world cannot save you. Of yourself, and looking all around you in this world, you must needs perish. Grace shows you first your own desperate need. Only Christ can save and satisfy. God must lead you to this pool of living water.
But how? How is Jesus Christ the real and satisfying pool of water?
First of all, He is this real water, this satisfaction, because He is the One who makes us right with God. Why was Jesus born? Did He come because there were redeemable qualities in man, because God wished to try out the human experience? No! Jesus Christ was born so that I, by grace, might be made right with God, the God with whom I am not right. I am an enemy of God by nature. All the mirages of self-happiness forget God and will not reckon with the reality of sin. The Bible declares that we have fallen from God, that we are conceived and born in sin, that we have turned our back upon God. For all have sinned and come short of the glory of God, and therefore deserve God’s judgment and condemnation.
How shall we be right with God? If I am right with God, I am right, no matter the circumstances of my life, no matter if I am desperate financially at this time of the year, no matter if I am stressed or suffering a severe disease and illness. If I am right with God, all is well.
How can I be right with God? The answer: of grace. God sent His Son to be burdened down with the sin and curse of His children. He was born in order that He might go to a cross. You see Him in the manger? He was born to bear our griefs and to carry our sorrows (Is. 53). See Him His lifelong? He was despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with griefs. The Lord hath laid upon Him the iniquity of us all. He came to die on a cross in the place of His children, in order that they might be made right with God.
Jesus is the pool of water, not only by making us right with God, but also by renewing us by His grace. His Holy Spirit enters into us, delivers us from the dominion of sin, and leads us to a life of service to God. Christianity is not a moral code. It is living water. It is the life of Christ being imparted into your heart. It is a change of the heart.
Now we desire in Christ the things that are above. He dwells within us, comforting, directing, empowering, and assuring us. “In Thee my soul (again from Psalm 63) is satisfied, my darkness turns to light.” Streams of water break out in the desert. Our Lord Jesus Christ supplies all and every need. He never fails. Everything that I need is in Him. You who have been brought to Him know that He is no mirage. You who have tasted of His living water know He is no delusion. Look at all the things that offer satisfaction. Death robs you of them. Pleasure and wealth and possessions and philosophy and self-help. They are all gone at the moment of death. They cannot help you when your heart is broken and bleeding.
But Jesus Christ is no mirage. He appears in all of His strength and beauty, in the midst of a curse-filled world and before death. He is our Savior. All things for our salvation are to be found in Him.
And so the picture of Isaiah 35 is that out of a desert comes an oasis. The water produces a lush habitation. We read “in the habitation of dragons (or jackals), where each lay, shall be grass with reeds and rushes.” Desert life includes jackals and scorpions and snakes. It brings fears, threats, and evils. The world of sin wants you to think that it is a time of fun and wealth and success. But in reality this world is a dangerous place. It will kill you. When you fall down, and when you are burned out by the pleasures, the scorpions will sting. The jackals will be there to eat up your flesh. Hyenas and vultures will pick your bones. The vanity of sin leaves you in horror.
But the message of the birth of Jesus Christ is that He brings a lush habitation. Where the jackal of hate and greed and pride once lay in our life, now God gives peace and love and joy in the Spirit. Where the scorpion of envy and hate once existed, in Jesus Christ we are brought to peace and rest so that we find salvation in Christ. His blessings are not a trickle. They are not a drop of water from a bucket. But they are streams. Faithfulness over all of our life, pardon full and free, love never changing, grace all-sufficient, joy unquenchable.
Jesus Christ entered into the world to save us from our sins. He is the real Savior. And none who come to Him by grace shall ever be cast away. You will find in Him a pool of water in the desert.
Let us pray.
Father, we pray that Thy word, entering into our heart, may give us peace and joy. And, again, all praise be to Thee alone, Amen.