Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Learning to Drink in the Desert

See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it? I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.
[Isaiah 43:19]

The LORD will guide you always; he will satisfy your needs in a sun-scorched land and will strengthen your frame. You will be like a well-watered garden, like a spring whose waters never fail.
[Isaiah 58:11 NIV]

On the last and greatest day of the Feast, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, "If anyone is thirsty, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, streams of living water will flow from within him."
[John 7:37-38 NIV]

(Note: this posting is part of a series of lessons about “spiritual wilderness,” which so far includes postings on 11/12, 11/26, 12/3 & 12/8.)

You’ve heard the saying, “You are what you eat”? Well, spiritually speaking, scripture supports that statement: Jesus, for example, quoted Moses in Deuteronomy 8:3 when he said that “Man does not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” [Matthew 4:4]

Likewise, to some extent, we are what we drink as well: various sources report that the human body is made up of somewhere between 60 and 90% water. Water is essential for life – human beings can survive many weeks without food, but only a few days without water – and the need is even more obvious in the heat of the desert, where natural resources are scarce.

Water, in scripture, often symbolizes the Holy Spirit, or God’s refreshing Presence, which is equally essential to sustaining spiritual life. (For example: John 7:39, Isaiah 32, Ezekiel 47, etc.) This week, we’ll explore some of what the Bible has to say about spiritual “drinking” - especially in those dry, deserted places we’ve been calling “spiritual wilderness.”

“Learning to drink in the desert” is possible because God is present everywhere and unlimited by circumstances, so our Source never runs dry. The words used to describe the flow of God’s Spirit to, in and upon us – words like “rain,” “rivers,” “outpouring” – indicate an abundant supply.
There is a river whose streams make glad the city of God, the holy place where the Most High dwells.
[Psalm 46:4 NIV]

How precious is your unfailing love, O God! All humanity finds shelter in the shadow of your wings. You feed them from the abundance of your own house, letting them drink from your rivers of delight. For you are the fountain of life, the light by which we see.
[Psalm 36:7-9 NLT]

As they make music
they will sing, "All my fountains are in You."
[Psalm 87:7 NIV]
As we learn to tap into God’s abundant supply of spiritual Life and refreshing, we become a source of this Life for others. In John 7:38 (quoted above), Jesus says “rivers of living water” will flow out from our innermost being. Paul wrote about his life “being poured out as a drink offering” for the sake of others (Philippians 2:17, 2 Timothy 4:6). The following scriptures also point to the transforming power of the Life of God, as His Spirit is poured out upon and through our lives.

Happy are those who are strong in the LORD, who set their minds on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem. When they walk through the Valley of Weeping, it will become a place of refreshing springs, where pools of blessing collect after the rains! They will continue to grow stronger, and each of them will appear before God in Jerusalem.
[Psalm 84:5-7 NLT]

A generous
man will prosper; he who refreshes others will himself be refreshed.
[Proverbs 11:25 NIV]

And it shall be that every living thing that moves, wherever the rivers go, will live. There will be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters go there; for they will be healed, and everything will live wherever the river goes.
[Ezekiel 47:9 NKJ]
So how do we “drink” to stay filled and re-filled with God’s Spirit? [Ephesians 5:18] Jesus told us to ask, trusting the Father to give us exactly what He has promised [Luke 11:9-13, Acts 2:38-39]:

“If you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him.”
[Luke 11:13 NLT]
Others encourage spending quiet, restful time in God’s Presence. (For a number of years, CTF Toronto and other ministries embracing “the river of God” have called this “soaking prayer.”)

He makes me lie down in green pastures, He leads me beside quiet waters.
[Psalm 23:2 NIV]

Surely I have calmed and quieted my soul, just as a small child is quiet with its mother. Yes, like a small child is my soul within me.
[Psalm 131:2 NKJ, NLT]

“Be still, and know that I am God…”
[Psalm 46:10a NIV]
I find it interesting that the young man who would eventually lead the Israelites to take possession of the Promised Land often spent more time in God’s Presence than Moses:

Inside the Tent of Meeting, the LORD would speak to Moses face to face, as a man speaks to his friend. Afterward Moses would return to the camp, but the young man who assisted him, Joshua son of Nun, stayed behind in the Tent of Meeting.
[Exodus 33:11 NLT]
Becoming a people of His Presence prepares us to transform our surroundings and possess our promises. As we learn to drink of God’s Spirit in the dry places of life, we are filled up and poured out, again and again. Our spirits overflow with His Love and grace, like streams in the desert.


“…whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life."
[John 4:14 NKJ]

See, a King will reign in righteousness and rulers will rule with justice. Each man will be like a shelter from the wind and a refuge from the storm, like streams of water in the desert and the shadow of a great rock in a thirsty land. Then the eyes of those who see will no longer be closed, and the ears of those who hear will listen. The mind of the rash will know and understand, and the stammering tongue will be fluent and clear. No longer will the fool be called noble nor the scoundrel be highly respected. For the fool speaks folly, his mind is busy with evil: He practices ungodliness and spreads error concerning the LORD; the hungry he leaves empty and from the thirsty he withholds water... till the Spirit is poured upon us from on high, and the desert becomes a fertile field, and the fertile field seems like a forest. Justice will dwell in the desert and righteousness live in the fertile field. The fruit of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever. My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest.
[Isaiah 32:1-6, 15-18 NIV]

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