A river is not the first thing you would expect to see in a desert! It might even catch you off guard. But according to our theme text, that is just what we see God creating for His glory and to nourish His people—a fresh drink in the desert, that His people may proclaim His glory.

“Do not call to mind the former things, or ponder things of the past. Behold, I will do something new, now it will spring forth; will you not be aware of it? I will even make a roadway in the wilderness, rivers in the desert.” (Isaiah 43:18-19, NASB)

The sovereign plan of God to ‘make a roadway in the wilderness and rivers in the desert’ is revealed in the larger context of encouragement to remember how He led His people out of Egypt and the deliverance they experienced from His hand. (Isaiah 43:15-17)

Remembering is a good thing (like when your family remembers your birthday)! It can be a source of comfort, strength and courage when we remember God’s impeccable track record in our lives. This is important because some of the places He leads us into require courage and faithfulness on our part.

However, having just recounted God’s salvation of the nation, He throws a curveball. “Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past.” (Isaiah 43:18) So do we remember the former things (Isaiah 46:9-10), or forget the former things? 

We don’t forget who God is and how He has worked in our lives, but on the other hand, we don’t put God in a box and say that He can only work that same way into our future. God is a creative God and is not to be confined to the same way of doing things on our behalf.  “See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?” His ‘new things’ often spring up in the most difficult of circumstances!

I was hiking up Mount Indefatigable in Kananaskis Country in Alberta, following the footsteps in the snow left by the previous hikers. It was springtime in the Rockies and mountain Crocuses were starting to bloom. Halfway up the mountain I paused to catch my breath and noticed a crocus springing up in a previous hiker’s deep footprint. The crocus was about to bloom in 20 centimetres of snow and I almost missed it, almost stepped on this new thing springing up! 

‘Will you not be aware of it?’ God says. When we stereotype our expectations of God to act on our behalf, we put Him in a box as though He is not able to do anything different. The consequences of this can often be us stepping on/over the new thing God has for us—totally unaware. 

Through the prophet Isaiah, He confirms his passion for creativity and fresh new approaches to acts on our behalf and for His glory. The challenge is for us to ‘perceive it.’ He made a way through the sea (Is. 43:16) and now he is about to make a roadway in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert (43:19).

  • Remembering what God has done for us stimulates gratitude and courage. 
  • Perceiving the ‘new thing’ He is up to stimulates faith and hope.
  • And God says, the new thing is ‘for His glory.’ 

We are created for the glory of God (Is. 43:7) who formed and made us. Rivers in the desert are for the glory of God, that we may proclaim His praise (Isaiah 43:21), and that we would be witnesses that He is our God, the Holy One of Israel, our Savior (Isaiah 43:3).

When we are in a tough space and in over our heads, we remember that God led us in, He will lead us through, and He will lead us out! And this is to His Glory! 

Therefore, we follow God again into the new opportunities ahead with confidence, hope, and courage as we perceive the new things He is doing—which can often be counterintuitive—like seeing a nourishing river in a desert, which is for ‘the glory of God.’

Lynn Dietz

EMCC Regional Minister

This article is featured in the Fall 2021 edition of The EMCC Together Newsletter.

Download a PDF copy of the newsletter and previous EMCC Together publications here.