The Transformation of Mordor
Our family likes to go on road trips. On one of these trips, we drove through northern Utah. Since the Lord of the Rings movies had been released recently, the thing that sprang to mind for a few of us was “Mordor.” Though devoid of evil goblins and archvillains, the landscape gave us an intimidated feeling. The sheer cliffs and perpendicular angles of the rock faces made it a harsh landscape. Little, if any, water was visible, and thus the only vegetation seemed specifically designed to live there. We were later informed that even rattlesnakes and scorpions found it hard to survive.
Now picture that desert, that barren wasteland, transforming. Water flows down the sharp ridges, softening their edges and giving them texture. Vegetation springs up where there was only sand. Pools of water, pockets of vegetation, groups of flowers appear, and the land becomes repopulated with animals. The desert becomes a paradise.
This picture does not come just from my imagination. It comes from God's Word:
The desert and the parched land will be glad;
the wilderness will rejoice and blossom.
Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom;
it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.
Water will gush forth in the wilderness
and streams in the desert.
The burning sand will become a pool,
the thirsty ground bubbling springs.
In the haunts where jackals once lay,
grass and reeds and papyrus will grow.
(Isaiah 35:1-2, 6b-7)
This rapid irrigation produces growth and beauty. The metaphor of water in the desert appears several times in the Old Testament. In this passage, the metaphor is being used for God's renewal of the land. However, the place where this water metaphor evokes my imagination and stirs my heart most is when Jesus applies it in John 7:37-39.
On the last and greatest day of the festival, Jesus stood and said in a loud voice, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as Scripture has said, rivers of living water will flow from within them.” By this he meant the Spirit, whom those who believed in him were later to receive. Up to that time the Spirit had not been given, since Jesus had not yet been glorified. (John 7:37-39)
In this case, when Jesus speaks of rivers of water, he is not speaking of the land of Israel being renewed. He's talking about the renewal of dried and parched hearts! Without God, everyone's heart is filled with evil, as Romans 3:10-18 makes clear. The empty nature of each person's heart can only be transformed by the outpouring of God's Spirit.
Thus, when the Spirit enters believers' hearts when they believe, rivers of living water flow forth. This is much the same beautiful imagery, I believe, as is used in the Old Testament. The water irrigates our hearts, making them flourish with good fruit – love for God, love for others, and the fruit of the Spirit, to name a few. God's Spirit sends living water from us to water our hearts and make them grow, and even to make them overflow to those around us. It's beautiful how God's word uses this incredible picture to show the supernatural work of God's Spirit! So, next time you or I drive through a desert, let us think of new springs bursting forth and rivers giving new life, the same way God's Spirit gives us new life in our hearts.
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