In response to the need of God’s people, the Lord will pour out God’s Own Spirit.
Water on the Thirsty Ground
Thus says the Lord who made you,Isaiah 44:2-3 (NRSV, modifications added)
who formed you in the womb and will help you:
Do not fear, O Jacob my servant,
Jeshurun whom I have chosen.
For I will pour water on the thirsty land
and streams on the dry ground;
I will pour my spirit upon your descendants
and my blessing on your offspring.
Like life springing up in the desert, regeneration is the divine and creative work of the Holy Spirit. As you and I receive this supernatural regeneration, and respond to the Spirit’s work, by faith we become spiritually alive.
They shall spring up like a green tamarisk,Isaiah 44:4 (NRSV)
like willows by flowing streams.
Then, like a desert that has been rained on, we begin to see the various parts of our personality and character begin to take on God’s life, and the Lord’s beauty. As Isaiah wrote in the very next verse, This one will say, “I am the Lord’s” and yet another will write on the hand, “The Lord’s.”
This is the imagery Jesus drew upon when He promised the woman at the well,
“Those who drink of the water that I will give them will never be thirsty. The water that I will give will become in them a spring of water gushing up to eternal life.”John 4:14 (NRSV, modifications added)
Jesus again referred to this living water during the Festival of Booths, just as it was in this same prophetic vein that Isaiah quoted God.
The Rock of Living Water
Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel,Isaiah 44:6-8 (NRSV, modifications added)
and his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts:
I am the first, and I am the last;
besides me there is no god.
Who is like me? Let them proclaim it;
let them declare and set it forth before me.
Who has announced from of old the things to come?[b]
Let them tell us what is yet to be.
Do not fear or be afraid;
have I not told you from of old and declared it?
You are my witnesses!
Is there any god besides me?
There is no other rock; I know not one.
Isaiah’s audience would have immediately recognized this reference.
There is only one Rock that could pour out rivers of refreshing water into the arid wilderness. It is the rock Moses struck in the desert as the people cried out in thirst. It is this salvific moment in the Exodus that was commemorated every year during the Festival of Booths.
The imagery was to take on a profound new level of meaning during one particular festival. At the dramatic moment when the priests were about to pour out water they had just drawn from the stream gushing forth from the living rock that formed the Pool of Siloam, to thank God their Rock for the life-giving water God provided, that Jesus’s voice rang out.
On the last day of the festival, the great day, while Jesus was standing there, he cried out, “Let anyone who is thirsty come to me, and let the one who believes in me drink. As the scripture has said, ‘Out of the believer’s heart shall flow rivers of living water.’ ”
Now he said this about the Spirit, which believers in him were to receive, for as yet there was no Spirit because Jesus was not yet glorified.John 7:37-39 (NRSV, modifications added)
Isaiah must have waited until he knew everyone was holding in their minds and hearts the sheer wonder of God’s magnificent creative and merciful power before he presented them with the absurdity of their affront against God.
|Isaiah||True and Living God||Human-made Idols|
|44:2 v. 44:9||Thus says the Lord who made you, who formed you in the womb||All who make idols are nothing|
|44:8 v. 44:9||have I not told you from of old and declared it? You are my witnesses!||their witnesses neither see nor know, and so they will be put to shame.|
|44:3 v. 44:12||I will pour water on the thirsty land and streams on the dry ground||he becomes hungry, and his strength fails; he drinks no water and is faint.|
|44:3 v. 44:18||I will pour my spirit upon your descendants and my blessing on your offspring.||They do not know, nor do they comprehend, for their eyes are shut, so that they cannot see, and their minds as well, so that they cannot understand.|
|44:8 v. 44:20||There is no other rock; I know not one.||a deluded mind has led him astray, and he cannot save himself or say, “Is not this thing in my right hand a fraud?”|
God made all that is, including humankind. Humans, on the other hand, being ourselves created, can only make something on a lesser order than ourselves. We do not have the capacity to create life, let alone bring forth a supernatural being of god-sized scope.
Isaiah then turned to the matter of usefulness. Look at this splendid cedar tree, he might have said, gesturing to a nearby grove. Now think about it.
The carpenter stretches a line, marks it out with a stylus, fashions it with planes, and marks it with a compass; he makes it in human form, with human beauty, to be set up in a shrine.
He cuts down cedars or chooses a holm tree or an oak and lets it grow strong among the trees of the forest. He plants a cedar and the rain nourishes it. Then:
- it can be used as fuel. Part of it he takes and warms himself; he kindles a fire and
- bakes bread.
Then he makes a god and worships it, makes it a carved image and bows down before it.
Half of it he burns in the fire; over this half he roasts meat, eats it, and is satisfied. He also warms himself and says, “Ah, I am warm by the fire!”
The rest of it he makes into a god, his idol, bows down to it and worships it; he prays to it and says, “Save me, for you are my god!”Isaiah 44:13-17 (NRSV, modifications added)
We can hear the incredulous exasperation in Isaiah’s voice, the scandalized disdain.
They are mindless, the prophet wrote, utterly without a clear thought in their heads. Otherwise, how in the world could they look at this perfectly good log, get so much good use out of it – thanks be to God who provided that log – then worship what’s left of it?!
They do not know, nor do they comprehend, for their eyes are shut, so that they cannot see, and their minds as well, so that they cannot understand. No one considers, nor is there knowledge or discernment to say, “Half of it I burned in the fire; I also baked bread on its coals; I roasted meat and have eaten.
Now shall I make the rest of it an abomination?
Shall I fall down before a block of wood?”
He feeds on ashes; a deluded mind has led him astray, and he cannot save himself or say, “Is not this thing in my right hand a fraud?”Isaiah 44:18-20 (NRSV, modifications added)
This is lunacy, it is pure insanity. That is the only explanation, according to Isaiah.
Do Not Forget the Source of Life
Remember these things, O Jacob,
and Israel, for you are my servant;
I formed you, you are my servant;
O Israel, do not forget me.
I have swept away your transgressions like a cloudIsaiah 44:21-22 (NRSV)
and your sins like mist;
return to me, for I have redeemed you.
The Lord’s redemption brings full life through God’s Spirit
Idols are definitely the spiritual fool’s gold. For you and me to wake up and throw away our idols is to lose nothing. But to gain God is to gain everything healthy and good.