The Dry Desert Can Blossom

By John Thiel, mp3

Scripture reading: Isaiah 43:19 Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, [and] rivers in the desert. 20 The beast of the field shall honour me, the dragons and the owls: because I give waters in the wilderness, [and] rivers in the desert, to give drink to my people, my chosen.

I wish to share the word of God in reference to when the desert is all parched in our life experience and we need refreshment. I wish to explore God’s word in reference to the spiritual application of Isaiah 43:19-20 where God says that in the wilderness He will give waters, rivers in the desert to give drink to His people.

Isaiah 43:19 …I will even make a way in the wilderness, [and] rivers in the desert.

The scriptures that speak of the desert blooming, blossoming, are often referred to in the literal when God creates the world fresh again, then the desert will blossom.

The spiritual desert will rejoice and blossom as the rose.  {RH, December 24, 1901 par. 23}

There is a spiritual desert and there is a literal desert. The one we want to meditate upon now is the spiritual desert. First of all, how does a condition of spiritual desert come about? How does such a thing happen that spiritually we can become dry and parched? Secondly, what will God do with such a desert?

What Produces a Spiritual Desert?

Jeremiah 17:5 Thus saith the LORD; Cursed [be] the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the LORD. 6 For he shall be like the heath in the desert, and shall not see when good cometh; but shall inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, [in] a salt land and not inhabited.

The Lord is making clear how a spiritual desert comes into existence when human beings rely not upon the Lord, but on the ideas and beliefs of men who lean on the arm of flesh while they depart from the Lord. This is a very important qualification.

Relying on human beings while they are departing from the Lord. This will produce a parched experience, a salt land, parched places in the wilderness. To help us to qualify this perfectly, it doesn’t mean that you don’t have a human being to communicate the Lord to you.

The wilderness itself has neither glory nor excellence, and to the Lord is to be ascribed all the honor for the transformation wrought. This great work is of God. Therefore magnify not the men who are under the special working of His power. Glorify God, and He will continue to work.  {8T 79.1}

God will use men under His power. When you experience the joy and the power of the rivers in the desert, don’t glorify the man. If you do, it’ll become a parched desert. If you rely on man, you will become a heath in the desert. But when the Lord sends the men who by His power are communicating the rivers of water, give Him the glory. This is to show how a desert begins to take place. It’s when we rely on man.

God “maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matthew 5:45). But men have the power to shut themselves away from sunshine and shower. So while the Sun of Righteousness shines, and the showers of grace fall freely for all, we may by separating ourselves from God still “inhabit the parched places in the wilderness.”  {COL 201.1}

We can have the parched places in the wilderness by our own choice of separating from God, relying on man and not on God. This is one of the sources of the wilderness parching, the salt land.

There are many who, though striving to obey God’s commandments, have little peace or joy. This lack in their experience is the result of a failure to exercise faith. They walk as it were in a salt land, a parched wilderness. They claim little, when they might claim much; for there is no limit to the promises of God. Such ones do not correctly represent the sanctification that comes through obedience to the truth. {HP 200.4} 

What is the reason for a parched salt land here? It’s because there is a lack of faith.

This lack in their experience is the result of a failure to exercise faith. They walk, as it were, in a salt land, a parched wilderness.  {HP 200.4}

In not exercising our faith, we will walk in a dry wilderness, in a desert. There is also another reason why a desert experience takes place.

Caviling, ridicule, and misrepresentation can be indulged in only at the expense of the debasement of your own souls. The use of such weapons does not gain precious victories for you, but rather cheapens the mind and separates the soul from God. Sacred things are brought down to the level of the common, and a condition of things is created that pleases the prince of darkness and grieves away the Spirit of God. Caviling and criticism leave the soul as devoid of the dew of grace as the hills of Gilboa were destitute of rain. Confidence cannot be placed in the judgment of those who indulge in ridicule and misrepresentation. No weight can be attached to their advice or resolutions. You must bear the divine credentials before you make decided movements to shape the working of God’s cause.  {TM 466.1}

What will happen if cavilling, ridicule and misrepresentation are exercised? The desert. No spiritual life. A parched land. The first one, separation from the light of God; secondly, the lack of exercise of faith; thirdly, the cavilling and ridicule and misrepresentation, this is what produces the desert. There is another one. 

We need to break up the monotony of our religious labor. We are doing a work in the world, but we are not showing enough activity and zeal. … The tameness and monotony of our service for God repels many who are looking to see in us a deep, earnest, sanctified zeal. Legal religion will not answer for this age. We may perform all the outward acts of service, and yet be as destitute of the quickening influence of the Holy Spirit as the hills of Gilboa were destitute of dew and rain. We need spiritual moisture; and we need also the bright beams of the Sun of Righteousness to soften and subdue our hearts.–Review and Herald, May 26, 1903.  {Ev 169.5}

Legal Religion

Legal religion will produce the dryness of the hills of Gilboa. You just want to have a look at some of the hills of the Middle East. They are barren. There is no tree in them. It is dry, and those hills of Gilboa represent that dry and parched wilderness. Legal religion will produce that. Monotony in just identifying facts and truth and that’s all.

Do not impose upon the people rules and regulations, which, if followed, would leave them as destitute of the Spirit of God as were the hills of Gilboa of dew or rain.  {5T 727.2

Imposing upon the people rules and regulations. What was it then? When we separate ourselves from God and rely on man we become a desert. When we do not exercise living faith, we become a desert. When we cavil and ridicule and misrepresent, it becomes a desert. When we engage in legal religion it becomes a desert. When we engage in imposing rules and regulations it becomes a desert.

When God talks about a spiritual desert this is what man has created. Isn’t it so in the world around us today? Because of man’s imposing upon this world their impact, it has created deserts. The Sahara desert has been created by the wickedness of the world. Underneath there, there is oil. Why? Because it used to be a flourishing rain forest. It is man’s doing that is enlarging the deserts. And so it is in the spiritual life.

What Can God Do with a Desert?

What is His promise in regards to this that man has created in their spiritual life by those causes? God is going to bring rivers in the desert. He is going to produce wonderful, flourishing refreshment in the desert. This is often used for what heaven is going to be like, but this is also to be used spiritually.

Isaiah 35:1 The wilderness and the solitary place shall be glad for them; and the desert shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose. 2 It shall blossom abundantly, and rejoice even with joy and singing: the glory of Lebanon shall be given unto it, the excellency of Carmel and Sharon, they shall see the glory of the LORD, [and] the excellency of our God. 

That’s what will bring the refreshment, seeing the glory of the Lord.

Isaiah 35:3 Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees.  

Isn’t that what a desert creates? You’re walking in a parched desert and you start walking and you get weak knees because you’re really famishing, you’re dehydrated. 

Isaiah 35:3 Strengthen ye the weak hands, and confirm the feeble knees. 4 Say to them [that are] of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come [with] vengeance, [even] God [with] a recompense; he will come and save you.

This is the promise of God for a desert that has been created by our own doing, by lack of living faith, by cavilling and ridicule, by legal religion, by rules and regulations. God can change that course by raising up rivers. The following shows us where the source of that river lies:

Isaiah 55:10 For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: 11 So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper [in the thing] whereto I sent it. 12 For ye shall go out with joy, and be led forth with peace: the mountains and the hills shall break forth before you into singing, and all the trees of the field shall clap [their] hands. 13 Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree: and it shall be to the LORD for a name, for an everlasting sign [that] shall not be cut off.

Here is a description of the rain that produces the rivers of waters that will produce flourishing growth. How does it come? As the rain falls, so does my word produce. It is the word of God.

“Blessed are the peacemakers.” The peace of Christ is born of truth.  {DA 302.4}

When there is cavilling, ridicule and misrepresentation, is that peace? No peace there. But blessed are the peacemakers.

The world is at enmity with the law of God; sinners are at enmity with their Maker; and as a result they are at enmity with one another. But the psalmist declares, “Great peace have they which love Thy law: and nothing shall offend them.” Psalm 119:165. Men cannot manufacture peace. Human plans for the purification and uplifting of individuals or of society will fail of producing peace, because they do not reach the heart.  {DA 302.4}

We can try to make the desert blossom but it won’t happen. It is only the peace giver that can produce that. 

The only power that can create or perpetuate true peace is the grace of Christ. When this is implanted in the heart, it will cast out the evil passions that cause strife and dissension.  {DA 302.4}

Ridicule, misrepresentation, cavilling, strife, all that sort of thing. When this beautiful grace of Christ is implanted in the heart, it will cast out the evil passions that cause the desert.

“Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree;” and life’s desert “shall rejoice, and blossom as the rose.” Isaiah 55:13; 35:1.  {DA 302.4}

Life’s desert shall blossom as the rose. Life’s desert that has been created by cavilling, by separation from God and by passion. When Christ’s grace comes in those passions are subdued and there is peace, and there is a flourishing, blossoming desert, by the word of God. Therefore it is the rain of His word. His word will come down as a rain that refreshes the desert that has been created by all those things that we have been looking at. 

Without the guidance of the Holy Spirit we shall be continually liable to wrest the Scriptures or to misinterpret them. There is much reading of the Bible that is without profit and in many cases a positive injury.  {SC 110.1}

Many people read the Bible, but are they flourishing?

When the word of God is opened without reverence and without prayer; when the thoughts and affections are not fixed upon God, or in harmony with His will, the mind is clouded with doubts; and in the very study of the Bible, skepticism strengthens. The enemy takes control of the thoughts, and he suggests interpretations that are not correct. Whenever men are not in word and deed seeking to be in harmony with God, then, however learned they may be, they are liable to err in their understanding of Scripture, and it is not safe to trust to their explanations.  {SC 110.1}

Can you see how the desert can come? When we rely on men’s explanations of the Scriptures who themselves are not correctly reading the Bible, because they are not in tune with the Spirit of God. Then you are relying on man and it’s a dearth. 

Those who look to the Scriptures to find discrepancies, have not spiritual insight. With distorted vision they will see many causes for doubt and unbelief in things that are really plain and simple.  {SC 110.1}

Children even understand and then the people come along and explain it differently to the way the child understands it and it’s all confused, there’s a desert.

God desires man to exercise his reasoning powers; and the study of the Bible will strengthen and elevate the mind as no other study can. Yet we are to beware of deifying reason, which is subject to the weakness and infirmity of humanity. If we would not have the Scriptures clouded to our understanding, so that the plainest truths shall not be comprehended, we must have the simplicity and faith of a little child, ready to learn, and beseeching the aid of the Holy Spirit. A sense of the power and wisdom of God, and of our inability to comprehend His greatness, should inspire us with humility, and we should open His word, as we would enter His presence, with holy awe. When we come to the Bible, reason must acknowledge an authority superior to itself, and heart and intellect must bow to the great I AM.  {SC 109.3}

Here we have an important understanding of how the desert can become a blossoming rose. It’s when we read the word of God this way. Not relying on people who explain it from a different viewpoint than from God’s inspiration. But when we become as humble children in a dependence upon God, then the word of God will not be clouded. We will rely on the Holy Spirit. We will come to the Bible and acknowledge an authority superior to my own reasoning and heart and intellect will bow to the great I AM. That is how the rivers can begin to flow. The rivers of waters that cause the desert to flourish come from the rain, and the rain is the word of God correctly absorbed. God makes the promise of the rain:

Joel 2:21 Fear not, O land; be glad and rejoice: for the LORD will do great things. 22 Be not afraid, ye beasts of the field: for the pastures of the wilderness do spring, for the tree beareth her fruit, the fig tree and the vine do yield their strength. 23 Be glad then, ye children of Zion, and rejoice in the LORD your God: for he hath given you the former rain moderately, and he will cause to come down for you the rain, the former rain, and the latter rain in the first [month]. 24 And the floors shall be full of wheat, 

Where did the wheat come from? The pastures of the wilderness will spring. Don’t be afraid. I will send you the rain. What is He referring to? This is a spiritual rain and a spiritual desert.

Deuteronomy 32:1 Give ear, O ye heavens, and I will speak; and hear, O earth, the words of my mouth. 2 My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass: 3 Because I will publish the name of the LORD: ascribe ye greatness unto our God. 4 [He is] the Rock, his work [is] perfect: for all his ways [are] judgment: a God of truth and without iniquity, just and right [is] he.

We are to read the word by carefully absorbing it as children without the deifying of my own reason relying upon the Holy Spirit and here the Holy Spirit is saying that the rain that is to fall is the doctrine. It’s the doctrine of the Holy Spirit received by the heart that is parched. As we receive the word, it is that dew and that rain that will cause the desert to flourish, the desert that has been created by our own lack of faith by cavilling and ridicule, by legalistic religion. It is when the word is received from the Holy Spirit, the teacher of righteousness according to righteousness that then the desert will blossom. To really understand what these scriptures are saying in practical impact, we read the following:

The more closely we adhere to the simplicity of truth, the more surely do we comprehend its deep meaning. Then if the heart is under the inspiration of the Spirit of God, it can say, “The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding to the simple” (Psalm 119:130). This means the word is interpreted by the Holy Spirit, not merely as perused by the student.  {HP 139.2} 

Many people study the Bible as students, learning the rote of religion, a legal religion. We need the rain, the Holy Spirit who says, my doctrine shall fall as the rain. It means that the word is to be interpreted by the Holy Spirit. 

It is not the mere letter of the words which gives the light and the understanding, but the Word is in a special manner written upon the heart, applied by the Holy Spirit. To the mind and heart consecrated to God, an increased measure of understanding is given as the light is communicated to others.  {HP 139.3}  

The more room one shall give for the entrance of the Word of God, the more he is enriched intellectually as well as spiritually.  {HP 139.4}

Isn’t this the sealing of God’s people? A settling into the truth both intellectually and spiritually. We are in a desert land. We need to be refreshed by the Holy Spirit. Many people say, ah the Holy Spirit is with me, I’m so happy, then when it comes to the word they disagree. It is the doctrine of the Holy Spirit that is the refreshment. It is the refreshment of the word in its beautiful application of the Holy Spirit applying the grace of Jesus to the heart that the desert begins to flourish. We don’t have to walk in the salt land of our own making.

The more room one shall give for the entrance of the Word of God, the more he is enriched intellectually as well as spiritually. He will have a clearer and less biased judgment and his views will be more comprehensive.  {HP 139.4}

You’ll see deeper things, wider than just the reading of the word.

His estimates of spiritual things will be more correct. His understanding, under the working power of the Holy Spirit, is exercised to digest the truth by making it a personal benefit by the strengthening of the soul to do self-denying works.  {HP 139.4}

This is a very precious enlargement. I thought this was the most powerful clarification of what many times words simply do not convey. We sometimes think yes, according to my reason I’ve got it, I understand then the Holy Spirit comes along and says, you don’t understand as you ought yet, here is what I am trying to teach you. Then it begins to flourish. Without the rain of the Holy Spirit taking and correctly interpreting the word, what happens?

I am instructed to say to my fellow-workers, If you would have the rich treasures of heaven, you must hold secret communion with God. Unless you do this, your soul will be as destitute of the Holy Spirit as were the hills of Gilboa of dew and rain. When you hurry from one thing to another, when you have so much to do that you cannot take time to talk with God, how can you expect power in your work?  {GW 272.1}

I know this by experience. If I get so busy doing all sorts of things that are not expected of me, I can actually lose the power to communicate the beauty of the word. I am not taking time in secret communion with God. I need that. Every one of us needs that secret fellowship with the Holy Spirit permitting Him to reveal those precious treasures so that the desert can be replenished and blossom. Jesus said that it will come forth as a fountain out of your own heart. If we don’t do this, it will become a desert again. We need that secret communion with God. 

This promise of rain and rivers in the desert due to the Holy Spirit is a very, very personal thing. We have imagined that the outpouring of the latter rain is a huge sweep of people becoming bowled over by the beautiful power of the Holy Spirit. But look how personal this is and how people who don’t personally engage in what we have just studied can never be refreshed from the latter rain.

Unless we are daily advancing in the exemplification of the active Christian virtues, we shall not recognize the manifestations of the Holy Spirit in the latter rain. It may be falling on hearts all around us, but we shall not discern or receive it.  {TM 507.1}  

The rain that will refresh our desert may not fall on me while it’s falling on somebody else right beside me. As I’m listening to the sermon or to the word of God as it is in the sermon, it may be falling on that person’s parched wilderness and it becomes a blossoming land but me, I’m not getting it. It is not discerned or received because I’m not actively engaging in that active faith. I am cavilling, I am misrepresenting others, I’m occupied in my mind with all sorts of other things instead of this and it will just not be my experience. Yet other ones are testifying of their experience. It’s a very personal desert, and a very personal refreshment.

….but men have the power to shut themselves away from sunshine and shower. So while the Sun of Righteousness shines, and the showers of grace fall freely for all, we may by separating ourselves from God still “inhabit the parched places in the wilderness.”  {COL 201.1}

It’s falling on hearts all around us and I’m still in the parched places in the wilderness. Very personal, very individual. 

 At this time, I want us to examine closely how is it with my soul? Am I in a partial arid experience? Am I in a parched salt land? Or is there a blossoming of my desert like a rose? While surrounded with a desert condition of others who are in a  parched condition, we may be as an individual like the palm tree in the desert. It can be desert all around us but we may have the rivers of water that cause the desert to blossom.

Let faith, like the palm tree, strike its penetrating roots beneath the things which do appear, and obtain spiritual refreshment from the living springs of God’s grace and mercy. There is a well of water which springeth up into everlasting life. You must draw your life from this hidden spring. If you divest yourselves of selfishness, and strengthen your souls by constant communion with God, you may promote the happiness of all with whom you come in contact. You will notice the neglected, inform the ignorant, encourage the oppressed and desponding, and, as far as possible, relieve the suffering. And you will not only point the way to heaven, but will walk in that way yourselves.  {4T 567.1}

We will be like a palm tree in the wilderness.

If the Christian thrives and progresses at all, he must do so amid strangers to God,  {3BC 1151.4}

Here is the desert around us.

amid scoffing, subject to ridicule. He must stand upright like the palm tree in the desert. The sky may be as brass, the desert sand may beat about the palm tree’s roots, and pile itself in heaps about its trunk. Yet the tree lives as an evergreen, fresh and vigorous amid the burning desert sands. Remove the sand till you reach the rootlets of the palm tree, and you discover the secret of its life; it strikes down deep beneath the surface, to the secret waters hidden in the earth. Christians indeed may be fitly represented by the palm tree. They are like Enoch; although surrounded by corrupting influences, their faith takes hold of the Unseen. They walk with God, deriving strength and grace from Him to withstand the moral pollution surrounding them.  {3BC 1151.4}

May we understand the reasons for our desert and what God can do with this that we have done to ourselves that He can replenish the desert. That if we will take hold of the rain, the Holy Spirit will correctly interpret the word. As we take hold of that and let it refresh us, don’t become disturbed by others who won’t do that. Don’t be disturbed by the desert of the sandstorms blowing across your path. We as individuals, can be rooted firmly with our roots down in that beautiful river of water of life that comes because the Holy Spirit is personally taken hold of. We need a secret communion with God, not relying upon my own reasoning and recognising the human reasonings around us and not responding to that.

God grant us this beautiful comfort that our desert can flourish and blossom as a rose.


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