Desert Wastes and Delightful Waters
When was the last time you wandered in the desert wastes of addiction or anger, dissensions or divisions, enmity or envy, idolatry or impurity, sensuality or strife, finding no way to fulfill the hole in your heart, but desperately trying to anyway? When have you faced betrayal or blame, cancer or chronic pain, depression or disillusionment? When was the last occasion you felt burdened or burned out, fainthearted or fearful, homesick or hopeless, weary or worried, as you served the Lord in the places He has called you?
Thankfully, as we strive to eradicate sin, endure suffering, and engage in service, the Lord offers us grace to fix our eyes on Christ and satisfy our soul with His Word. When speaking of desert wastes, Psalm 107 is a faithful guide to lead us to delightful waters. It exhorts us to give thanks to the Lord for His steadfast love, as we continue to put off sin, be patient in suffering, and persevere in serving the King.
Psalm 107 portrays a people from every nation worshiping the Lord in fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham, that in him all the nations would be blessed (Gen. 12:3). It leads God’s people to give thanks for His goodness and steadfast love. Ultimately, this psalm anticipates Christ as the one who redeems sinners from trouble and enables the redeemed to sing a song of thankful praise. To teach the comprehensiveness of God’s love, the psalmist portrays four different pictures of our plight on this side of glory, and how the Lord displays His steadfast love in each of them.
First, the psalmist depicts our faintheartedness (vv. 4-9). Recall the times you have felt lost and alone. The days you hungered and thirsted for satisfaction, security, significance. Your heart cries in the midst of toil and trouble. The Lord is the one who delivers us from futility into a fruitful land. And when He does, our hearts should be filled with thanksgiving.
Second, the psalmist portrays our fallenness (vv. 10-16). Think of the many times you have refused to do things God’s way. Your times of rebelliousness that have inevitably led to trouble. The hours when darkness, perhaps even death, loomed large, and you didn’t see things biblically. Thankfully, when we cry out to the Lord He hears us and delivers us. Such deliverance should lead to a heart that thanks the Lord.
Third, the psalmist reveals our foolishness (vv. 17-22). Think of the last time you suffered consequences from your sin. Strained relationships, a lack of peace and joy, depression and disillusionment, loss of a job or leadership position. In the midst of such difficulty, there is good news. When we cry out to the Lord He hears and heals. This should lead to a life of thanksgiving for His steadfast love.
Finally, the psalmist describes our fearfulness (vv. 23-32). There are many times when our circumstances are chaotic and our courage melts away with each new wave of suffering that comes, whether it’s a call from the doctor saying we have cancer, our child’s rebelliousness, another year of singleness we didn’t want, one more negative pregnancy test, or a call from a friend who saw our husband with another woman. In the midst of the storm the Lord stills our souls and delivers us from distress. He brings us to our desired haven, which is Christ. Such protection and peace should lead our hearts to rest in Him alone, declaring His wonderful works and praising His steadfast love.
How good and loving of the Lord to redeem a people for Himself to the praise of His glorious grace. Believers experience His grace as He turns deserts into delightful waters and parched land into pools of water (v. 35). He pours out abundant blessings upon His people. And He delivers them from oppression, evil and sorrow.
But just as the Lord redeems a people to the praise of His glorious grace, He also pours contempt on the wicked to the praise of His glorious justice (v. 40). What they consider delights turn to deserts. Apart from Christ there is no safe haven. They will run to the rocks but find no refuge (Rev. 6:16-17). Such knowledge should lead us to pray for the lost and proclaim the gospel to them.
When Jesus came He offered people living water, eternal life with Him (John 4:13-15). All those who exchange desert wastes for delightful waters by trusting in Christ alone for salvation are to sing of the steadfast love of the Lord with their words and works, and share the gospel with the next generation. By His grace, we will thank the Lord for His steadfast love, endure suffering with patience and joy, and gladly serve our beloved Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
Sarah Ivill (ThM, Dallas Theological Seminary) is a Reformed author, wife, homeschooling mom, Bible study teacher, and conference speaker who lives in Matthews, North Carolina, and is a member of Christ Covenant Church (PCA). To learn more, please visit sarahivill.com.