Behold, I am doing a new thing;
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it?
I will make a way in the wilderness
and rivers in the desert.
Isaiah 43 is one of those Messianic prophecies from the Old Testament – indeed, the book of Isaiah is filled with these especially. The idea of the saviour and redeemer, first mentioned by Job in his time of suffering [Job 19:25|Article], is elaborated upon in Isaiah 43 – and this prophecy made by the Isaiah will continue to comfort generations long after his death. In this study, we will look at the new thing that was prophesied about and how significant it is to make rivers in the desert.
Behold – What kind of situation calls for the use of such a royal word? I’ve seriously only ever heard it in games that go “behold the King!”. It is an exclamation of the highest kind, with respect and admiration, calling for the full attention of those who hear it. Stop and listen! For what’s coming up next is great. Behold!
I am doing a new thing – this corresponds directly to the preceding verse – Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past [Isaiah 43:18]. Forget about the things of the past because a new thing will be done. This idea is not unique – Isaiah had mentioned this before – the former things have taken place, and new things I declare [Isaiah 42:9]; and Jeremiah too mentions it – How long will you wander, unfaithful Daughter Israel? The LORD will create a new thing on earth– the woman will return to the man.” [Jer 31:22]. It is new – unprecedented and wonderful, unheard of and extraordinary. What exactly could this referring to? Perhaps the very existence of Christ and all the things he had done on earth. Take your pick, from his birth – conceived by the virgin Mary, born in a manger to the miracles he performed; from the words that he preached to his crucifixion and his revival three days later.
now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? – Now it springs forth. The cogs are already in place. The power button has been switched on. The great plan is already in motion. Events are already shaping themselves. Redemption and deliverance approaches. The saviour is coming. Will you not take heed? Are you going to ignore it? Will you avert your eyes? Are you dwelling in the past and brooding over former thoughts, instead of looking forward to the new thing that will happen?
I will make a way in the wilderness – Literally speaking, we know that this is true. How many times did God lead his people in the wilderness? Not just in the Exodus, but also later on, in many mildly mentioned travels in the Bible, God has always made the way. However, this is probably not referring to the literal. We all have moments in life where we are lost, and we look around but see no end to the wilderness of life. It looks the same everywhere – gloomy – and we do not know which direction to go. Perhaps we are facing trouble at work. Perhaps we do not know which step to take next. The Messiah saves. He will deliver us – he will make a way for us, when there seems to be no way.
and rivers in the desert – I live in a small tropical island where island=city=country. I have never been to one, nor have I ever seen deserts before except on the television. I simply understand it superficially as a dry, thirsty place. Or a place where you will be very hot and thirsty. Making a river in the desert is nothing short of a miracle. It is a life changing affair. It’s not just a temporary fix. It’s a permanent deliverance. It is the message of the Gospel, that is available both to the Jews and to the Gentiles.
Nothing is too hard for our Lord – he is able to make a way in the wilderness; he is able to make rivers in the desert. Because of that, we can have hope in the deliverance that was promise. This was a Messianic prophecy – we have the benefit of hindsight to know that it was something that happened indeed. God has made a way in the wilderness before. He has made rivers in deserts before, hey, he even parted the red sea. You and I may never have stepped onto a desert all our lives, but despite that surely we are able to witness rivers in our own little deserts.
Let us take comfort. Let us keep hope. For the Lord we worship is one who can make the impossible – or the unlikely – happen.