And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water: in the habitation of dragons, where each lay…
The real translation of these words is not "The parched ground shall become a pool," but "The mirage shall become, a pool." .The thing that you believed, would be the satisfaction of your life, the sight of which had brought new vigour to your limbs and strengthened your mind for the onward journey of the pilgrimage, that, says the prophet, shall become true. The mirage, the illusion of your life, shall become a reality. What has been the mirage that humanity has seen in its journey? The prophet enters into certain details that we might glance at for our profit. The first thing that such men would want would be the slaking of their thirst, the satisfaction of some desire. Might we not go back to the beginning of the history of man, and see that it has been a series of efforts succeeded by failure to gain satisfaction? We have all of us, as humanity at large, been struggling from the beginning to be satisfied. And the soul has said to itself, If I can once lay hold upon that particular thing, then I shall be satisfied. It may be wealth, it may be honour, it may be physical strength, it may be popularity. And we have reached it, but we were not satisfied. We found that the same want began all over again; year after year, men have seen a mirage, and said to themselves, If I could reach that, my soul would be satisfied. Many a man, grown old and weary with repeated failure, has said to his soul, in the secret communion of his own heart, "What is it that thou dost desire, O my soul? I have made a home. I have gathered about me those I love. I have increased knowledge. I have widened the circle of my friendships. But I am not satisfied. Still there is something that does not slake the thirst of my soul." And while these men so long ago thought as we do now, one man stood up in the midst of them all, and shouted aloud, as if it were a great discovery, "My soul is athirst for God." That is the trouble with humanity. It is athirst for God, and it has supposed that it could satisfy its longings with the things that are touched and seen. And the prophet, knowing the long struggle and the repeated failure, looked in the faces of these men, and said, "The mirage shall become a pool," your satisfaction shall be met. But such a prophecy as that called men's minds away from themselves to the thought of others. Individual salvation, if it could be brought to any one of us here to-day, would not be enough. The woman who knows that she stands in the light of the love of God, but that her husband is in the outer darkness, the man who knows that he has led an upright and true life, but that his son is turning away to wickedness, cannot be satisfied. We are bound one to another. Hear the word of the prophet: "And a highway shall be there, and a way, and the wayfaring man, though a fool, shall not err therein." There shall come, says the prophet, a day when in the desert a highway shall be built, and men shall know that they are not wandering in this trackless waste, with no knowledge of the home from which they have come, and no understanding of the end and object of the pilgrimage. But their feet shall stand on the way that others have travelled before them, and they shall hear the voice of the past saying to them, This is the way, walk ye in it. And walking in that path, united with the great company of pilgrims who have been through the same experiences, known the same sorrows, been beckoned on by the same mirage, they shall have strength and hope and comfort in the consciousness of this great companionship of the redeemed who walk on the highway of their God. Again, we look back over the long history of the race, and we find that something else is needed. If we could see to-day the camp in which the earliest forms of civilisation were gathered, before cities were built, or roads were laid, or empires dreamed of, we should find that the camp encircled itself at night with fire, while without were the beasts roaring for their prey, causing the little children to nestle close to the father who could protect them, causing the women to shudder, and even strong men to ask themselves, May the fiery barrier be broken down, and the beasts that are outside the camp invade us and destroy what we love? Oh the illusion, the mirage, as it must have seemed to them, of stately cities and strong walls, and beasts for ever banished from the land! But the prophet said, "No lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast; they shall not be found there, but the redeemed shall walk there." The day will come when the people shall know that they are protected, when fear shall be taken away from them. The fear of what? Of beasts? Not that alone, for when the beasts were banished from the land, there was man to be afraid of. And the children said, Who will protect us from the enemy? And the father said, I will. And then the father came to die. And he rolled despairing eyes and cried, Ay, but who will protect me now? I must go into the unseen land, and face the shadows that I now behold. Who will protect me now? Who will protect me, — not from the beast, not from men, not from the spirits that may haunt me, not from hell, but from sin? Who will keep me from the corruption of sin, — worse than any evil that the world has ever seen or dreamed of? The prophet said, The mirage shall become a pool. That which seems impossible shall surely come to pass. Once more. On the journey much was lost, much was suffered, much endured. And the pilgrim who stepped out so blithely at the beginning of the march was found at the end to be an old man with the hope deferred that maketh the heart sick, the disappointment and weariness and sorrow, the hatred of those whom he had tried to help along the journey, the fear in his own heart that it was all an illusion. So at the last there was something more needed for these weary men. Was all that had been dropped on the journey to be gathered up again? Was all that had been suffered to have its reward? The prophet said, The mirage shall become a pool. What you have dreamed of joy and peace and glory shall be your portion. For "the ransomed of the Lord shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads." The mirage, the illusion, shall become a reality. These words were spoken thousands of years ago. What I would like to ask you is, How shall we read them to-day? Is it true that the thirsty soul has been satisfied? Is it true that there is a highway in the desert, and that the wayfaring man need not err therein? Is it true that no lion is there, nor any ravenous beast, but that in the consciousness of safety men are making their journey? Is it true that the redeemed do return and come to Zion with everlasting joy upon their heads,, and that sorrow, and sighing flee away? Are these things true? Why, look into your own experiences, and think for a moment, not of your sorrows nor trials nor temptations, not of the weariness and disappointment of life, but of its glory, and see if what the prophet said be not true. See if it is not true that things that in that day seemed an illusion are to-day the realities of life. Why, multitudes of men and women know what it is to have the satisfaction of the soul, God with us; the knowledge that our sins have been pardoned, that they shall never rise up in judgment to meet us; the assurance of God's undying love; the knowledge of the sympathy of Him who was crucified for us; the consciousness that God is about us and by us and in us, — is the pool at which our thirsty souls do drink. And the way. Have we not that way? There are men and women who are lost, men and women who are wandering through this world, not knowing where they came from nor whither they are going. But is it true of those who have been drawn to the company of Jesus Christ? Are their feet not upon the way that leads to eternal life? Who would give it up? Those who do not know it think that it is a mirage. You know that your feet are on the highway, and though you may be a fool in many things, yet you shall not err from the way of salvation. It is the way that comes from God and leads to God, the way of Jesus Christ the Saviour. And protection. It is hard for us to picture to ourselves what it must have been for the camp to hear the roar of the beasts. We are not afraid of death, for Jesus died. We are not afraid of hell, for He descended into hell. We are not afraid of God nor of God's judgment, for it is the judgment of a father. We are not afraid of anything but sin, and says the apostle, "Sin shall not have dominion over you. You are not under the law; you are under grace." Christ is personally helping every one of us. Nothing shall separate us from His love. We have no cause for fear. "No lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast, but the redeemed shall walk there." The promise and prophecy of joy, — have we not known it? It is not true that sorrow and sighing have left the world, but has not the sorrow and has not the sighing fled away from you, as you have entered into the communion of your God? Have you not come to Zion with everlasting joy upon your head, as you have remembered, not the special things for which you ought to be thankful, but as it has been borne in upon you that you belong to God and God to you, and that the glory and beauty of life is not in doing God's will as a hard law, but in doing God's will because you have come to love God's will? The prophecy is not to come true; the prophecy has come true. What the prophet said was that these things should come, — the satisfaction of human want, the consciousness that the feet were on the everlasting way, the protection from all evil, and the everlasting joy of Zion in the days of the Messiah. And now if you ask me whether this prophecy rests upon any principle, and whether its fulfilment has got anything back of it but the individual hope that may be true, I answer you, Yes, it has. It has the revelation of God. in the incarnation of Jesus Christ that man and God are one. And because man and God are one, therefore the mirage that humanity has beheld is the reflection of the refracted rays of the will of God passing through the medium of human life. And every man who has purified himself is, in his own day and according to his capacity, some sort of revelation, not of his own will, but of God's will revealed through him. "The mirage shall become a pool." The satisfaction of your soul you shall know, because you are God's and God is yours. Is not that what St. John meant, when he wrote, in that wonderful fifth chapter of his First Epistle, "And this is the confidence that we have in Him, that, if we ask anything according to His will, He heareth us: and if we know that He hear us, whatsoever we ask, we know that we have the petitions that we desired of Him"? Because your will, your prayer, purified from selfishness, is no longer your will or your prayer. "The Spirit helpeth our infirmities," and "maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered." The prophecy has come true, and yet it is as nothing compared with that which shall be in the day when we know Him more than we know Him now. What should be our attitude? One of unbounded thankfulness that He has seen fit to reveal Himself to us as our Father, and ourselves as His sons. One of unflinching courage, one of undying hope; for every glorious vision that humanity has had upon its pilgrimage of personal joy, of larger truth, of nobler civilisation, of human glory, shall, in God's good time, be fulfilled, because it is not the will of man, it is the will of God.
Parallel VersesKJV: And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water: in the habitation of dragons, where each lay, shall be grass with reeds and rushes.