Rivers on the Bare Heights


I was walking through Natural Bridge Canyon in Death Valley, and the barrenness and aridity of the desert was weighing down on me. There was nothing growing in this canyon – not a single scraggly bush or lonesome blossom. There, more than anywhere else during the days we spent in Death Valley, I felt the oppression of the perpetually parched landscape.


Then I looked up. At the top of the canyon walls, semi-circular grooves had been carved out, with channels cut beneath them into the rockface. We passed two of them … three … five … a dozen … twenty … and it slowly dawned on me that these grooves and channels were signs left of a time when waterfalls rushed over the lip of the cliff to cascade joyfully into the canyon.


A picture burst into glorious color in my mind – of the canyon, transformed by life-giving water. Not just a trickle, but an abundance that would cause the canyon to explode with plants, animals, birds, and fish. In such a wet and wonderful place, tree frogs would sing into the night, and birds would join together in a dawn chorus. Flowers would grow along the water’s edge and even cling to rock walls to create murals of color. Deer, rabbit, and fox would step out of cool shadows into sunlit patches to sip at sparkling pools.


I felt as if God was speaking to me. “See,” he said, “this world is a barren place, devastated by sin, arid with evil. But a New Heaven and New Earth is coming. Just as I will resurrect you with a new body, I will also resurrect the Earth. This desolate canyon itself will one day be full of water and life and light. Have hope – life triumphs – the hand of the LORD will do this.”


“The afflicted and needy are seeking water,

but there is none,

and their tongue is parched with thirst;

I, the Lord, will answer them Myself,

as the God of Israel I will not forsake them.

I will open rivers on the bare heights

and springs in the midst of the valleys;

I will make the wilderness a pool of water

and the dry land fountains of water.

I will put the cedar in the wilderness,

the acacia and the myrtle and the olive tree;

I will place the juniper in the desert

together with the box tree and the cypress,

that they may see and recognize,

and consider and gain insight as well,

that the hand of the Lord has done this,

and the Holy One of Israel has created it.”


Isaiah 41:17-20

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