When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none,Who are the poor and needy in this text? Brueggemann suggests that it is the exiled. Israel who long to return through the wilderness to the land of promise as they did once before. As God provided water and food before, the Holy one is able to do so again. Yet when we think of the poor and needy, we don’t think of the Diaspora. We think of those here who are without, who are left out of the abundance of what we have been given. It is the poor and needy who are given water and life- bearing trees.
and their tongue is parched with thirst,
I the Lord will answer them, I the God of Israel will not forsake them.
I will open rivers on the bare heights,
and fountains in the midst of the valleys;
I will make the wilderness a pool of water,
and the dry land springs of water.
I will put in the wilderness
the cedar, the acacia, the myrtle, and the olive;
I will set in the desert the cypress, the plane and the pine together;
that men may see and know, may consider and understand together,
that the hand of the Lord has done this,
the Holy One of Israel has created it. Isaiah 41:17-20
Yet deeper in this text is another poor and needy. The poor and needy earth that has been harmed by human hands. The wilderness that is being taken over by farms. The desert that is growing and expanding. Good speaks a word to this poor and needy. God speaks of the hopeful replenishment of life. When the land is dry and dying where does its rebirth come from? Isaiah makes it clear that it is the hand of God, the Holy One who has created water and brought life in the wilderness in its desert.
One of the ways to begin reclaiming dry areas is by replanting native plants and trees in the areas where water used to run. The growth of these native trees and shrubs helps to bring the regrowth of the land and water. Creek beds that were dry will begin to run. Trees are a wonder only God could have brought us. Trees through their elaborate root system are able to hold water in the soil. The more trees and the right natural variety of trees will help to increase the amount of moisture maintained in the soil. The increase in water helps to increase the life being supported. You see birds and insects returning to what were once a barren spot. At the same time trees provide shelter and shade from the sun decreasing the impact of the heat. They also provide fruit and nuts. This passage from Isaiah shows us the way we can be God’s hands bringing life back to the dry and barren waster.
The trees mentioned in this passage are not ordinary treed. They are the trees that symbolize a people’s health and prosperity. What trees are natural to your area? What trees are the symbols of wealth and abundance? Have you planted more of these wonderful life-giving trees?
Holy One, we ask that you allow us to be your hands. Hands that are guided by your will for creation. Hands that plant life bringing trees. Hands that help water to run in the dry places. Hands that bring water to the poor and needy.