The Bible often talks about the desert. The Middle East clearly is located in an arid region of the globe where deserts are commonplace. In the United States, unless you live near one, which I do not, odds are you have never been to the desert, which I have not. For this reason, because many of us do not have a common frame of reference to immediately identify with the desert as the Bible’s contemporaries did, I believe we, as twenty-first century western Americans struggle to fully digest the imagery and meaning behind passages in the scriptures that refer to the desert. We simply have nothing to relate them to, if we even make the attempt.
However, there is a passage in the book of Isaiah that caught my attention recently and I just can’t forget about it. In the very beginning of the thirty fifth chapter, in verses one and two, this is what it says, “The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy.”
So as I mentioned earlier, I have never been to the desert. I have only seen the desert in images or read about it in print. But even with my limited first-hand knowledge of the desert, there are some basic facts I understand about this type of ecosystem. I know that the desert is a place that is difficult to survive in if you aren’t prepared. Without training in advance or special equipment, if you are lost in a desert your odds of escape are not very good. Also, on the surface and for miles on end, the desert is a barren place where nothing grows and there is no respite from the heat and harsh conditions. There are places though, even in the desert where life flourishes. An area like this is called an Oasis, a term that has come to mean a refreshing place from a dry desperate land.
I believe that while all of this is true of the literal desert, these same concepts can be applied symbolically in our lives when we speak of the desert. And in fact, that is what Isaiah was talking about as he prophesied to the ancient Hebrew people. Not only would there come a day when miraculously, the desert sand would spring to life, but spiritually, God would also transform the desert places in their lives and bring living water to desiccated souls, reinvigorating them with the power of His word!
One particular term that caught my attention in this passage was the reference to the crocus. I may not know much about deserts, but I do know a few things about the crocus. The crocus just happens to be one of my favorite flowers and I anticipate seeing some every spring. The intriguing thing about the crocus is that very often you will find crocuses blooming while the snow is still on the ground. They are hardy little blossoms, unhindered by cold temperatures and somehow their cheerful splashes of color poking through the stark white snow bring a thaw into my heart with the promise that warmer weather is on the way!
This curious juxtaposition of imagery in this verse struck me and stuck with me. I couldn’t stop thinking about the words of Isaiah in the context of the desert and the promise to bring life to the barren wilderness. And gradually as I meditated on these words I began to see the connection. The winter season can often feel like a barren wasteland, almost like a frozen desert if you will. And these past few weeks we are all feeling a sense of snowy claustrophobia that we fear might never end! But watch out, because when you least expect it, and when it seems to make no sense, God will send forth the signal to the crocus to bloom, like the promise that change is coming. The desert places in your life are preparing to be turned into a lush garden. The wilderness will begin to produce a harvest of fruit and plentiful crops. How can this be so? Because God specializes in things thought impossible and He reverses the natural order of things. Keep watch for the crocus and wait for your desert to bloom!