Learn to Listen to Our Poet God (Bloom in the Desert 2)

by Jan Shrader

Nestled slyly in Queen Creek Canyon, under a canopy of towering trees, lies one of the oldest arboretums in the western United States, Boyce Thompson Arboretum. Hiking trails, carefully designed to showcase the park’s striking desert beauty, beckon visitors off a central path that is deeply shaded by majestic trees first planted along Queen Creek more than seventy-five years ago. The soothing song of a melodious stream flows for half the year through the canyon, fed by snowmelt and seasonal rains. This unique desert oasis is on of my favorite places on the planet.

Traveling east of Phoenix, Arizona, off of Highway 60, you will find the park waiting for your discovery. Bring your camera, good walking shoes, and maybe binoculars because Boyce Thompson Arboretum has something blooming year-round. Boyce Thompson was a copper baron who in the early 1920’s built his 7,000 square foot home in the canyon, and with almost 400 acres at his disposal, began collecting drought-tolerant plants from all over the world. In 1924, he founded the arboretum and in 1976, it was turned into an Arizona State Park.

Boyce Thompson Arboretum is what I call a kept garden. While guests like you and I can enjoy exploring the park, we do nothing to preserve the beauty that we find there. Someone else does the manual labor of creating and maintaining the canyon. Visiting kept gardens is refreshing. We get to enjoy the majesty and glory of God’s creation, but we do not have to break a sweat creating the flowerbeds or planting the trees which grow there.

Isaiah 35 teaches us the difference a kept garden can make in a person’s life. It is an example of Hebrew poetry and is a poetic description of what happens when God keeps a garden in the desert. Look at Isaiah 35:1-2

1) The wilderness and dry land shall be glad: the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus;

2) it shall blossom abundantly and rejoice with joy and singing. The glory of Lebanon shall be given to it, the majesty of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the Lord, the majesty of our God. ESV

There is a genius in the way God inspired the Hebrews to write poetry. The Hebrews did not rhyme words in their poetry like we do in English. They created parallel thoughts. For example, in English we might write, “Hickory, dickery, dock, the mouse ran up the clock.” But the rhyming of words in English makes English poetry untranslatable. When you translate “Hickory, dickery, dock, the mouse ran up the clock,” in Spanish it does not rhyme. Hebrew poetry can be translated into any language in the world because the poetic thoughts have a parallel symmetry instead of a rhyme.

For example, the phrase “The wilderness and dry land shall be glad,” in verse 1 correlates in thought with “the desert shall rejoice and blossom like the crocus.” Examine the two thoughts from the end of verse 2. See how “the glory of the Lord” and “the majesty of our God” express the same idea. Verses 1 and 2 are a perfect example of how the Hebrews harmonized imagery. The concepts flow back and forth.

Rhyming always has to do with sound. So technically, it would be incorrect to say they rhymed thoughts, but the ideas they compare are always poetically equal. Because the Hebrews wrote with parallelism instead of rhyming word sounds, we can translate this poetry into any language in the world.

We could also say verses 1 and 2 are placed at the beginning of this chapter like a preamble, giving us a brief glance into what the entire chapter will include. And even in verses 1 and 2, we can begin to glimpse what happens when God keeps a garden in the desert.

From the very inception of Isaiah 35, God desired this poetry to be enjoyed by all of humanity. The creator of the universe, with great forethought, inspired Isaiah to write these words with poetic parallelism so humble translations could be made for all the people, from every tribe and language. Here in a creative writing style, we get a hint at the missionary heart of our good God.

Neatly tucked inside of Isaiah 35 then is important spiritual evidence. God loves the world. He loves the ethnicity of the world and designed it so his poetic words could be translated into any tongue and still be poetry. This is a God with deep eternal plans.

Could this Poet lover care about our individual thirst? Is this even possible? The answer from scripture is surprisingly, yes. Our majestic God, who knows the end from the beginning, also cares about your suffering and mine. Miraculously, God’s long-range plans extend to us. God is on our side.

This belief in God’s goodness toward us is critical, because if you want to bloom in the desert, you must see that blooming is God’s idea. When we find ourselves living in a spiritual desert, we must understand that God wants us to bloom. God designed us to bloom and in Isaiah 35, God equates blooming in the desert with gladness and rejoicing.

Each of us has an eternal reason we were given life. As we think about what blessings God has planned for us, it is imperative we see that flowers are God’s idea. When we blossom, we are blessed and so is God. It is vital that we begin to appreciate God’s farsightedness for us.

Sometimes, we might feel we are being prideful when we want to do something good and marvelous with our lives. This desire to bud into flower is a desire to nurture, not something to feel funny about or to view as an act of pride. God wants us to know his pleasure, and we taste his delight when we can enjoy who he created us to be. Blooming is a deeply satisfying experience, as we walk into that future for which we were created. The most important lesson we need to activate today is that blooming is God’s idea, not ours.

Take a moment to consider these questions about your spiritual desert:

1) How does it make you feel to know that God created you to bloom?

2) Does it change your perspective about God or your current desert landscape? Why?

3) Reconsider the list of dreams you compiled in lesson one. Could the fulfillment of any of these dreams bless God? Could they bless you?

In the coming days, keep reading Isaiah 35 as often as you can. Begin to saturate your spirit with this life-giving water. Isaiah 35 is more than just an example of Hebrew poetry; it is also a passage of prophecy. Only God could inspire the writing of words that are both poetic and prophetic at the same time. The entire book of Isaiah is a book of prophecy, and the future predicted in Isaiah 35 has yet to be fulfilled. As you continue meditating on these ten verses, hold the picture of a kept garden in your mind. In our next installment, we will look at the future events predicted in these verses and continue seeking the spiritual significance of a kept garden.

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