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Isaiah 41:17-20

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Isaiah 41:17-20, ‘When the poor and needy seek water, and there is none…I YHWH will not forsake them….I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water. I will put in the wilderness the cedar…I will set in the desert the cypress…that they may see and know…that the hand of YHWH has done this…’

Who are the ‘they’ that will see and know that YHWH alone is the True God who hears and speaks and acts? Who will see and know this? Verse 17 seems to give the answer: The poor and needy who are in search of water…the desperate, the hungry, and the thirsty (cf. Is. 55:1-3), *these* are the ones who will see and know the hand of YHWH; that *He* alone is Lord.

And where is His hand revealed? In the wilderness, in the desert, in the dry and barren land; that is to say, *in the midst of Death.* Yes, it is by creating life and fullness and bounty *precisely in* the place of death and dryness and loss that the active hand—and so the unique and trustworthy identity—of YHWH God is revealed…And what is this but the Resurrection of the Crucified Jesus whereby the barren field of Death flows with living water and the wilderness of the grave becomes a grove of cedar and acacia and flowering myrtle? Precisely by this eucatastrophic transfiguration of the domain of Death into the province of Life (imaged in the flesh of the risen Lord as He raises curse-pierced hands as emblems of eschatological blessing, Lk 24:50) is the hand of YHWH seen and known *by the poor and needy who look to Him for life.*

And is this entire dynamic not beautifully synthesized in John’s verbal icon of the Pierced Jesus? The Jesus whose mortal flesh has, in death, become the barren wilderness of this world, pierced through by our rebellion and the punishment we are due…And yet exactly in that flesh and by that death is released the life-giving and soul-cleansing flood of living water from His love-opened heart….It is by that river, opened on the bare height of Calvary, that Death itself blooms into Life and the Wilderness of this world’s horrors is transfigured to Garden of Paradise wherein the thirsting Church drinks without end from the Fountain-Throne of the Living God.