It was one moment. A blink of the eye. A pause in my step. Less than a second. It was one moment that I experienced it all–creation, fall, redemption, and new creation–together, in a theological dance.
We were in the desert on this particular day in Israel. We had just finished our time at Masada, in the scorching heat of the desert, seeing the intricate fortress that King Herod had built thousands of years before. It was amazing, but I was ready for an air-conditioned bus, food, and a nap. Little did I know that lunch wouldn’t be for another hour, the air-conditioned bus would be short-lived, and a nap was not on the itinerary.
We loaded the bus and took off from Masada towards Ein Gedi just a few miles down the road. As we drove, I was in awe of the mountains and deep caves within these mountains. We were reminded of the story of David hiding from Saul, probably in these caves, and the grace that David gave to Saul even as Saul was trying to kill him.
As we unloaded the bus at Ein Gedi, I had low expectations for this “oasis in the middle of the desert.” I mean, it’s the desert. It’s probably going to be a dried up river bed–nothing more than the creek that park I went to as a kid had.
But, boy, were my expectations completely and utterly wrong. As we walked up the path, I was met with crystal clear water. There were natural pools on multiple levels with waterfalls between them. This water flowed effortlessly from a place beyond what my eyes could see. And there was green, everywhere.
A group of us decided to hike higher to see a bigger waterfall. We took off, winding through the rocks, across streams, and under waterfalls until we reached the bigger waterfall. It was as I rounded the corner and saw the waterfall for the first time that the words of Psalm 42 really sunk in.
As a deer pants for flowing streams,
so pants my soul for you, O God.
My soul thirsts for God,
for the living God.
When shall I come and appear before God?
Deep calls to deep
at the roar of your waterfalls;
all your breakers and your waves
have gone over me.
By day the Lord commands his steadfast love,
and at night his song is with me,
a prayer to the God of my life.
I say to God, my rock:
“Why have you forgotten me?
Why do I go mourning
because of the oppression of the enemy?”
As with a deadly wound in my bones,
my adversaries taunt me,
while they say to me all the day long,
“Where is your God?”
Why are you cast down, O my soul,
and why are you in turmoil within me?
Hope in God; for I shall again praise him,
my salvation and my God.
Psalm 42:1-2, 7-11 (ESV)
I marveled at the waterfall and greenness and life in front of me. I was in awe because, in that moment, I saw the vastness and intricacy of God’s creation. I could see the characteristics of who God is in what he had created in the middle of the desert–a God who offers an oasis of life in the midst of drought and death, a God who satisfies thirst, a God who provides a safe place to rest.
However, as I turned around, I was met with the deadness of the desert and the Dead Sea behind me. I was in despair, in that moment, because I saw the brokenness of God’s good creation. I realized that the of lack of life surrounding this oasis stretched on for miles, that in our sin we wander around the desert looking for our own way to satisfy our thirst, and that we take advantage of the oases that God so willingly offers us.
As I turned back to face the waterfall, I understood more fully what David was seeing as he wrote this psalm, and in that moment, I also saw the redemption of creation. This oasis still brings life to the desert that surrounds it and this life is not only physical but spiritual for those that visit. This oasis offers a visual representation of the deep thirst for water in the midst of the desert and our calling as Christians to thirst for Christ even more. This oasis is a symbol of the steadfast love of God, as he longs for us to be satisfied by Him and only Him, as he longs to give us the rest that we need.
And in that moment, with the deadness of the desert behind me and the fullness of life in front of me, I was able to picture what walking into new creation would be like. The old is gone. The sin that held us captive is no more. The deserts that we wandered around for so long are behind us. And what is in front of us is life and life to the fullest. It is full of love and beauty. It is no longer just an oasis in the desert because the desert is gone. Instead, it is the complete satisfaction of all that we thirst for, the satisfaction of our God who creates, redeems, and restores. In that moment, I experienced creation, fall, redemption, and new creation, all because of an oasis in the desert.