I admit that, as a migrant, I was a wee bit confused with the Australian use of the words ‘bush’ and ‘outback.’ To me ‘bush’ meant a small tree or shrub and ‘outback’ was to be found at the rear of a house or building! I soon learned that ‘The Outback’ is a place beyond the city limits, the outer suburbs, the satellite towns and the remote little villages. The Outback is even beyond, what Australians call, ‘The Bush.’ I suppose the Outback is the Australian version of ‘the wilderness’ in the Bible.
Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre is found in the hot deserts of Central Australia. Most of the time it is simply a salt pan with a 450mm (18 in) thick salt crust. However, every few years God is pleased to open the windows of Heaven and pour out His blessing upon The Outback wilderness, filling the lake with water, while ensuring that before it soon evaporates, it will suddenly and mysteriously teem with life above and below. For the Lord inundates it with frantically breeding birds and fish. Even the dedicated souls of The Lake Eyre Yacht Club take advantage of the periodic deluge. I learned that the lake’s smooth surface-water reflects the blue sky so much so that the horizon virtually disappears, causing one club member to remark that it is like sailing in the sky! Wow!
One is reminded of the following verses of Scripture: ‘Until the Spirit is poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness becomes a fruitful field, and the fruitful field is counted as a forest. The work of righteousness will be peace, and the effect of righteousness, quietness and assurance forever… The wilderness and the wasteland shall be glad for them and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the rose. It shall blossom abundantly and rejoice, even with joy and singing.’ Isaiah 32:15-16; 35:1-2a. The picture is one of promised regeneration.
Whether an individual or the Australian Outback, God is able to bring things back to life. He does it by His Spirit. And He does it for the sake of His Son Jesus Christ and His (human) righteousness. How so? Isaiah wrote, ‘The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”’ Isaiah 40:3. The Gospel writers Matthew, Mark, Luke and John apply this to John the Baptizer as he prepared the way for the Lord Jesus. While baptizing at the Jordan River, referring to Jesus, John the Baptizer said, ‘He who sent me to baptize with water said to me, “Upon whom you see the Spirit descending, and remaining on Him, this is He who baptizes with the Holy Spirit.” And I have seen and testified that this is the Son of God.’ John1:33b-34. Mark records John the Baptizer as saying, ‘I indeed baptize you with water, but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.’ Mark 1:8.
With the picture of the Outback blossoming as the rose after God pours out His blessings from heaven upon it, let us now put it all together. The Prophet Joel wrote, ‘Be glad then, you children of Zion, and rejoice in the LORD your God; for He has given you the former rain faithfully, and He will cause the rain to come down for you – The former rain and the latter rain… And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh… I will pour out My Spirit in those days’ Joel 2:23; 28-29. Joel is connecting falling rain with the pouring out of the Holy Spirit. Thus, John baptizes with water and Jesus with the Holy Spirit.
Who would have thought the Outback could be so interesting?