I will open rivers in high places and fountains in the midst of the valleys: I will make the wilderness a pool of water, and the dry land springs of water. – Isaiah 41:18
The Prophet Isaiah often gives us these beautiful images as he strives to portray prophetic proclamations of future events. We could cite several verses of him using examples that the Jews would understand to show something of meaning and importance. In his first chapter, he gives us this profound image of the atonement cleansing our crimson stains to become something pure and white like snow or wool. Isaiah often declares to us the enabling power of the Atonement of Jesus Christ and his transcendent grace.
I have chosen to focus briefly on these words quoted above from the 41st chapter of Isaiah as I find that this can portray that enabling power so well. Often, we debate about grace or works and which one will eventually save us. In these debates, like most debates, we tend to be too one-sided, whichever side we are on. This one-sidedness prohibits us from understanding what the Lord would have us know regarding both positions. Our works will never save us; this was profoundly taught by Paul, Nephi, Jacob, Alma, Moroni, and Isaiah. However, if I rely on grace in the sense of doing nothing and believing that Christ will lift me from wherever without any effort on my part, then I am wrong as well. James taught us that “Even so faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone.” (James 2:15). Christ taught, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.” (John 14:15). There are works that are involved in becoming an individual in Christ Jesus.
I would fear to steer us too much to works or too much to grace, but it is not that we need to find a perfect balance of the two either. It is much more than simply this. In this verse in Isaiah, we see that Christ has the power to spring up water out of dry land and make high places have great rivers or fountains (or springs) in the low valleys. These seemingly contradict the standard creation or mode of the earth as it is. This certainly was not something that the Jews would see as a possibility without some divine intervention. This is how grace plays in our lives. Grace is never received by meeting a certain quota or checking off enough boxes in our existence. It is paid for by the blood of Jesus Christ and accounted upon us by our faith in Him.
I think what Isaiah wants us to understand here is that the grace of Christ can reach into the dryest and darkest places to bring redemption to our souls. I am grateful for the moments that I am in a dark place, and I feel the grace of Christ giving me the enabling power to come out of it and find light.
There is a slight difference between humans than there is in the land. The land is subject entirely to God. It cannot choose to accept or deny His will. We are agents unto ourselves and must decide to act. This is where works need to play their part in us growing grace to grace. If we do not act, then God cannot intervene fully. He can prompt and nudge us, but we are stuck in the deserts of life until we choose to let Him work His grace. We must learn to heed His promptings and follow Him so that He can fully allow His grace to work.