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Nightingales in Berkeley SquareNightingales in Berkeley Square
by Jim McGuiggan


I will make rivers flow on barren heights,
and springs within the valleys.
I will turn the desert into pools of water,
and the parched ground into springs.
Isaiah 41:18

    Week after long week they waited, until weeks became months and the dry, withering months became years. The land groaned, an awful burdened groan, while the wind whispered through the dust and humans shaded their eyes morning after disappointing morning, hoping, or at least wishing. “It’ll be different,” said the old man, “when the rain comes.” But the sky was copper, and the land panted.

    Just when the last of the people began to bury their hopes, someone noticed a slight breeze one morning, and before the sun went down, the breeze became a wind. Many sat through the night, listening to it as its strength increased, and by early next morning there were clouds on the horizon. Later that day the sky filled with huge, water-saturated clouds, and the downpour began. Heavy, isolated drops at first, and then the sky opened up. The earth gulped and gurgled. Old men grinned, young men laughed in joyous relief, and children kicked at the puddles in the drenched streets. Life had come!

    Around the world and in a different age, a rebellious people of God trembled a the Assyrians moved across the earth like a scorching-hot wind, burning and withering everything in their path. The Assyrian didn’t know it, but he was on his way to do the will of God (Isaiah 10:5-7), and take Israel off into “utter darkness.”(Isaiah 8:2)

    It’s this judgment by God on treacherous and unrighteous Israel that the prophet has in mind when he speaks of desolation like this:

Beat your breasts for the pleasant fields, for the fruitful vines and for the land of my people, a land overgrown with thorns and briers — yes, mourn for all houses of merriment and for this city of revelry. The fortress will be abandoned, the noisy city deserted; citadel and watchtower will become a wasteland forever, the delight of donkeys, a pasture for flocks. (Isaiah 32:12-14)

    Forever? Or will it just feel like forever? If not forever, how long? And the prophet tells us: Till the Spirit is poured upon us from on high, and the desert becomes a fertile field, and the fertile field seems like a forest. (Isaiah 32:15)

    He turns to speak to the gleeful and vindictive hordes of oppressors, and having said to them, “Your day’s coming,” he again speaks to Israel of the transformation to take place on that day when the Spirit will fall on them like life-giving rain.

The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom. Like the crocus, it will burst into bloom; it will rejoice greatly and shout for joy. The glory of Lebanon will be given to it, the splendor of Carmel and Sharon; they will see the glory of the Lord, the splendor of our God.... Water will gush forth in the wilderness and streams in the desert. The burning sand will become a pool, the thirsty ground bubbling springs. (Isaiah 35:1-2, 6-7)

    All this when the Spirit comes!

    When I was a boy, one of the songs that everyone was singing was “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square.” The song tells how the world becomes a lovely, startling, and unpredictable place when love enters a life. A piece of it goes like this:

I may be right, I may be wrong,
But I’m perfectly willing to swear
That when you turned and smiled at me,
A nightingale sang in Berkeley Square.1

All this when the Spirit comes!
    One day followed another and there was no reason to expect anything better — until love arrived — and the tame, same, dull, dull world changed. Angels were eating out at the Ritz, streets were paved with stars, and nightingales were singing where nightingales are never seen. So it was to be with Israel; so it is to be with us.

    All of this when the Spirit comes.

    Life bursting out of the ground and climbing to the sky. Gurgling springs where there had only been burning sand. People with broken dreams learning to dream again, the weary reviving, the feeble becoming strong, the fearful becoming brave, those With dead eyes seeing visions, the mute shouting for joy, and the deaf rejoicing just to hear it.

    All of this not simply because temporal blessings have been restored but because God has taken them back to his heart and redeemed them. And having ransomed them, he led them with singing into Zion, with everlasting joy as a crown on their heads.

    All of this when the Spirit comes!

    To captive Israel comes the word from God: Do not be afraid, 0 Jacob, my servant.... For I will pour water on the thirsty land, and streams on the dry ground; I will pour out my Spirit on your offspring, and my blessing on your descendants. (Isaiah 44:2-3)

    Is it any wonder Christ found the masses thirsty and looking heavenward? And when he said he would give them drink, while it might have shocked them that he made such claims for himself, they knew what he was offering!

 

1 Written by Eric Maschwitz and Manning Sherwin, 1930’s.
      Excerpted from Where the Spirit of the Lord Is..., ©1999, Howard Publishing Company. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
      Title: "Nightingales in Berkeley Square"
      Author: Jim McGuiggan
      Publication Date: February 26, 2002


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