The wild beasts will honor me,
the jackals and the ostriches,
for I give water in the wilderness,
rivers in the desert,
to give drink to my chosen people (Is. 43:20).
Babylon held God’s people captive, and the captivity had parched their souls of life. Though “water in the wilderness” and “rivers in the desert” might have a literal sense to it, mostly, it vividly images the state of the chosen people: barren, dry, a wilderness. It employs imagery from post-Exodus wanderings, paralleling that time with the present in Babylon and exile.
In the dry land of his people’s sojournings, the Lord provides water so that his people can drink.
How, then, do the wild beasts relate to these waters and rivers? I think there might be a literal sense to it–that is, that jackals and ostriches might have drunk from miraculously provided streams. But I think the more general idea is the Prophet using imagery to show that the created order receives the overflow of God’s covenant blessings to his chosen people. The wild beasts will honor the Lord, because he provides water for his people. Notice that the Lord does not provide water for the beasts. He provides it for his special, chosen, covenant people. The beasts, though, drink from these rivers. The creation is blessed when the Lord blesses his people.
This is important for the church today. When the Lord blesses his church, the rest of creation will receive a measure of the overflowing benefits. If the Lord pours our the blessings of his Spirit, bringing living water into the wilderness of dead hearts, we should expect to see a general improvement of things around us. Things like a decrease in governmental corruption, an increase of beauty evident in the arts, an increase in general society-level morality. We should seek these things, and to fulfill our mandate to subdue the creation, and to generally be salt and light. Ultimately, though, it’s God’s job, and it will happen as he first and foremost pours out blessings on his own special people. Both by degrees now, and ultimately and finally when Jesus comes back and God himself makes all things new.