Mysterious Preparations

Mysterious Preparations

A voice of one calling: “In the wilderness prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” Isaiah 40:3

Seven hundred years before Jesus’ birth, Isaiah the prophet penned these words. He wrote in a time when a nation’s vital signs—its laws and armies, courts and borders, taxes and tolls, pride and prestige—were tied tightly to its leader, often a king. Everything good (or bad) about a nation was an extension of its king.

Consider the challenge of this job in an age when communication often moved no faster than a man could run. Ordinary people seldom roamed far from the villages that had borne them and the property that fed them. On map and in mind, the king could seem remote from his subjects. He needed to see firsthand the land he ruled and—probably as important—to be seen up close by his people. A king needed to travel about his realm.

That was no casual walkabout. Advance men hurried ahead to herald the king’s coming. They prompted the locals to prepare in big ways, one of which was to smooth the king’s route to a royal standard. His subjects honored their king by leveling hills and filling valleys. They turned twisted, buckled paths into straight, flat highways.

By the Holy Spirit’s inspiration, Isaiah evoked such images to prophesy preparation for the coming of the world’s Savior. The focus here is on the advance man, the herald. All four gospels record John the Baptizer as the fulfillment of Isaiah’s words. This identification was not a retrospective insight reached long after the Baptizer’s death. In real time John himself was keenly aware of his role. Isaiah’s words were John’s credentials: “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord’” (John 1:23).

So John’s whole ministry was road construction season; he made highways to hearts. His tools were few, but they were power tools, words forged and wielded by the Spirit’s strength. John preached repentance; he called sinners sinners. With God’s law he flattened mountains of pretend piety and buried valleys of vain self-regard. Souls were made ready to hear this herald shout the Good News, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”

John opened a straight road for his King and Savior, a highway for our God.

Holy Spirit, use your Word to make my heart a smooth and straight highway to receive my Savior King. Amen.