Meditations in Isaiah 40: No.6. How to Prepare (1)
Isa 40:3 A voice of one calling: “In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
So, we have said, there appear indications in verse 5 that this is a divine statement of intent as well as a call for people to join in. So what are the things the prophet says to do? First, “make straight in the desert a highway for our God,” (v.3a) but then, second, “Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain.” (v.4) i.e. all obstacles will be removed and the most direct route, and therefore the quickest, established.
Well that seems to say it all, so let’s move on. Hold on! What does that mean in practical terms in respect of our lives, what are we called to do? What is this saying to us? Later in Isaiah we read, “Build up, build up, prepare the road! Remove the obstacles out of the way of my people.” For this is what the high and exalted One says – he who lives forever, whose name is holy: “I live in a high and holy place, but also with the one who is contrite and lowly in spirit.” (Isa 57:14,15)
That is challenging. “Remove the obstacles” and He looks for the “contrite and lowly in spirit”, which rather seems to suggest that obstacles such as pride or arrogance can hinder His coming. Isn’t that what John the Baptist did, challenged things like pride, arrogance, indifference, ungodliness etc. within the people, and called on them to get rid of such things, as he “prepared the way”.
But then earlier it spoke of making a straight road, which is the most direct route. So often our lives as Christians seems to wander all over the place as we get distracted by this or that. This picture of a straight road seems to suggest a whole-hearted yearning for God that will let nothing else distract. If we lack this hunger for the Lord, this yearning for Him to come into our ‘desert’, we need to pray that He will stir hunger and thirst in us for “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,” (Mt 5:6) for righteousness comes with the Lord.
Which triggers a memory of another verse earlier in Isaiah: “And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness; it will be for those who walk on that Way. The unclean will not journey on it; wicked fools will not go about on it….. But only the redeemed will walk there, and those the Lord has rescued will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away.” (Isa 35:8-10) It is a road for those who are holy, the children of God, and it leads to God’s dwelling place. Yes, the picture may be of going somewhere to meet with God, but it is the same outcome as in our present verses – a meeting with God.
Obstacles to holiness? Paul in Colossian 3 listed some of them: “sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed… anger, rage, malice, slander, and filthy language.” (Col 3:5-8) If there is even a whiff of any of these things in your life, they have to go, they are obstacles that hinder the coming of the glory or presence of God. The Bible has others but, very simply, if there are things that deep down you know are not pleasing to the Lord, these are obstacles to be cleared away. There is sufficient more in this that we need to continue it into the next study. Do we want to see the glory of the Lord revealed? Then we need to face these things.