7. How to Prepare (2)

Meditations on Isaiah 40: No.7. How to Prepare (2)

Isa 40:3a,4  make straight in the desert a highway for our God, Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain.”

We are considering all the obstacles to be removed and the most direct route to be achieved as spoken of in the verses above. We noted so far some of the obstacles, unrighteous attitudes, words and behaviour, that act as obstacles that need to be removed on this ‘Holy Way’, and then thought about being those who yearn for the Lord to come, making a direct path. Now we need to perhaps consider some of the things to be dealt with, that we see in these verses, and consider what they do and why they need dealing with. We have considered the idea of a straight highway implying a need for a hungry heart that yearns for God to come quickly, so now let’s pick up on the ‘ground features’ of verse 4, the details, and see what they say to us.

“Every valley shall be raised up.” Valleys are low places on the earth and speak of the low times of our lives or perhaps, to be more precise, the low feelings we have. When we have allowed the enemy to pull us down we no longer feel we are the glorious children of God that we are in reality. Low self-esteem (and especially low spiritual self-esteem) is an enemy and obstacle to seeing the glory of the Lord come. We need to take hold of the truths of who we are, we need to raise up these valleys so that the highway of faith can allow the coming of the Lord.

Now before we press on with each of these we need to remind ourselves of something we considered before – that these could be words of declaration from heaven, declaring the sovereign will of God that will be executed, and so we need to see each of these as God’s intentions; He is working to do these things, so taking that first one, He is working to lift your faith and impart those truths into your heart.

“every mountain and hill made low.” In this context mountains are major obstacles that obscure vision. You just can’t grasp the panorama of God’s plan, purposes and intents when there is a big mountain obscuring the view. ‘Hills’ in this context are smaller vision obstructions that we take for granted, and that is the difference here between a mountain and hill; the mountain we are very much aware of but the hill we take for granted and just live with. The ‘mountain’ dominates us. Addictions are mountains, failing relationships tend to be mountains, mounting debts are mountains. They are things that fill our view, dominated our subconscious thinking at the very least, if not our conscious thinking, and they are things we feel are beyond us. We know they should not be there, but they are, and we don’t know how to remove them.

How to overcome mountains? It’s a long-term process, I suggest, to build faith and it comes by you spending time with God in His word and in prayer, and when we have the opportunity on a Sunday with the people of God, giving ourselves wholeheartedly to worship and when opportunities arise, receive prayer. When Jesus said, if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you,” (Mt 17:20) he was speaking about faith actions and faith comes from hearing and faith grows. It has to exist, and it only needs a mustard seed portion, but it does need faith. David overcoming Goliath is an example of overcoming a ‘mountain’ (see 1 Sam 17) and we should learn from him.

Overcoming and removing ‘hills’? The first thing is to recognise them. They are part of the landscape but not blatantly obvious. We remove them the same way as mountains. Remember, anything that diminishes vision – too much TV, too much computer games, too much sloppy reading and so on. Don’t tolerate it.

“rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain.” Rough ground is stony and hard and rugged places are tough going. They speak to me of hard-heartedness, set in my ways, refusing to be open to correction. If these things remain, they will hinder and prevent the coming of the glory of the Lord.

If that’s what you want, then accept the misty, grey, unchanging life of dark places, little vision, little excitement, but realise that that is not what God wants for you and He is there just waiting for your heart change that says, “Lord, I want more, I want vision, I want life, I want to see you!” When you can say that genuinely, watch out, He will be there!

 

6. How to Prepare (1)

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 forBlessed 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.