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, NIV
I remember vividly the first time our daughter drove us up the mountain near her university. At the top was a beautiful vantage point to look out over the valley below and even the smaller mountains that were around were dwarfed by this much taller peak.
The views were breathtaking, but that wasn’t the only thing taking my breath away… you see the road up to the top was anything but a peaceful drive on a country road. There were steep inclines and multiple switch backs with no guardrails, nope, nothing but a hundred foot drop on the side. Driving down was even more exciting as she had to shift down the car to prevent from using her brakes too often and having them overheat.
Don’t get me wrong, I loved seeing the views from the top, but I just don’t like the the winding roads to get there. Why can’t there just be a more direct route? Too steep probably, I get it.
Lately God has been impressing upon me those straight paths Isaiah talks about, like from the verse above. We find it also in all four gospels; Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. It of course is speaking (in Isaiah) prophetically of John the Baptist, who was he “voice of one crying our in the desert”. His mission was to announce Jesus coming as the Messiah. His message was one of repentance and baptism.
Those who came out to the wilderness to hear him speak were a mixed group. Some were looking for more in their own spiritual life, and others were curious, in particular members of the Jewish religious leadership who had heard that his preaching was having a big impact on people, probably much bigger than their impact with their long list of do’s and don’t s that held the people in bondage and without hope that they could ever be good enough for God. People were responding more to John then them. They probably were getting a bit jealous.
They questioned John about his purpose and mission and this is when he quoted from the book of Isaiah. Matthew’s gospel gives the reader a bit of more insight into John’s view of his mission and it wasn’t very kind to the Pharisees and Sadducees (Matthew 3:7-10). They were very religious, but had no fruit to show a true heart that had repented. They were a hindrance to the people when they should have been leading them towards a closer relationship with God.
There are still many hindrances today, to a closer relationship with God, like religion, bad experiences with church and church people, doubts, fears, pride, and maybe over rationalizing, for a few examples. I’m sure if we got together, we could all add to that list. These rough roads to belief in God or trusting God more, if we are already believers, sometimes keep us from knowing God in a more personal way.
It’s like that windy mountain road. It’s rough and we just want to turn back sometimes. It can be scary to place our faith in God. We look around and see the potential drop offs – like maybe people will think we are weird, or worse, our friends will leave us. Family might think we are crazy for starting this journey of faith.
Or maybe we have been so hurt before, we already know its difficult, because we tried to start up the mountain, but turned around. We are still licking our wounds from the hurtful things that church people said to us, or worse, did to us. We don’t believe we can do that again, I mean what if we get hurt again?
John would have liked to talk with you I bet, see he knew the religious leaders did not have fruit, he called them out on it. He called them snakes. John was not teaching another religious way, but what he was proclaiming was a new way- the kingdom of God way. Jesus’ way. The way people should be, repentant of their sins, and turning away from them to produce good fruit. He describes this good fruit in Luke’s gospel chapter 3 verses ten through sixteen. Sharing, treating others fairly, not for dishonest gain, in others words, loving your neighbor as yourself would demonstrate your love for God. A life that realizes they have sinned against God and no amount of religion fixes that, except trusting in Jesus as the payment. Nothing more, nothing less. This is what changes a man (or woman or child). Followers of Jesus are not perfect, we still need work, but God works on us and helps to smooth those rough places in our lives. He directs our path and keeps us going on this journey of faith. Will you allow Him to make those straight paths in your life? Start the journey and let Him drive the car. God Bless You – Nancy