Paving the Way
Last May a bulldozer leveld the house we’ve lived in since 1979. A Super Kroger and a shopping mall is coming to town and with the growth in population, we need the retail. So the sacrifice is worth it (Mary’s still not convinced), but the imminent destruction meant that we had to get busy and move. The home we purchased has a long driveway, and the loose gravel and low and high spots meant that soon our driveway would become impassible, so one of our first priorities was to eliminate all the ravines and hills so that we could get to our new house.
The Old Testament prophet Isaiah predicted that a prophet would come who would not deal with the tiny ups and downs in a home driveway, but to clear all the obstacles hindering hearts from receiving the LORD’s Messiah. Luke tells us that John the Baptist was a prophet like Isaiah, the herald who fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy.
“He (John) went into all the country side around the Jordan preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. As it stands written in the Book of the words of Isaiah, the prophet, ‘A voice crying in the wilderness, Prepare the way of the LORD. Make straight His paths. Every ravine will be filled in. Every mountain and hill will be leveled. The crooked will be made straight and the rough spots made smooth. And all flesh will see the salvation God provides.” Luke 3:2-6 (Isaiah 40:3-5)
John ministered on both sides of the Jordan River at the Northern end of the Dead Sea. Luke isn’t that precise on the location, so we shouldn’t spend hours trying to discover the exact location. If we are going to track Luke’s text, we can accept his broad setting close to the Jordan in the wilderness. Luke also doesn’t tell us exactly how John baptized. Was it all the way under, sprinkling, or poured? During two thousand years of church history a lot of angry debate could have been calmed if both sides would have recognized that if the exact method was a major issue, God would have included detailed instructions. What is important is that deep in the hearts of John’s audience there needed to be a turning away from sin and a willingness to receive God’s forgiveness. Humility, openness, and a genuine commitment to turn away from crooked behavior—these are the internal realities that gave the powerful external object lesson of water baptism meaning.
John the Baptist was one preacher who wasn’t stroking feel good vibes in his audience. When asked, he got concrete about the sinful behavior that needed to be rejected. If we wonder what kind, Luke will give us some instructive examples from the Baptist’s preaching—examples we will look at in tomorrow’s Devo.
Today I’m asking myself about the hills and mountains in my life that need to be leveled, those places where I’m proud. I’m also concerned about the crookedness—places in my life this week where I will be tempted to turn aside from God’s straight and wise way.
LORD, level my high-minded pride that causes me to be more concerned about whether or not others listen and respond to me. Help me focus, like John, on preparing hearts to meet Jesus, Your Son, the Messiah. Give me courage, like John, to confront crookedness in my own life and in the lives of others. May your Spirit use me to smooth the way so that hearts will welcome Your Son. Take away the spiritual dryness and deadness that cause hearts to be unresponsive and as unproductive as the wilderness of the Jordan where John preached.
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