Preparing the Way
Preparing the Way
Words of Faith 3-8-18
Dr. Jeffrey D. Hoy © 2018
Faith Fellowship Church - Melbourne, FL
<>< <>< <>< <>< <>< <>< <>< <>< <>< <><
In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar--when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene--  during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the desert.  He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.  As is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet:
"A voice of one calling in the desert,
'Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.  Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth.  And all mankind will see God's salvation.' "
Every once in a while a President comes to town. Unless you live in a really big city where presidential visits are commonplace, it is usually quite a big deal. I remember when George Bush 41 came to Melbourne in 1992. President Obama came to Cocoa Village near us in ’12. And President Trump came to Melbourne last year.
Those were really exciting days. President Obama’s visit was a surprise and there was little preparation. But on the other announced visits the streets were cleaned and roadways spruced up. Police and sheriff's cars from all over were there, one on every corner. It looked like a Police convention.
People came lined the roadways as the Presidential motorcade made its way through town and people caught a glimpse of the shadowy figures behind darkened glass. I saw President Bush at the corner of Apollo and Sarno, and he waved to me. I am sure it was me he saw and something he would still remember.
In the ancient world, the visit of a Royal guest was an even bigger deal. The arrival of a King or Emperor in the ancient world would be an occasion for the road into town to be rebuilt. The road had to be smooth and straight. The high places were leveled and the low places filled in. Everything unsightly would be removed or covered or cleaned. A glorious reception would await the Royal visitor.
This was the sort of image that the Prophet Isaiah had in mind when telling us of the arrival of Jesus. Eight centuries before the coming of Jesus, Isaiah described the preparation for the arrival of the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords--
"A voice of one calling in the desert, 'Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.  Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth.  And all mankind will see God's salvation.' "
The preparation that Isaiah prophesied was a spiritual one. It was not to be the filling in of a few the potholes and picking up the litter by the side of the road. What Isaiah described was a radical spiritual preparation far beyond a simple street resurfacing. Valleys will be filled in. Valleys! And mountains will be trimmed off smooth! Crooked roads will be completely straightened! All toward this one goal, that all humanity would see the salvation of God in the coming of Messiah.
Who would do this preparation? We call him John the baptizer. John was much more than a promotional man working the town before big guy came. John, the son of Zechariah, was more like a heavy construction supervisor renovating the spiritual terrain. There was major earth moving and radical surgery to be done. Luke made a couple of things very clear. The WORD OF GOD came to John and he was preaching a BAPTISM OF REPENTANCE. This water baptism symbolized a radical change that God was doing in the lives of people.
John had grown up to be some kind of a preacher. He was no ear tickler. No funny stories or warm anecdotes here. John did not mince words. He had no interest in making people feel good. No jokes. No compromise whatsoever. He was not worried in the least whether the pulpit committee would vote for his return next year.
We also can readily see that John was not a pastor. He was a different kind of tool for God, more of a prophet-evangelist. He was not particularly worried about how big a crowd he could gather or whether they would come back next week. How did he get so "free" and so strong? He was raised that way.
Zechariah and Elizabeth were old when John was born and likely were gone by the time Jesus' ministry began. Many scholars suspect that John was raised by a group called the Essenes who took in orphans. They lived in the desert removing themselves from the influence of people and culture. John was not indebted to anyone but God. This made him the perfect choice for doing the king of preparation that was needed before Jesus came into the heard of men.
A good question for us is this-- Is there a straight path into my heart for the Lord? Before we can really receive the Lord, there is work that often must be done. The road must be straightened and obstacles knocked out of the way. Even if we have known the Lord for a long time sometimes we allow the road to get cluttered with distractions. Repentance is about welcoming the changes God wants to do in our lives so that we can hear Him clearly and obey Him faithfully.
Lord, make straight the path into my life and heart. Clear aside anything that may have accumulated to distract me from You. Give me the ears to hear and the faith to respond. In Jesus' name.