(Second in a 52 part introspective devotional series, weekly more or less, based on the Scriptures that inspired George Federick Handel to write The Messiah.)
“Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain.” Isaiah 40:4
As Isaiah brings his message to the people of Judah he brings hope along with the judgment. He presents a remarkable picture to the them as he proclaims prophecy about the coming of the Messiah. Starting in verse 3 Isaiah gives an ambitious vision of highway building. “…Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”
Isaiah calls for a highway to be built by suggesting the valleys be filled in and the mountains leveled off thereby making an easy grade to traverse. This is quite the undertaking and involves much time, effort, resources, and diligence. What application could a 6th century BC prophecy have for 21st century Christianity in general and my own life specifically?
The project to be undertaken should have a goal. The goal stated is to prepare a way for our God. We understand through the fulfillment of prophecies and the unfolding of history that Isaiah is talking about Jesus Christ (see Matthew 3:3). Just as John the Baptist undertook his role to announce the Messiah we, too, should be “preparing the way” for Jesus Christ in the lives of the people we interact with. Some have not received Jesus Christ at all while others may have veered off the task at hand and stopped looking for His second coming.
Any project will have to have resources at hand to accomplish the tasks required for completion. Since God has given to us the mandate to prepare a way for His Son He has seen fit to outfit us with the tools and materiel we need. First and foremost is His written Word, the Bible. Found in this is the rest of the resources He has provided, which we often refer to as gifts (see Romans 12:3-8; Ephesians 4:11; 1 Corinthians 12:8-10, 28-30). Proper personal protective equipment is all required as well. Numerous references throughout scripture relate to this with Ephesians 6:11-18 being the most familiar and comprehensive listing of this “armor of God”.
Many of the gifts we have at our disposal to use as Christians are neglected for one reason of another. If we know we have particular talents and do not use them for God’s glory and purposes then we risk losing the ability to use any of them. They need regular maintenance, practice, and use to keep them in working order. That means study of God’s Word (2 Timothy 2:15) is vitally important on a regular basis. Knowing the proper wearing of the aforementioned armor of God is essential so we may know how to move about while wearing it. Preparation for the use of our giftings will keep our skills at peak efficiency for the course set before us (2 Timothy 4:7), just as an athlete constantly trains in the use of his own set of skills.
If we look at the road building projects around us in our current day we see that they are undertaken by many people. No road is ever built by one person. Many people with diverse backgrounds are required for completion of the tasks that jointly “prepare the way.” In our individualistic society, this is the most difficult concept of Christianity to comprehend. While many call for unity they usually do so according to their own standards of unity. Ironically, the very institutions we look to for leadership as a cohesive working work-team divide us from each other with resulting fragmentation that does not allow us to work together but rather against each other.
Paul addressed the importance of true unity (see 1 Corinthians 12 in its entirety). In fact, as we understand the wearing of the armor of God it should be understood in the context of the first century Roman army. The pieces Paul used in his descriptions were most effective when groups of soldiers stood together and acted as one. We need to understand that our gifts and our armor must be melded with each other’s gifts and armor in order to be truly effective (Hebrews 10:25).
By understanding God’s plan, properly training and using His gifts, and working together, the preparation for Jesus’ coming into a person’s life for salvation can be wrought. Continued diligence will prepare us again for His second coming.
Our Lord and our God, I have failed to keep what you have given me in working order. As your servant I ask that you show me how to repair, maintain, and use Your tools for Your purposes. Use me alongside Your other servants to exalt the valley for the return of Jesus Christ. It is in His Name, Jesus Christ, I pray — Amen.
[see the entire series here]