Make straight the way… (Isaiah 40-44)
December 18, 2010
Well, it would probably easier to concentrate on Isaiah 40-44 if I wasn’t reading it on a train with a nearby neighbour who feels the need to play their ipod so loud that the entire carriage could join in with the chorus if they felt the urge. Funnily enough, none of us do. But needs must. I always find the prophecy day of my Bible plan challenging any way, partly because of the sheer volume I have to read; this is such a rich text, it’s hard to pick a theme to reflect on from one chapter let alone five. But it’s also that I don’t feel equipped to really understand Isaiah; I don’t know much about the context, the meaning traditional of the imagery. But, you know me, I’ll give it a go!
Luckily, this week I feel a little guided. I read the beginning of Isaiah 40 in a carol service yesterday. It contains that famous line “a voice cries out in the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord”. Of course, in a Christian context we associate these words with John the Baptist (Luke 3:4, John 1:23). When we read these words we think of the coming of Jesus.
But this making straight is mentioned again and again in Isaiah. There is the passage directly after that above, which begins “every valley shall be lifted up and even mountain and hill shall be made low” (40:4). Then later the voice of God tells Israel “I shall make you a threshing-sledge, sharp, new and having teeth; you shall thresh the mountains and crush them, you shall make the hills like chaff” (41:15). And again “I will turn the dark places before them into light, the rough places into level ground” ( 42:16b).
So it seems the whole make straight thang is a pretty big deal in the imagery of scripture. But what does it mean? Thinking about it at first I thought it seemed a little dull. Everything leveled out, even, no peaks and troughs. Boring! But I doubt the message here is that God wants us to make everything relentlessly average before he comes to us. That doesn’t really sound like God to me.
A level playing field then? Making all equal? Could this be about justice? Well I’d like it to be, but I thinking this is a bit of a modern analogy I’m making.
Perhaps, then, it’s something internal. I think this was probably what the John the Baptist was getting at, as his message was baptism and repentance. I hope it doesn’t mean making everything in us even; sanding off the rough edges. I like the rough edges, I like our individual peaks and troughs. But making a way for God, a path for to us and through us, well, that sounds like a good plan.
I find myself asking, are there obstacles to God within me? Barriers I’ve put up that seem like mountains? Are there cavernous valleys? And am I dealing with them? I want so much to make straight the way for God in my life. And I want to clear path to Him. I want to live in a way that would break down mountains in order to be closer and closer to God.
When I was reading this earlier a song started going around in my head. It’s another of my pop-songs-that-would-make-amazing-worship-songs. It’s joyous and determined, just like I hope to be on my path through the wilderness. I feel it could also be God’s song to us, especially in the context of Jesus’ sacrifices; there’s nothing big enough to God from getting to us, babe. Enjoy: