Summary: Sermon 2 of an Advent/Christmas series on the promises we find in the Christ Child.
The Promise of Meaning Isaiah 40: 1-11
How many of us have asked the question what purpose does this highway. What were those who constructed this highway thinking when they were building this road? Sometimes we question meaning for many things in our lives. It is in this wonderful chapter of Isaiah we find meaning not only for meaning for those people who have been exile, but for those of us who may be in exile today.
If you have taken a look at the roadmaps of the hilly northeast of England you will notice that many of the roads seem to have disregard for the obvious contours. For mile and miles the roads are straight as an arrow. Like a lot of the maps for Arkansas you can look on the maps and find small type on the map showing roads saying ROMAN ROAD, much like many of our side roads. This beautiful and harsh border country, the terrain along and around the Roman Wall, the northernmost limit of Hadrian’s empire. That is the ruler of Rome during the time that they conquered England. Until a few years ago, when the foot and mouth disease wiped out the flocks, you could see sheep-stippled hillsides in all directions on either side of the wall. Except for its use as a windbreak, the sheep were oblivious to the ancient barrier snaking across this narrow section of Northern England. Similarly functional and economical, the roads crisscrossing and running like veins up and down the country zip over hill and dale, regardless of the obstacles, built straight for speed and visibility. With no curves in the roads, friend and foe could be identified from miles away, and news, supplies and Roman armies traveled at the legendary speed.
A voice cried out, “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, and make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” Isaiah 40 talks about a highway much like the highway in the English countryside. A highway that will not cause delays for those seeking to use that highway daily. Isaiah is saying: it’s time for God to come, and come soon. God, this exile has lasted long enough. We you people have served their term, done their time. Now God is going to make good on God’s promises and do so without delay.
How many of us want that straight highway to God. How many of us have been going around on those winding roads of exile and seek a straight path to the Lord? If one has traveled in the desert you will not find many straight roads going through any desert especially in Isaiah’s time. Isaiah and the people of Israel sought a direct path to God. Not one that winded and was hard to get to God. How many of us want to find that dependable road to God?
For an extraordinary pitcher he performed few extraordinary feats. Though a veteran of 21 seasons, in only one did he win more than 20 games. He never pitched a no-hitter and only once did he lead the league in any category (2.21 ERA, 1980). Yet on June 21, 1986, Don Sutton rubbed pitching elbows with the true legends of baseball by becoming the 13th pitcher to win 300 games. His analysis of his success is worth noting. “A grinder and a mechanic” is what he calls himself. “I never considered myself flamboyant or exceptional. But all my life I’ve found a way to get the job done.” And get it done he did. Through two decades, six presidential terms, and four trades, he consistently did what pitchers are supposed to do: win games. With tunnel vision devotion, he spent 21 seasons redefining greatness. He has been called the “family sedan” of baseball’s men on the mound.
Fulfilling what I agreed to do even though it requires unexpected sacrifices. Don Sutton was known as the dependable man of baseball pitchers.
Isaiah brought the good news to the people of Israel. They asked what was the God of Israel about reveal? What word was the spiritual pony express about to deliver to Israel and the people of today? Isaiah knew and proclaimed that God is constant, whereas as he says everything else fades and withers like the grass. That God will make good on God’s promises, whereas everything else is undependable.
Many know of Ford Motor Company greatest flop the Edsel. This car named after on of the Fords did not make it in the market of cars. It was a total flop. It was not dependable in an era that idealized how dependable things were and how great it was. There are a few Edsels left in this world, as they have become collector’s items for how not to build something dependable. Ford has had success in many other areas of the motor industry, but this was there faded grass. Isaiah tells us differently in these scriptures.