Summary: The Baptist called for those who heard to prepare a straight highway for the coming Lord. What is meant by that call?
A voice cries:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be lifted up,
and every mountain and hill be made low;
the uneven ground shall become level,
and the rough places a plain.
And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
and all flesh shall see it together,
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”
Most Christians will recognise this passage as one applied to the Baptist when he came [MATTHEW 3:3; MARK 1:3; LUKE 3:4]. This is the second of four times in this Fortieth Chapter that we witness a voice crying out to speak to God’s people. The voice does not merely speak; rather, the voice cries. This is not mere information transmitted in a casual manner; there is a sense of urgency in each of the statements that are recorded as the voice demands attention through volume and intensity.
A voice is commanded to comfort God’s people [ISAIAH 40:1, 2]. Presumedly, it is the same voice that cries out, warning of the brevity of life and reminding all who hear that the Word of God stands forever [ISAIAH 40:6-8]. Again, a voice demands proclamation of good news that God is present bringing to mankind His salvation [ISAIAH 40:9-11]. In the text that is now before us, the voice cries out calling mankind to prepare for the coming of the LORD God.
Let’s establish a truth that is perhaps obscured by our experiences. God does not need us to prepare a highway for Him to appear. It is a perception in some eschatologies that man must prepare the way in order to ensure that Messiah comes a second time. Of course, such thinking is silly. God did not need man’s help to create the universe. We read in the prologue of John’s Gospel, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men” [JOHN 1:1-4]. God did not require mortal assistance in preparing for the Advent of Christ the Lord. We are specifically informed, “When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” [GALATIANS 4:4, 5]. Moreover, God will not require human assistance for His Anointed One to come a second time. Jesus warned His disciples, “You also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” [LUKE 12:40].
The highway that is to be made straight is not to ensure that Messiah is able to come; rather, it is to permit man to meet Him when He does come. The emphasis is not on bringing Messiah, but preparing to meet Him when He does come. The cry that is heard is a call to ready oneself for the coming of God’s Anointed One.
THE MESSENGER — It is vital that for us to stay focused on the message rather than focusing on the messenger; the message, and not the messenger, is what is important. You will recall that the prophecy before us was applied to John [see LUKE 3:2-6]. He was the forerunner for God’s Messiah [see LUKE 1:16, 17 NASV]. His role was to fulfil Isaiah’s prophecy, heralding the presentation of God’s Anointed One. This is witnessed through referral to another passage in John’s Gospel.
“This is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, ‘Who are you?’ He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, ‘I am not the Christ.’ And they asked him, ‘What then? Are you Elijah?’ He said, ‘I am not.’ ‘Are you the Prophet? ‘And he answered, ‘No.’ So they said to him, ‘Who are you? We need to give an answer to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?’ He said, ‘I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, “Make straight the way of the Lord,” as the prophet Isaiah said.’
“(Now they had been sent from the Pharisees.) They asked him, ‘Then why are you baptising, if you are neither the Christ, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?’ John answered them, ‘I baptise with water, but among you stands one you do not know, even he who comes after me, the strap of whose sandal I am not worthy to untie.’” [JOHN 1:19-27]. John understood that he was but a voice crying out in the wilderness. He did not exalt himself; rather he exalted the Messiah.