Highway in the Wilderness

God is coming to be with and to help his people.

I remember seeing a sign on a sharp curve in Orangeville, Michigan. It said, “Prepare to meet thy God.” It felt ominous. I cringe seeing similar signs along highways. These are “look out” rather than “look to” messages. John the Baptist gave his warning to the self-righteous holy people who say “our way or the highway,” or “get out of our way.”

John’s Looking

As we look at Jesus’ life, we first see John the Baptist in all four Gospels. John was highway building, preparing a way for the Lord to travel, an imperial highway. He knew something was coming, though he was not sure what or who. In Matthew and Luke, John is expecting judgment with the axe at the root of the tree. In John’s Gospel he looks for the new exodus in the lamb of God. Later, when John is in prison, he still wonders if Jesus is the one (Matt. 11:3, Luke 7:19).

Like John, we may be in the wilderness at times, looking, wondering, waiting for God.

John’s Connections

John was not wandering in the wilderness. He was connected to the past, had a present message, and looked to a goal. John is the link between the testaments. All the Gospels link John to Isaiah 40:3, “A voice of one calling: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God’” (NIV). This passage linked Isaiah’s vision of a new exodus to the original one.

As God met his people in the wilderness at Sinai, so God would come to them again as they long to come out of exile. This is good news. “Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed. . .” (Isa. 40:1-2 NIV).

God is coming to be with and to help his people.

John’s Role

This prophetic message is crucial. It is about God’s actions. God is still coming, and we are called to a prophetic role like John. There is an interesting ambiguity about the message in Isaiah. There the messenger is not identified. The messenger is not in the wilderness. The message is to prepare the way in the wilderness. John both proclaims the message and joins those in the wilderness in the work.

The work is to prepare, and the Hebrew equivalent means “to turn and look,” related to the Hebrew word for “face.” Preparing is, first, to look for God’s coming. Then it is highway building.

New Songs

The world sings, “I did it my way,” popularized by Sinatra. I hope you hear “Prepare, ye, the way of the Lord” from Godspell or the opening of Handel’s Messiah, “Comfort Ye.” May the world hear us sing comfort as we look and walk the wilderness way. We must build highways, highways with bridges and entrance ramps (see Isaiah 49:9-11, 62:10). To quote the only other words in the aforementioned Godspell song “Everybody now.”


Similar Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *