A voice cries out; “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord…”Isaiah 40:3 (NRSV)
I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, “Make straight the way of the Lord…”John 1:23 (NRSV)
Preparing the Way
Both Isaiah and John (the baptizer) seem to be saying the same thing. We need to prepare the way for the Lord. This is an ancient custom that is still practiced today. In times of old, as a king was making his way to a village, people would literally run out into the wilderness, and clear the dirt path making it smooth for him to travel on. The way was prepared. Today, we do the same thing, albeit in a different manner. For example, when the President of the United States visits a city, the way is prepared by the Secret Service, the Mayor, and the Chief of Police. Different actions, same reasons.
But I wonder if Isaiah is telling us something different, something the Desert Fathers instinctively understood. In order for the Lord to enter our hearts, we need to prepare the way for him. And to do that, we just might need to be in the wilderness. Allow me to paraphrase Isaiah, “If you want to prepare the way for the Lord, go do it in the wilderness.” When we remain in our busy internet-driven lives, it is really difficult to prepare our hearts for God’s grace to enter. This is why our Youth Pastors always teach our kids about quiet time. Somehow, we adults tend to forget this.
The wilderness, your wilderness, is all around you. It can be as simple as your sofa at 5:30 a.m. It can be a walk along the irrigation canal flowing out of the Snake River. For some of us, it may be a much-needed sabbatical from the work of ministry; not to recharge batteries so we can do more, but to prepare the way of the Lord so we know why we’re doing what we’re doing. Whatever your wilderness is, my prayer is that you carve out time measured in minutes, hours, or weeks, and go find your wilderness place so that your heart is prepared to answer the Lord as he draws near. God bless you all.
Pastor Patrick Jones