A moment of sheer, unadulterated honesty here.
I love the Bible. I read it often, but not as often as I like. I love exploring it in community. I love hearing someone teach from it.
I love it when it reveals something new.
And I love it most when I read a passage that I have have read a gazillion times before and for some reason at this time and this place, it absolutely sends a chill right through me and makes me spontaneously whisper a word of praise.
That just happened.
I glanced over Isaiah 40:3-5 for today’s Emmaus entry. I glanced at the notes in the study Bible. I copied and pasted the Scripture text and moved along to behind the scenes bloggy stuff – finding a photo, checking categories, entering titles.
Then, I read it again.
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.”
(Isaiah 40:3-5 ESV, emphasis mine)
The New Testament clearly identifies the voice of one calling as John the Baptist (Matthew 3:1-6). But what’s all this business about preparing the way?
It was customary in the ancient near East for royalty to send an advance party ahead to prepare the way for the monarch’s visit. Think of it as a hybrid of the Secret Service and an awesome party planner. The way will be safe , smooth and secure and there will be plenty of ceremony to mark the way.
That’s the image Isaiah outlines in these verses and it’s the image the New Testament writers fill in as they describe the relationship between John and Jesus, who came after him. John was the advance man, preparing the hearts and minds of the people for the Messiah who was coming behind him.
For God, though, it isn’t enough that the mountains, like those pictured above, are made low or that the valleys are lifted up to make the path more than accessible to all.
We are all going to see his glory.
Sure, there were people who saw Jesus when he walked the earth, who listened to him speak and who felt the healing in his touch, but, save for three disciples, none saw his glory.
That privilege, or terror (depend on where your heart stands), is yet to come.
And we will all see it together.