Joining the Journey

The voice of him that cries in the wilderness,
prepare ye the way of the Lord.
Make straight in the desert
a highway
for our God.

Isaiah 40:3

This is the time of year when I get easily off track.   Lost and wandering in a wilderness of winter doldrums,  I have too much to do at work, too little time at home and farm to cherish and protect the precious relationships in my life.

Winter clings like a cement suit — a desert of deprivation gone on too long.   I yearn for respite.

Today, a voice cries out to prepare myself and prepare a pathway for God to reach me, a God who actually has come for me.

It is time to look where I’m going, to walk a straight path with that goal in mind, and stop meandering meaninglessly.   This path, if straight and true,  will join thousands of others harkening to His call.

I am not alone on this road, not ever.  Nor are you.

Here is Your God

You who bring good tidings to Zion, go up on a high mountain. You who bring good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up your voice with a shout, lift it up and do not be afraid; say to the towns of Judah, “Here is your God.”
 Isaiah 40:9

Who is your God? Flooded with images from commercials, billboards, books, and magazines,  we are given so many competing messages about who our God is. Whether it is a new technology, a new technique for overcoming challenges, a moment, an emotion, or a new self-help guru, we are given so many options of whom or what to crown as God. Our tendency, though, will always remain the same, we want to call out from the mountains that we are God. The search has ended and it is as we always anticipated, we—ourselves—are the beginning and the end.

This joyful cry from Zion that we often proclaim concerning ourselves foreshadows a sobering call in the New Testament that shows we are not the kings we have made ourselves out to be. In John 19:14, Pilate brings Christ before the people and proclaims, “Here is your king.” The response is pure and utter vitriol…we have no king but Caesar, we have no king but ourselves, crucify the one who would claim to be our king. We could not fathom that the good news of Isaiah could be the same news that nailed Jesus of Nazareth to a cross. If it is the same good news, we could never be the God or king we elevate ourselves to be. The proclamation of that king from the mountain turns out to be a cry of dereliction from the cross.

At a family gathering tonight one of my young second cousins raced around the living room, shouting his excitement about the presents to be opened. My aunt bemused that the present could never live up to the expectation. That will always be true, except in Christ. Christ’s most painful moment is our gladdest tidings…in looking at the cross we now say with all certainty and hope, “Here is your God. Here is your King.”

~Ben Gibson

The Lord’s Breath

A voice says, “Cry out!” Another asks, “What should I cry out?” The first voice responds: “All people are like grass, and all their promises are like the flowers in the field. 7 The grass dries up, the flowers wither, when the wind sent by the Lord blows on them. Surely humanity is like grass. 8 The grass dries up, the flowers wither, but the decree of our God is forever reliable.”
Isaiah 40:6-8

“The word of our God stands forever” – always the closing statement at the end of the scripture reading by a certain pastor.

While true, what a shock to see the context!

God’s breath brings judgement and death onto all the pretty false pleasures which we humans desire and pursue.

God breathes death onto all that is false.

BUT God’s breath breathes life into Adam.

God’s WORD – LOGOS -CHRIST  stands forever and gives us ETERNAL LIFE.

Pursue HIM!

~Pam Herbert

Highway Construction

Isaiah 40:3-5
A voice cries out, “In the wilderness clear a way for the Lord; construct in the desert a road for our God. Every valley must be elevated, and every mountain and hill leveled. The rough terrain will become a level plain, the rugged landscape a wide valley.  The splendor of the Lord will be revealed, and all people will see it at the same time. For the Lord has decreed it.”

The words of this passage, though very familiar to me, were not ones about which I had thought clearly.  To whom is the call of verse 3 directed?  Who will prepare the way for the Lord?   In other places in Scripture, it seems that God himself prepares the way for his people.  See for example Isaiah 11:15-16, Isaiah 42:16, Isaiah 43:16.  Then again, in the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy, it is John the Baptist who is the voice calling from the desert, challenging those who came out to hear him to repent, thereby creating a road ready for the coming Savior.  So is the road builder God?  John? God’s wayward people?  Or someone else?

These verses must be viewed against the backdrop of the history of God’s people.  God had indeed delivered his people by making a straight path through the Red Sea.  Once through that sea, with the enemy behind destroyed, those people had a short journey ahead to the promised land. But due to their disobedience, they turned a short trip on the expressway into forty years of wandering in the desert, a journey on which nearly all died.  What began as God’s straight way became his stiff-necked people’s deadly labyrinth.

But now comes Christ, the one to whom Isaiah and John pointed.  In Christ, God and his people are joined.  God makes the straight way and his obedient son, the new Israel, makes the way straight.  After John preached his gospel of repentance in the desert, no less than Jesus himself comes out to him to be baptized, to go through the water into the wilderness.  There he was tempted for 40 days.  But he did not wander.  The path he blazed was one of obedience–a path through the wilderness of sin, to Jerusalem; yes, even to the cross.  There he was lifted up and we, sinners all, beheld his glory.

So who makes the straight way?  God?  God’s people?  Yes, in Christ, yes, where God and his people are met in one.

So repent and believe.

~Dan Gibson

Comfort, Comfort To My People

Isaiah 40: 1, 2
Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.  Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and proclaim to her that her hard service has been completed, that her sin has been paid for, that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins.

Heidelberg Catechism Q. and A. 1

Q.  What is your only comfort in life and death?

A.  That I am not my own, but belong—body and soul, in life and in death—to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ . . .

By now, as sixty years closes in on me, I have watched and waited at the bedside of first my father and then, ten years later, my mother as each by death passed from this life.  They had both lived good, long lives and were faithful followers of Christ.  Yet death for each was a battle, and those of us children present at their sides sought to comfort the beloved who was dying.  The sustained grip of hand on hand, the caress of the forehead, the moistening of dried lips and mouth with cool water, the soft yet firmly spoken words of love—we were intent to comfort:  you are dear to us, all will be well, we will be together yet again . . . . Then, as one by one they passed beyond our labor to comfort and we were left bereft and alone to witness the flash-freeze pallor of death, we sought comfort for ourselves.

Thus when God speaks comfort to his people through his prophet Isaiah, we are ready to identify ourselves with that people.  We have seen hard service, our hearts have been rent by separation from our beloved, we have pocketed within our own souls the wages of deadly sin, so God knows, we need comfort.

As God commands comfort in verse one, so he promptly provides the means of delivering that comfort in verse two:  speak tenderly, proclaim that hard service is completed, that sin has been paid for doubly, much more than enough.  These are indeed sweet words for one who would be comforter.

But what is the basis in reality for such words?  Here is where Christmas is in play.  It is in Christ, the Ancient of Days become babe, that God himself has performed hard service for us, has paid off the wages of sin with the gift of his life, has given double grace in spite of all our sins, has gone ahead and opened a way for us through death to life everlasting—and we belong to him.  On account of his mercy we by faith are his dear family, his children, his brothers and sisters—and he alone is our comfort, in life and in death.

~Dan Gibson

Rough No More

Every valley shall be exalted,
every mountain and hill made low;
the crooked straight,
and the rough places plain.
Isaiah 40:4

From most vantage points in Whatcom County, we see the strong silhouette of Mt. Baker every morning, unchanging and unblinking as the clouds swirl past, the snow falls, or the sun shines.   The peaks are just as impressive as they must have been for the coastal native populations centuries ago, with the river valleys at its feet just as green and lush.

As permanent as it seems, it is an active volcano, still steaming from its vent on the coldest of mornings, a plume visible dozens of miles away.  The lesson of Mount St. Helen taught us that the constancy of rocky peaks is illusory.  In an instant it can be laid low, the valleys obliterated in a sea of lava, the rivers gorged and gushing with mud, the ragged geography covered and soon forgotten.

There is nothing permanent under the firmament. Every earthquake and tsunami proves that again and again.

All that is lasting is the kingdom of our God incarnate, who walked in living flesh on this impermanent earth,  in order to bring His people to home everlasting.

Knowing this, we can be rough no more.

Prepare the Way

The voice of him that cries in the wilderness,
prepare ye the way of the Lord.
Make straight in the desert
a highway for our God.
Isaiah 40:3

The beginning of Lent comes at a time of year when I tend to get off track.   Lost and wandering in a wilderness of winter doldrums,  I yearn for respite.  And so today, a voice cries out to prepare.  It is time to look where I’m going, to walk a path with a goal in mind, and stop meandering meaninglessly.   My path, if straight and true,  will join thousands of others harkening to the call.  I am not alone on this road.  Nor are you.