As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be made low, and the crooked shall become straight, and the rough places shall become level ways, and all flesh shall see the salvation of God.’” – Luke 3:4-6 ESV
We are going on a journey, friends. Yes, we are not staying where we are, but we are travelers passing through this land, headed to our true home. And shouldn’t we be preparing ourselves?
“Prepare the way of the Lord”
This preparation begins in the wilderness, in “the desert of my nature”, but my attention to the Master’s call, and my giving Him a path to my heart, it demonstrates His gracious operation within our lives played out as very real substance of a faith alive and at work through the true believer, follower, disciple of Christ.
So what does this preparation look like? How can we rest in the blessed assurance that we have given this the serious attention that eternity deserves from one who would “work out their salvation in fear and trembling” — from one who would “not deceive themselves by simply listening to the Word”?
Make His paths straight
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that you will change His path or that His ways are ever not faithful and true. No. This is not about our changing His path, but about us changing to align ourselves so that His work is profitable through us, so that we are not a hindrance to our own testimony and usefulness.
And this doesn’t mean that we must clean ourselves up in order to come to Christ either. It primarily means getting rid of the baggage of the past, along with our doubts, in order to repent and allow Him to lead us straight away towards our destination from this now, into eternity. It means an abandonment of the old and a coming into the new. A death of the old man, and new life in Christ who leads, guides, instructs, and yes, even disciplines us.
Every valley shall be filled
The Lord doesn’t just offer us happiness that is contingent upon our circumstances – He offers us peace and joy. And He doesn’t give like the world does, His gifts don’t wither away according to circumstance or season leaving us parched and empty. No, the gifts of His peace and joy are even more evident in the valleys where happiness and pleasure and health and prosperity and pride fail men. It is in the deep valley that these treasures show themselves sufficient. It was in the valley of Elah that David defeated Goliath, not upon a mountaintop. And we see in David’s ever popular Psalm 23, that it is in the valley that our hearts are filled with the strength of trusting in the Lord.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me. You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows. Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever. – Psalms 23:1-6 ESV
Too often, we fear the valley instead of waiting expectantly to see what the Lord will do next to prove Himself faithful and true to those who love Him.
Any low and groveling thoughts must be given up. Doubting and despairing must be removed. Self-seeking, carnal, and worldly thoughts must be utterly abandoned. Across this chasm a glorious bridge of grace must be raised to reveal our standing firmly upon the foundation of belief in the sufficiency of Christ, and Christ alone, as the cornerstone of our salvation.
Every mountain and hill will be laid low
What did Jesus say would lay low the mountains? Faith.
Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.” – Mark 11:23-25 ESV
And what are these mountains that threaten us with the possibility of great falls, if not prideful self-sufficiency and foolish self-righteousness.
These must be crushed and leveled, must be blessed with humble bended knee, to make way for the King of Kings. Fellowship with the Lord is not available to haughty, high minded sinners – but the Lord respects the lowly, and visits the contrite and repentant heart of the true believers, while the lofty are an abomination to Him.
Only the Holy Spirit can set a man right in this respect, and I pray that His hand is upon each of us, and that we have not hardened our hearts against bearing the sweet aroma of the fruit that He bears everywhere that He dwells.
Remember from whence your grace comes, and that it is not from your own works but through Christ, and Christ alone. Remember your unworthy state and inability to fulfill the law under your own power, and wonder in awe at His mercy and grace that He bids you carry to all who will come prepared to participate as a guest at the great feast.
The crooked shall become straight
And if a man has truly 1) turned from his sin and also 2) turned from his high opinion of himself, isn’t the only gate to this way — for him to find it in Jesus Christ upon the cross, raised to new life, and offered as the Holy Spirit to those who hear His voice?
There is no other way to truly believe and walk in both these while in the flesh, because they are contrary to one another by the flesh, and can only be satisfied, overcome, fulfilled in the Spirit of Truth.
And if we walk in the Spirit of Truth, we walk in godly love – joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, goodness, and self-contol. And isn’t it clear that these fulfill the law and that sin is not in them? Isn’t it clear that God is love and there is no sin in Him? Isn’t it clear that God is light and there is no darkness in Him?
So how could the crooked say that they have fellowship with God unless they are liars like their true father?
So, yes. What was once crooked is made straight. The thief is now the hard working and generous provider. The gossipper is now the humble, quiet and prayerful penitent. The drunk is now the steadfast who carries the burdens of his fellow man.
The hand of the potter upon the clay vessel does not leave one untouched and unchanged, but utterly new in purpose and vision and direction and substance.
There is no room for wavering or doublemindedness. So make sure that in everything you are honest and true, because your very thoughts, desires, and intents are clearly visible to the heart-searching God.
The rough places shall become level ways
Stumbling blocks of sin must be put away, and the thorns and briers of rebellion must be uprooted. These things that might serve to stumble and confuse others about Christ’s ministry and work within the believer must not be left to mar our testimony — or even worse, to distract these little ones by any unfaithfulness that is not by any measure a reasonable service to Almighty God whose grace wrenched us from the punishment and separation that we deserve.
So let our life path and our dwelling place not be a muddy and rocky path that is treacherous to others, but a clear highway upon which many might find safe and sound footing when traveling this path of Grace –
So that in our lifesong –
All flesh shall see the salvation of God.
What will they see today in my life, Christ or me?
Whether faced with circumstances or temptations, valley or mountain, will my spiritual path remain unshaken, firmly fined and sure footed?
Lord, lead us along this triumphant procession of being reconciled to you in the souths of our hearts, minds, body, and spirit, may you reign and may your will be done. Amen.