Isaiah 40 is one of the critical chapters throughout the entire Bible. He prophesied as follows:
The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain:Isaiah 40:3-4
There is the voice cried in the wilderness. It tells us to prepare the way of the Lord. We needs to make it straight. In doing so, we could see:
- Every valley shall be exalted
- Every mountain and hill shall be made low
- The crooked shall be made straight
- The rough places shall be made plain
What are those symbols implying?
The valley implies the sadness of those oppressed people, facing various adversities in life, which will be healed. Both mountain and hill indicate the arrogance of selfishness, which will be made low. We are all obsessed with placing ourselves higher than others. The crookedness is what it says; there is full of deceitfulness in our societies. Our lives are like the rough places. It’s so hard to walk straight.
Reading these verses, we can easily recall the following portion of the “I have a dream” speech by Martin Luther King on 28 August 1963.
I have a dream that one day every valley shall be exalted, every hill and mountain shall be made low, the rough places will be made plain, and the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together.“I have a dream” speech by Martin Luther King
Our world is such a sinful place. And yet, Isaiah tells us that there is the special voice cried in the wilderness, saying, we need to prepare the way of the Lord. It should be straight and plain, so that we will no longer face various stumbling stones described above.
How can we prepare the way of the Lord?
We are Grass
First, we need to understand the nature of those stumbling stones. Isaiah continues his prophecy with the following verses:
The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.Isaiah 40:6-8
His prophecy says all flesh is grass, and the people is grass. And even the goodliness and beauty of such grass would be at most the flowers of the field. It’s so temporary and illusionary. While we tend to be proud of our beautiful, gorgeous flowers as achievements, Isaiah’s prophecy tells us that these are an illusion. After all, we are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God shall stand forever.
This realization is the first step for us to prepare the way of the Lord and make it straight. Because our world is far from His. We can never prepare and make it straight through our own limited, even selfish efforts. Paradoxically enough, at the moment of realizing this impossibility, finally we could be ready for our true repentance and faith.
We are nothing. He is everything. We can’t love Him as long as we think we can. Only He can love us with His complete sacrifice. There is an infinite gap between our temporality and His eternity. It is the infinity between heaven and earth.
At this moment of repentance and self-denial, therefore, our faith can see the reality of His Words, which become so real, while our flowers of the field look fake and unreal. We are in this world, but not of this world anymore. Let me repeat this verse.
The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.Isaiah 40:8
The Word Became Flesh
Isaiah’s prophecy came true with the voice of John the Baptist. It’s written in all four Gospels (Esaias is the Greek transliteration of Isaiah).
For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.Matthew 3:3
The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.Mark 1:3
As it is written in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.Luke 3:4
He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias.John 1:23
John the Baptist tells us:
In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.Matthew 3:1-2
How do we repent? We deny ourselves as we are grass and flowers. Then, we see the eternal reality of His Words – the moment when eternity meets temporality. Thus, “the Word was made flesh,” becoming temporary and mortal to love us and die for us.
And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth… And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace. For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.John 1:14,16-17
Grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. “From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17)
Image by Jonathan Sautter