A Voice Crying in the Wilderness

September 16, 2014

Today I would like to develop further the idea I introduced yesterday of finding one’s voice. Isaiah 40:1-9 has spoken to me lately, and though the topic there is Jerusalem/Zion’s revival after a long season of disruption from Babylonian and Assyrian tyrants, there are parallels to today’s church and the role of prophet therein.

The passage begins with words of comfort, indicating to God’s Chosen that the worst of their captivity is over:

1          Comfort, O comfort my people,
                        says your God.
2          Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
                        and cry to her
            that she has served her term,
                        that her penalty is paid,
            that she has received from the LORD’S hand
                        double for all her sins.

Israel has been through the ringer, undergoing God’s judgment against her apostasy, her empty worship, and her sense of entitlement. But God is saying here, You have paid your debt and have entered a new season of reconciliation with God.

But now, some real work has to be done to rebuild the people of God:

3          A voice cries out:
            “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD,
                        make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
4          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.
5          Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
               and all people shall see it together,
                        for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

In the wasteland of human hearts, a major construction project must be undertaken in order to welcome God back into residence among his people. Obstacles to the Lord’s full access must be removed, what is uneven must be paved level, and what is crooked must be straightened. From a spiritual perspective, what must happen is this: God’s people—including church people who have been wayward—must make preparations for another invasion. This one does not bring weapons of mass destruction but the full Glory of God’s Presence. Only those purified by the refiner’s fire will be able to withstand God’s Glory; that’s why God’s arrival is something that must be anticipated and prepared for. It is the role of prophet, ancient and contemporary, to speak the plan and call people to the work of preparation for the Lord’s coming.

There are always doubters in our midst, then and now:

6          A voice says, “Cry out!”
                        And I said, “What shall I cry?”
            All people are grass,
                        their constancy is like the flower of the field.
7          The grass withers, the flower fades,
                        when the breath of the LORD blows upon it;
                        surely the people are grass.

The question is whether mere mortals can muster the courage and the skill for the assigned task. How can inconsistent, fragile, temporary people make ready for God’s Glory? This voice says, Surely people are grass, which does not fare too well in drought and wind and wildfire (don’t we Californians know this?!).

If it were only up to us to make straight and level the road of life, we would fail. But there is hope, spoken by the voice of faith:

8          [Yes, indeed. . .] The grass withers, the flower fades;
                        but the word of our God will stand forever.

It isn’t your word or my word that will carry the message of hope and restoration to exiled people, it is God’s Word! God’s is the Word that stands forever, that cannot be shaken, and will be heard (eventually) by everybody! It behooves the prophet(s) in our midst, including me, to proclaim the Word of the Lord and bring that Word to life.

So how does that translate to blogging ministry? Denominational topics? I’m not sure the PC(USA) is out of the woods, yet, of God’s judgment for straying away from his Word and disregarding his law. Our tribe is still proving the existence of “total depravity” (a Reformation-era concept). It is very possible that in our lifetimes we could see the demise of the PC(USA) simply because it redefines itself to be people who write their own “word.” For this reason, “Comfort, comfort ye, my people” may not be the appropriate message to the PC(USA). The prophet may still have to name the sin and voice the warnings. When things happen (and I have a doozy from last week), I may not be able to avoid the admonitions and exhortations that rise to my mouth! On the other hand, I would really like to be able to point to those moments and occasions when God’s Glory breaks through or when God’s Word addresses life as I am experiencing it. For you, I hope that means encouragement for your effort towards spiritual restoration and rehabilitation—making paths to God straight and level.

So this is an invitation to embark upon this as a project God has given us, to let God’s Word inform and transform us in life and in death. That means reflecting on real life—however it unfolds—in light of God’s Word.

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4 Responses to “A Voice Crying in the Wilderness”

  1. Rev. John Campbell Says:

    Isaiah 40 [Fourty] not Four

  2. Lee Jensema Says:

    revmary, thanks so much for writing again & seeking to find ur voice. Your blog is like a fresh shower after a dry spell, a shower that gives life to the flowers, landscaping, & garden. Somehow, ur words renew my hope in what God can still do. Despite all that has happened, God is still at work in us & thru us, & God is still faithful!

  3. Randy McGrady-Beach Says:

    I certainly would be interested in your comments after reading Achtemeier’s book, “The Bible’s Yes to Same-Sex Marriage: An Evangelical’s Change of Heart.” I think he has some compelling arguments. Also Adam Hamilton’s book, “Making Sense of the Bible,” helps a lay person understand some of the latest scholarship and actually is the third book Hamilton has talked about his views of Homosexuality. Those views have changed over the years. I appreciate his sense of humility in the midst of struggling with an understanding of what the Spirit is saying about a different orientation.

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