“Now in those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” For this is the one referred to by Isaiah the prophet, saying, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make ready the way of the Lord, make His paths straight!'” Matt. 3:1-3
After a brief (seven week) detour to take a more intent look at the prophecies concerning Jesus being called a Nazarene and His church as the sect of Nazarenes, we return to a general study of Old Testament passages quoted in the New Testament.
Our text this week comes from the gospel of John, chapter one verse twenty-three, which is a parallel passage to our text above concerning John the Immerser and the One whom he heralded, Jesus the Christ. ‘He said, “I am a voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as Isaiah the prophet said.”’ Let’s first consider the context of this passage in Isaiah quoted by John and recorded for our edification. Isaiah in earlier chapters has foretold of a coming invasion of Israel at the hands of the Assyrians and of Judah by the Babylonians. Jerusalem will be leveled and the people deported into captivity due to their sins. On the heels of the picture of judgment by God upon the chosen people and surrounding nations delivered by Isaiah up through chapter thirty-nine, the Spirit now moves the prophet to look to the postexilic period. Beginning in this chapter and through to the close of His inspired writings, the prophet now offers the comfort and hope of the coming Redeemer. By the end of chapter forty-four and the beginning of chapter forty-five, the LORD speaks of Cyrus, the Persian king who would release the people to return to Jerusalem to rebuild her. These are a people who have been cast out of their homeland looking for the Messiah and yearning for a return home. The inspired prophet speaks of the calling for the highway in the wilderness to be made clear and smooth (rebuilt) for “the LORD” and “our God.” The implication is of an exodus out of captivity to prepare the people for the coming of the LORD to Jerusalem (Isa. 40:9). As a side note, we know John the Immerser was speaking of Jesus, so here is another text that proves Jesus is Yahweh. We know faithful people did return to Jerusalem to rebuild the city and the temple. However, let’s turn to the context of Isaiah 40 and verse five and notice an important purpose made concerning the coming of the LORD. “Then the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all flesh will see it together; for the mouth of the LORD has spoken,” One quick point. The glory of the LORD resided in the temple in the Old Testament. However, that glory never returned to the restored postexilic temple in physical Jerusalem. And this “all flesh”, isn’t that a reference to Jew and Gentile? Yes. So how can “all flesh”, according to this passage, see it together? All flesh, Jew and Gentile, were brought together by the LORD (read Jesus Christ here) in the establishment of His church. So Isaiah 40:5 must be speaking of the church, right? Let’s backtrack to Isaiah chapter four for a moment: “In that day the Branch of the LORD will be beautiful and glorious, and the fruit of the earth will be the pride and the adornment of the survivors of Israel. And it will come about that he who is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy– everyone who is recorded for life in Jerusalem. When the Lord has washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and purged the bloodshed of Jerusalem from her midst, by the spirit of judgment and the spirit of burning, then the LORD will create over the whole area of Mount Zion and over her assemblies a cloud by day, even smoke, and the brightness of a flaming fire by night; for over all the glory will be a canopy.” (Isaiah 4:2-5) We just finished a study on the Branch of the LORD (Jesus the Nazarene) and his people (the sect of the Nazarenes, Acts 24:5), here called “the fruit of the earth” who will be “the pride and the adornment of the survivors of Israel.” OK, one more time brethren. Where do the holy ones of God (saints) reside by faith now according to the writer of the book of Hebrews? That’s right, Mount Zion and heavenly Jerusalem. So it seems Isaiah (and by inference, John the Immerser) spoke of not just preparing the way for Jesus’ coming to physical Jerusalem, but to also to spiritual Jerusalem, the church, comprised of Jew and Gentile. The purpose? To lead an exodus of those once held captive by Satan to do his will, into the very presence of God to behold, be transformed, be protected and preserved by His glory. Or job is still to cry out to make the path straight for the way of the Lord – the path that leads to the glory of the Lord – Him who is seated on the throne in glory!