Recently, a good friend gave me a book by A.W. Tozer –one of my favorites– and he had a chapter or two on John the Baptist. He presented a unique perspective on John, showing how he and Isaiah still speak to us today.
First of all, we need to understand whenever a Jewish speaker quoted a piece of an Old Testament Scripture, it was implied that he was citing the entire passage. Here’s the passage from Isaiah that John was referencing.
The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
“Prepare 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 brought low;
The crooked places shall be made straight
And the rough places smooth;
The glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
And all flesh shall see it together;
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
Tozer first asks to consider that the wilderness is not just a place, but a moral condition, a state of chaos and waste, uncertainty and purposelessness. We would readily agree that describes us before we met Jesus, but I’ll admit I’ve had periods of moral wilderness, a wilderness of the heart since then.
But Isaiah gives us the path back, outlining the steps we need to take to get from that emptiness to the revealed glory of God.
- Crooked places made straight – We need to examine our lives our habits and fix anything that doesn’t line up with God’s standards. Where have we tolerated sin and passed it off as no big deal?
- Valleys exalted – Or technically filled in. Tozer says the valleys represent all the things we don’t do that we should. He’s not encouraging a Christian version of workaholism, but rather honestly evaluating whether we pray as we should? Do we study as we should? Do we give a word of encouragement, or freely give God the credit for the blessings in our lives?
- Mountains and hills brought low – What areas in our hearts and lives are centers of pride? Those have to go. Do we crave recognition or expect to have things done our way in the body of Christ?
- Rough places smoothed out – What rocks cause us to trip? What sins do we fall over every time? Are there habits and routines we could change to avoid them?
It sounds simple, but it’s not easy. Languishing in the wilderness takes a lot less effort, and meets with a lot less resistance. However, Jesus saved us for the purpose of revealing His glory to us. It shouldn’t be too much to expect that we keep ourselves prepared to see it.