A voice cries: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill shall be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.’
When I was growing up, my grandparents lived quite a long way from us, and we would not see them all that often. Sometimes, however, they would pop down and see us. Before they arrived, we used to have a huge cleaning session, ensuring that the entire house was spotless. My room was often rather messy (and, to be fair, still is!), and my mum would stand over me whilst I put everything away, threw away any rubbish, hoovered and polished. By the time my grandparents arrived, the house was absolutely pristine.
When we’re expecting guests, it’s quite usual to clean and tidy so that all is presentable and respectable; not only do we want to make the effort, but we don’t really want our friends and family to know the conditions we often find ourselves living in!
If we go to so much trouble for friends and family, how much more of an effort would we make if God himself was coming to visit us? What about if our guest was an all-knowing God, who wasn’t just concerned at the state of our homes, but also the state of our lives? What if he could see into our hearts and minds, and know what was really happening inside us?
Mark quotes these verses from Isaiah at the beginning of his gospel, and applies them to John the Baptist, who preceded Jesus’ ministry. John clearly understands who Jesus is, and urges people to ask for forgiveness and be baptised to show that they have repented. In Isaiah, the call goes out to those in the wilderness, and Mark tells us that John, too, appeared in the wilderness. Just as a wilderness develops when there is an absence of life-giving rain, this spiritual wilderness has developed because people have turned from God, and pursued their own paths. John warns them to make preparations, though, because the Messiah will soon be upon them.
Have you been living in a dry wilderness? Jesus is here to offer you refreshment and nourishment. Turn to him now in prayer and ask for forgiveness, and soak yourself in his word with us.