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Monday, December 11, 2017

Day 12: The Voice in the Wilderness

Today's Scripture Reading: Isaiah 40:3-5

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 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.” - Isaiah 40:3-5, ESV

The Voice in the Wilderness

I have a confession to make (after 25+ years): In high school, I had the bad habit of sometimes showing up at friends' houses unannounced. Once I got my driver's license and the use of a car, I would sometimes just drive to a friend's house and knock on the door and invite myself in. One of my good friends was my pastor's daughter, so one of the houses I would visit unannounced was my pastor's house. After I had done this 2-3 times, Pastor Don politely requested that I call first before just showing up unannounced.

In the ancient world, it was not unusual for even an overnight guest to arrive unannounced. After all, they had no phones and travel was unpredictable. Yet one kind of visitor would never arrive unannounced: a king. Sometimes kings might go in disguise to secretly explore or visit an area, but if a king was coming for an official visit, his coming was always announced ahead of time. After all, preparations had to be made.

When King Jesus came into the world, God foretold His coming centuries in advance. Yet God not only foretold His Son's coming but also the coming of the forerunner, the herald of His Son. We know the forerunner as John the Baptist, but in Isaiah 40, he is simply "a voice" which cries out a message of preparation.

John the Baptist's role was critical: he called people to repentance and to prepare their hearts for the coming of Messiah. He reminded them of God's holy standard for His people in justice and righteousness. The more people responded to John's message, the more prepared they would be for the coming of Jesus. Being prepared for Jesus meant being ready to see the glory of God in the flesh, which could only be seen by eyes of faith.

John was a faithful herald, a great forerunner. When he saw Jesus, he cried out, "Behold the lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!" (John 1:29) When crowds left him to follow Jesus, he said, "He must increase but I must decrease." (John 3:30)  In the end, he was called to lay down his life in the cause of righteousness as he was beheaded by Herod Antipas.

May we learn today's Advent lesson from John the Baptist, the last great prophet before Christ. May we learn to stand for righteousness, to tell others the truth about Jesus, and be content to see Jesus become great, even while we become less and less.

Heavenly Father, thank You for sending Your Son into the world to be our Savior, and thank You for sending John the Baptist to prepare the way for Jesus. Thank You for his faithfulness as the forerunner. May we walk in his steps as herald and witnesses of the great King! In Jesus' name and for His glory we pray, Amen.

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