Looking to the distant mountains
Isaiah 40: Make the road straight and smooth, a highway fit for our God.
An illustration of how the prophets view the future is of looking from the plains up to a towering mountain range. As I look to the mountains I see one mountain in the “front range,” but at the greater distance is yet another taller and even more majestic peak. Coloradoans call the really big ones, “fourteeners,” that is, they’re over 14,000 feet in height. From my vantage point I can’t tell how far it is between the two mountains. It’s only as I actually travel through the mountains that I realize there’s a deep valley between the first and the second mountain range. As the prophets are given a vision of God’s intentions they sometimes see an act of God that’s close at hand and at the same time see a similar but even greater event more distant than they can imagine. Here in Isaiah 40 the focus of Isaiah’s prophecies is on comfort and hope. These words will become a life line for his people in a few years. All the terrible things he’s warned them of will come to pass, and in distant lands the next generation will turn to these words to find comfort in their sorrow. When I read this passage at the level of the “front range” I see that God’s broken people have hope of restoration. The Lord’s going to return to their lives as a powerful king might return to his kingdom. Isaiah’s command to them is to start preparing for this sure event by making a smooth and straight road into their lives. However, beyond that “front range” is a gigantic “fourteener,” the coming of the King of Kings to this world. Hundreds of years later this prophecy will become John the Baptist’s text and it’ll be fulfilled in a much greater way by King Jesus. As a Christian I can identify with the dual nature of this passage. That “front range” view is when I receive Jesus as King in my own heart. The “fourteener” view is when Jesus comes to this world the second time as King and Judge of all.
Take Away: Sometimes the words of the prophets of the Lord cause us to look both to the past and to the future.