Quite often, the Lord wakes me up in the middle of the night. It used to bother me, but then I realized that it wasn’t anxiety or some such, which used to happen, it was simply that HE wanted to have a conversation with me, and picked the quietest time in my day to do so. =) Know what I mean?
So, Saturday night, I woke up, and I usually go to the Psalms, they are by far my favorite book of the Bible. I’ve read some psalms literally thousands of times, perhaps tens of thousands of times for Psalm 51. But as sometimes is the case, I wanted to read in the New Testament. So, as I often do, I started in the beginning of a book. What’s my favorite gospel? Well, John of course! So, I read John 1. I read it several times, as I am always listening intently during these “Late night sessions” with the Lord. I got to this:
John 1:23 (ESV)
“He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.””
Now I’ve read that probably a thousand times as well. But, this time it struck me. Why would we need to make straight the way OF the Lord? Or why would John the Baptist need to? So, I started digging. That phrase from John the Baptist is in all 4 gospels, but you probably knew that. I didn’t! There’s not many things that appear in all 4 gospels you know. So this one must be important. So, I continued digging, using Google to search out that phrase “Make straight the path” or “Make straight the way” or “Straight paths”. And, of course, I went back to Isaiah 40:3 that is directly referenced in the above quote from John the Baptist.
“A voice cries:
“In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord;
make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”
Again, a highway FOR our God. What? Even the Hebrews had a concept that God is EVERYWHERE, that he is omnipresent, as well as omnipotent (and eternal).
Then I read this sermon by John Piper, entitled: “The Straight Paths of the Lord”.
Now it doesn’t directly talk about John the Baptist making straight paths, but it talks about Paul, on his first missionary journey, in Salamis on the island of Cyprus, confronting an evil sorcerer named Elymas who was “Making crooked the paths of the Lord”. I read on, I was intrigued by this notion. John Piper came to the observation, on this subject, a few paragraphs down in a section entitled “What Are the Straight Paths of the Lord?”
Here’s that section:
“What are the straight paths of the Lord? And how do you make them crooked? The answer is clear when you discover that the word for “turn away” in verse 8 and the word for “make crooked” in verse 10 is the same Greek word (diastrepho).
“What is the making crooked of the straight paths of God? It’s what Elymas was doing in verse 8—he was seeking to turn aside the proconsul from the faith. “Turn aside” (in v. 8) corresponds with “make crooked” (in v. 10). And “from the faith” (in v. 8) corresponds with “the straight paths of the Lord” (in v. 10). So the way you make crooked the straight paths of the Lord is to get in the way of people coming to faith.”
So, by inference then, making “Straight the paths of the Lord” is really making straight the paths TO the Lord! And, again, by extension, helping them to come to faith in Jesus.
I was just awe-struck when I realized that! It was just a new way of understanding what John the Baptist had said that I’d never seen before and I thought it was worth sharing. I wondered if the Hebrew in the original Isaiah had been mis-translated, but the Interlinear site online has it translated as “For the Lord”.
Anyhow, John Piper’s article was very helpful in finishing that analysis. I highly recommend reading that one, as it made it clear that our enemy’s number one priority is to “Make crooked paths”, i.e., confound folks from coming to faith by derailing them any way possible: Through other people, through things, distractions, whatever. And we all know what a myriad of distractions we have to choose from in our society now don’t we?
By the way, the reading of Isaiah becomes clearer when you understand it this way, and Isaiah 40:4 (the next verse after the one quoted by John the Baptist) makes perfect sense as well. Filling in valleys, taking down mountains, are metaphors for removing the hindrances to folks’ coming to faith as well.
I hope this is interesting to you, it was one of those total “Ah ha!” moments for me in the middle of the night during one of my conversations with the Lord.