A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
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.”
Once again, I have been largely absent in the blogosphere. Many apologies to the fine writers I follow but whose posts I have not had time to read. Someday, my friends. Someday…
Until then, suffice to say I’m in a very lonely season, at least in my home. For now, I’ll keep the details sketchy, but for anyone who’s had three teenagers at once and a husband who works 70-80 hours on the average week, you may be able to imagine a bit.
However, I am honestly grateful.
Unlike a previous season about 17 years ago when God used my extreme isolation to bring my attention to Himself, this time I do have friends around.
But the biggest difference is this time I have Him. He is with me always, and I do not doubt it now while I was ignorant about it then.
As often happens with me, I lift up my concerns to the Almighty during these intervals of seeming solitude. We talk them over, my Father and I.
A few days ago when I lamented my inability to engage the people I love most in a discussion about the Lord, He reminded me of the above verses. I’ve been reflecting on them since.
It’s a nerdy little grammatical fact that there is some slight ambiguity in translating the Hebrew of the time period to modern English. This is not due to ambiguity of the language so much as it is due to a lack of punctuation in the ancient tongue as well as a tremendously different syntax.
*** As an aside, none of these perceived ambiguities affect the tenets and doctrines of the Christian faith any more than the absent comma in the sentence, “Let’s eat Grandma,” refers to an actual act of cannibalism. We see the same principles in written English when it is not meticulously worded and punctuated. The Hebrew of the day was often passed on orally for those not studying to be a rabbi, so voice tone and inflection were more useful than punctuation.
I love how the ESV Bible reflects this ambiguity in the translation of Isaiah 40:3 and John the Baptist’s quote in every Gospel account. Is it a voice crying in the wilderness, or a voice crying out, “In the wilderness, make straight the way of the Lord?”
What my Father has been reminding me lately is that it doesn’t matter. Even though at my worst moments, when a migraine or a migraine prodrome have me feeling horrid and my kids are taking offense at the mere mention of God’s Word, I am not allowed to throw my hands up in defeat. (And for the record, I mean when I am talking about my own conviction, not beating them with Bibles).
Whether I am a voice crying in a wilderness of disinterest, or whether I am crying out for them to make a straight path for the Lord in the wilderness of their hearts doesn’t matter. I need to be that voice; to keep crying out whether anyone responds or not.
You see, the love of Christ compels me to speak. If I did not mention Him or speak His word, my very bones would burn with the fire of trying to contain it and I could not keep it in.
If I say, “I will not mention him, or speak any more in his name,” there is in my heart as it were a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary with holding it in, and I cannot.
Walking with my Father the other day, it hit me.
This isn’t just my job. This is our job.
Church, it is our job to be the voice of Truth. It’s irrelevant whether we cry out in a wilderness of cultural apathy, strife, confusion, conflict, racism, injustice, persecution, mockery, anger, and immorality or whether we are crying out that a straight way for the Lord be made through this wilderness.
We cannot despair. Nor can we compromise the message of the Gospel to make it more palatable or speak an altered and sanitized “gospel” which only comforts and never confronts. The consequences are too dire.
This doesn’t mean casting off discretion and berating everyone without mercy. This simply means openness about what is and is not sin according to the Creator; honesty about where we have, ourselves, been set free from slavery to sin; and genuine in our acts of mercy, our pursuit of righteousness in all aspects of our lives, and devotion to the Kingdom and Righteousness of God.
And the darker our world becomes, the more disctinctive our voices will be.
If we truly love the people we serve, we need to love them enough to tell them the truth. The Gospel Truth. The best news there ever was or ever will be.