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Don’t you hate it? Road work? It’s an aggravation, isn’t it?
And the worst part of it is, it never seems to end.
To distort the words of Robert Frost: “Something there is that doesn’t love a road”.
I traded the word “road” for the word “wall” from Frost’s famous poem, “Mending Wall”, but the sentiment is the same. Especially at this time of year, when the snows of winter melt, and refreeze, becoming ice, and then melt again, worming their way into tiny crevices, making their insidious way under the pavement, carving out small holes that our cars’ tires slam into, causing them to become bigger holes.
Seems like ever since we moved to this town, there’s been road construction going on. And ever will be, I guess. Road work is just part of the process.
I’ve been reading the book of Isaiah this year because of a Bible study I’m attending, and way back when, thousands of years ago, Isaiah was talking about road work.
His take on it was a little bit different from mine, though. Isaiah wasn’t whining about it. He was demanding it.
Now, they didn’t have cars, or tanks, or Hummers for their desert roads back then. Camels, donkeys, horses, and human feet, walking, were more their speed. But nevertheless, Isaiah calls for the people to begin building a highway for the Lord. From what I have been able to ascertain, back then, typically, there was a main highway that went through the land, known as The King’s Highway. And it was built, well, for the King, that he might make his way from one end of his kingdom to the other.
The people Isaiah was speaking to were the people of Israel. And God told Isaiah to tell His people that their hard service was over, that their sin had been atoned for. Because God knew that in the future, He would be allowing the Israelites to be carried off into captivity to Babylon. And God knew as well, that after 70 years of allowing them to live in exile, He would raise up Cyrus the Meade to accomplish God’s purposes. And one of those purposes was for the Israelite exiles to be allowed to return to their land, and rebuild the temple to their God, as well as the city of Jerusalem itself.
God knew they would need encouragement for this task. God knew they would need comfort. The two roots of the word comfort mean: with strength. And God knew that they would need strength for the task that was in front of them. So well in advance, before they would ever need it, God inspired his prophet to write these words, in the 40th chapter of Isaiah:
Comfort, comfort my people,
says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
and proclaim to her
that her hard service has been completed,
that her sin has been paid for,
that she has received from the Lord’s hand
double for all her sins.
A voice of one calling:
“In the desert prepare
the way for the Lord;
make straight in the wilderness
a highway for our God.
Every valley shall be raised up,
every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
the rugged places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
and all mankind together will see it.
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.
So, rather than calling the Israelites to build a highway for Cyrus, God calls them to build a highway for Himself. He wants the way smoothed out. The valleys raised up, the mountains lowered, the rough and rugged places smoothed out. Every obstacle removed for the coming of God. Which would result in God’s glory being revealed, for all the world to see.
If this passage sounds somewhat familiar to you, it is also used in the New Testament in relation to John the Baptist, who in effect prepared the way for the Messiah, Jesus, to come to the people of Israel. How did John prepare the way? Matthew 3:1-8 tells us that John called the people to repent, for the kingdom of heaven was near, and that people flocked to him, confessed their sins, and were baptized in the Jordan river. So, even then, as the King of Kings approached, road work had to be done, Hearts needed to be prepared.
Why do I resist that road work so much?
It’s hard to be honest with myself, but I know that I most certainly do resist it.
The valleys that need to be raised up, the mountains that need to be leveled, the rough and rugged places that need to be smoothed out: don’t they represent the obstacles that I allow to keep me from spending time in communion with God? Chatting with friends, reading, watching TV, surfing the internet, my own love of pleasure and ease and self – these are the potholes that trip me up and cause me to need some re-alignment, if you know what I mean. These are the obstacles that need to be removed, that the King and I can have a little face time. Which, in my case, needs to start out with a little face on the ground time, if you know what I mean.
The really beautiful thing about doing road work is that the end result, according to this passage, is that the glory of the Lord is then revealed. You know, I know that God’s glory was a beautiful shining cloud in the old testament, so brilliant that it inspired fear in onlookers. But another aspect to glory is that of a rose in full bloom, or an apple tree laden with beautiful red fruit, or a sugar maple flaming scarlet in the fall: glory is found when the thing that God has created is reaching its full potential. That thing is fully and completely living out what it was created to be and do.
And really, that’s what I’m longing for: to be in such close communion with my Maker, that I become what He made me to be, and that I do every good work that He prepared in advance for me to do.
Like the Nike commercial says: Just do it.