From: Our Daily Bread, by Joe Stowell
Prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. —Isaiah 40:3
Dwight D. Eisenhower was known for his courageous leadership during World War II. His battle-tested skill equipped the troops to reclaim Europe. Soon after returning to the US as a hero, he was elected president.
While in Europe, Eisenhower had experienced the danger and difficulty of navigating the twisting roads. So, for the sake of US national security, he commissioned a network of roads that became the nation’s interstate highway system. Mountains were tunneled through and valleys were traversed by mammoth bridges.
In ancient times, conquering kings gained access to newly acquired territories through highways built for their troops. Isaiah had this in mind when he declared, “Make straight in the desert a highway for our God” (Isa. 40:3). And John the Baptist called people to repentance to “prepare the way” into their hearts for the arrival of King Jesus.
What preparation needs to be done to allow Jesus unhindered access to your own heart? Are there rough places of bitterness that need the bulldozer of forgiveness? Are there valleys of complaining that need to be filled with contentment? We can’t afford to neglect this spiritual engineering. Let’s prepare the way for the King!
God will make a way Where there seems to be no way; He works in ways we cannot see, He will make a way for me. —Moen © 1990, Integrity’s Hosanna! Music.
Repentance clears the way for our relationship with the King.
UNLESS YOU BLESS ME
From: Streams in the Desert Then the man said, “Let me go, for the dawn is breaking.” “I will not let you go,” Jacob replied, “unless you bless me.” Then Jacob asked, “Please tell me your name.” “Why do you ask my name?” the man replied. Then he blessed Jacob there. (Gen 32:26,29) Jacob got the victory and the blessing not by wrestling, but by clinging. His limb was out of joint and he could struggle no longer, but he would not let go. Unable to wrestle, he wound his arms around the neck of his mysterious antagonist and hung all his helpless weight upon him, until at last he conquered. We will not get victory in prayer until we too cease our struggling, giving up our own will and throw our arms about our Father’s neck in clinging faith. What can puny human strength take by force out of the hand of Omnipotence? Can we wrest blessing by force from God? It is never the violence of wilfulness that prevails with God. It is the might of clinging faith, that gets the blessing and the victories. It is not when we press and urge our own will, but when humility and trust unite in saying, “Not my will, but Thine.” We are strong with God only in the degree that self is conquered and is dead. Not by wrestling, but by clinging can we get the blessing. —J. R. Miller An incident from the prayer life of Charles H. Usher (illustrating “soul-cling” as a hindrance to prevailing prayer): “My little boy was very ill. The doctors held out little hope of his recovery. I had used all the knowledge of prayer which I possessed on his behalf, but he got worse and worse. This went on for several weeks. “One day I stood watching him as he lay in his cot, and I saw that he could not live long unless he had a turn for the better. I said to God, ’O God, I have given much time in prayer for my boy and he gets no better; I must now leave him to Thee, and I will give myself to prayer for others. If it is Thy will to take him, I choose Thy will—I surrender him entirely to Thee.’ “I called in my dear wife, and told her what I had done. She shed some tears, but handed him over to God. Two days afterwards a man of God came to see us. He had been very interested in our boy Frank, and had been much in prayer for him. “He said, ’God has given me faith to believe that he will recover—have you faith?’ “I said, ’I have surrendered him to God, but I will go again to God regarding him.’ I did; and in prayer I discovered that I had faith for his recovery. From that time he began to get better. It was the ’soul-cling’ in my prayers which had hindered God answering; and if I had continued to cling and had been unwilling to surrender him, I doubt if my boy would be with me today. “Child of God! If you want God to answer your prayers, you must be prepared to follow the footsteps of ’our father Abraham,’ even to the Mount of Sacrifice.” (See Rom. 4:12.)
From: Through The Bible
2 Samuel 6:6-7 (KJV) 6And when they came to Nachon’s threshingfloor, Uzzah put forth his hand to the ark of God, and took hold of it; for the oxen shook it. 7And the anger of the LORD was kindled against Uzzah; and God smote him there for his error; and there he died by the ark of God.
David wanted to bring the Ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem. He had a new cart built and had the ark put on it with oxen pulling the cart. Everyone went before the ark playing musical instruments and singing. When they had come to Nachon’s threshingfloor, the ark looked like it might tip over. One of the men alongside it, Uzzah, reached out to steady it. He fell down dead.
It seems very harsh to us today, and it did to David. The next time David moved the ark, he did so according to the Law. The priests were supposed to carry the ark with special poles. David learned that you cannot add to God’s law and expect to be free of problems. God’s instructions are for our good.
Everyone learned that the presence of God was not a little thing. If the ark had fallen and touched the earth, it would be less defiled than if man touched it! Man does not realize that his rebellious, disobedient nature is far more corrupting than dirt. We strive to keep our physical bodies clean, but the real filth is on the inside.
What lessons should we learn today from this tragic event? God’s way is the best way, and it is for our good. If He gives us instruction, it is because He is protecting and keeping us. Don’t presume to add to God’s directions or take away from them. Do not do only what He tells you, but do it like He tells you.
The other lesson is to realize the holiness of God and the defiled condition of man. If we see that clearly, we will not stick our hands into God’s business, defiling it with our carnal ways and ideas. We have a great deal of Ark touching in the world today. Man wants to do what he thinks is best for the church instead of waiting upon God and doing as God directs. Don’t reach out your hand even when you think it is a good thing you are doing. Follow God’s directions.
Consider: Following God’s instructions is the best thing for me.
John 1:29,33-34 (NIV) 29The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 33I would not have known him, except that the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit.’ 34I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.”
Throughout the Jewish history, all the way back to Abel, a lamb had been slain as a sacrifice. The lamb never really took the sins from the people. Each sacrifice was a look forward in faith to the perfect Lamb that would. It was an expression of faith that one-day God would provide. That expression of faith made them right with God. It did not take away guilt, however. Each year the atonement sacrifice was made again.
John the Baptist was sent ahead of Jesus to prepare people’s hearts for His ministry. The Holy Spirit had given a very specific sign to John. The One that he sees the Holy Spirit come down on like a dove is the One who will baptize people with the Holy Spirit. This One is the Son of God. John saw that happen when he baptized Jesus.
As Jesus walked by, John told his disciples, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world.” This was the Lamb that millions of lambs throughout history were just a shadow of. He is God’s Lamb. He is the One God provided to be the perfect sacrifice for sin. He had to be a sinless man that could take on the sins of others and take the curse of death for that sin in their place. The time had come. The Messiah was present.
Meditation: Look! Fix your eyes on Jesus. He takes away the sins of the world, your sin and mine. What a beautiful Lamb God has provided! This is the Son of God! “There is no other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved.”