Trivial Misreadings

Isaiah 40:3-5 – 3 A voice of one calling: “In the desert prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God.  4 Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill made low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. 5 And the glory of the LORD will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it. For the mouth of the LORD has spoken.”

Bob Grahmann preached two weeks ago from Isaiah 40. I never really liked Isaiah 40:3-5.

I spent several years as a wilderness leader climbing mountains and paddling rivers. Mountains and valleys are basically my favorite things in the natural world. I know it’s going to sound like a shallow objection, primarily because it is, but the mental picture that the coming of Christ was glorified by all of life’s topography being erased bothered me. And for some reason, I equated this with heaven – that somehow this passage was saying that heaven isn’t a place where the mountains are high and the valleys low but instead is a place of flattened-out sameness.

But like many trivial misinterpretations of Scripture or shallow objections to the gospel, I just wasn’t reading carefully or thinking clearly. The point here is not what heaven will be like, but what the road to heaven will be like. Deserts, valleys and mountains are well-known for being impassable places. And before the King comes there has to be a passable road, a straight highway. Just like kings don’t arrive out of nowhere, neither do messiahs – not the real ones, anyway. And that is an act of grace, of favor and goodwill.

The worst thing that can happen to us “bad behavior people” is for the end to come quickly and unannounced. But all this time he has announced himself, and the suddenness of his coming has still long been announced. He is still making the way straight, bringing all times to their fulfillment – awaiting his appointed time. I can’t help but believe that the re-created earth of our eternal inhabitance will be full of glorious topography – rushing rivers, high mountains, low valleys and old forests. But that is not the point. As is the case with so many of our objections, my own preconception blinded me for some time to the real meaning of this passage. Far from God being boring because he flattens mountains, God is kind because his declared coming allows us to prepare for it. We ritualize it in Advent, but we live it every moment of every day.

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