Verse of the Day Devotion: Isaiah 40:3
“A voice is calling, “Clear the way for the LORD in the wilderness; Make smooth in the desert a highway for our God.” – Isaiah 40:3
At this time period, God’s people were divided, part of them had been carried off to Babylon and many others were left behind, living in the ruins of Jerusalem. In Israel, the temple had been destroyed and the walls of the city were decimated. It is a very difficult time in Israel’s history. However, God is calling out to the leaders of Israel and her prophets to encourage them. “Comfort, O comfort My people,” says your God. Speak kindly to Jerusalem; And call out to her, that her warfare has ended, That her iniquity has been removed, That she has received of the LORD’S hand Double for all her sins.” Isaiah 40:1-2. The sins Israel was chastised for were addressed, discharged and forgiven. This discharge could be through the suffering they endured from Babylon. However, what is important is that they would receive a double portion of God’s grace, not His punishment. This is a picture of His compassion for Israel. The theologian J. L. Koole argues as such when he says this phrase forms a positive climax of God’s comfort by announcing that the people will receive a double portion of God’s grace.
This verse is referring to John the Baptist. Prior to John’s birth, an angel came to Zechariah and appeared in the temple on the right side of the altar of Incense and told Zechariah about his child. He was troubled by this and became afraid. “But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.” Luke 1:13-17.
Now, when we get to our focus verse, we see a prophetic statement of a much greater blessing that will occur in the future. “Clear the way for the LORD in the wilderness; Make smooth in the desert a highway for our God.” Isaiah 40:3. We find the fulfillment of this prophecy in John’s gospel where John the Baptist is answering the questions of the Pharisees. “This is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent to him priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who are you? And he confessed and did not deny, but confessed, “I am not the Christ. They asked him, What then? Are you Elijah? And he said, I am not. Are you the Prophet? And he answered, No. Then they said to him, Who are you, so that we may give an answer to those who sent us? What do you say about yourself?” John 1:19-22. These Pharisees were probably sent out by the Sanhedrin when they heard of the success of John’s preaching. They were confused and wanted to know all about him and especially who He professed himself to be. John then answered their question, probably in a way they did not expect. “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.” John 1:23.
Therefore, this prophecy is declaring that his job was to prepare the way for the Lord to come to Israel. He was to prepare the people for the coming of the Messiah, just as heralds go out before kings to announce their coming. When these heralds went out, they did not speak of themselves, but of the one they were announcing. They never put themselves above the king with the proclamations of his coming. And neither did John. Notice what John starts with. “He must increase, but I must decrease.” This is the only thing he speaks about himself, and it says that his job has been done, and now Jesus will do what He has come to do, while he steps aside and diminishes. He is not the important one, but the King he is proclaiming is.
And here is his proclamation. “He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all. He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony. Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true. For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.” John 3:31-36. This is beyond question that he is proclaiming the coming of a King. In fact, to be more specific, the coming of the King who would reign forever. “Then the seventh angel blew his trumpet, and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ, and he shall reign forever and ever.” Revelation 11:15.
In Conclusion, Isaiah 40:3 is prophesying about John the Baptist. Isaiah is telling Israel that one is coming who will go before a King, who is also promised, this King being God Himself, for Isaiah’s words say making straight the way for our God. The picture is getting clearer. Next we will talk about a prophecy that discusses Christ’s coming and what He will do to the enemy.
William Funkhouser MDiv, ThD, Founder and President of True Devotion Ministries.