Clear the Way for God

A voice of one calling: “In the wilderness prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the desert 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.” — Isaiah 40:3-4

At sundown, July 21, Jews around the world will commemorate Tisha B’Av, a time of mourning that marks the many tragedies that befell the Jewish people throughout history on this particular date. Yet from this time of sorrow comes a ray of hope. This is one of 12 devotions exploring the depths of tragedy, and what we can do to transform darkness into light. To learn more about Tisha B’Av, download a copy of our free Bible Study.

Immediately after Tisha B’Av, in synagogue, we begin seven weeks of readings known as “The Seven Weeks of Consolation.” As we have learned, Tisha B’Av, recounts all the tragedies that have befallen the Jewish people and to ourselves as individuals, and these seven readings from the book of Isaiah urge us to move forward, repent, and heal. With some of the most well-known words of the Bible, the readings begin: “Comfort, comfort, my people . . .” (Isaiah 40:1).

Two verses later we read: “A voice of one calling: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way for the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.’”

The Jewish sages ask: Whose voice is calling? And what is the message?

One opinion suggests it is the soft, still voice within us that urges us to come closer to God. In Judaism, the desert often symbolizes a place devoid of godliness. On the other hand, the Bible (God’s Word) is compared to water – waters that give life and bring about fruition. A desert results when God’s life-giving waters are not present. Any time we turn away from God or act in sinful ways, we are walking into a spiritual desert.

However, God loves us too much to let us go without a word. It’s as if He calls out to us, “Don’t shut me out! Make space for Me in your life!” Specifically, God says: “prepare the way” and “make straight . . . a highway.” If we want God in our lives, we have to make a way for Him to enter.

When we want to create a physical path, it requires us to move obstacles out of the way. We have to clear any impediments that block the path. The same is true when we want to get closer to God. We have to get rid of anything that stands in the way. We need to weed out damaging behaviors and roll away inappropriate thoughts.

If we want to turn that path into a highway – one that can be traveled easily and quickly – we need to straighten it out so that we aren’t slowed down by the twists and turns in the road. Bridges are built over valleys, and tunnels are bored through mountains to allow roads to advance smoothly.

Similarly, when we want to have the ease of access to our God, we need to straighten out our paths. Where do we stray? How do we navigate roads we shouldn’t travel? We need to straighten out how we live so that God can work miracles in our lives.

Today, let’s make our paths a little straighter. Clear the way for God, and He will make a way for you.

Learn more about the darkest day on the Jewish calendar in this free issue of our Bible study series, Limmud (“study” in Hebrew), “Tisha B’AV: A Time to Weep.”

Hebrew Word of the Day

Hebrew Word Transliteration English Meaning
בית המקדש Beit hamikdash Temple

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Help From Above, Day 3

He hath never failed thee yet. Never will His love forget. – Amy Wilson Carmichael

Today’s reading is drawn from Hebrews 13:6.

I remember having trouble with long division. In class things seemed fine, but homework was hard. So over time I developed an “I’m stuck” routine. I would pick up my book, stomp toward our small kitchen and slump down at the table that had just been cleared from dinner. When my mother turned around from the last of the dishes, I would groan out one sad, single word: “Help.

Do you remember asking someone to help you with homework? Can you recall a time when you learned something new? Whether it was long division or piano fingering, most of us have had people in our lives who were there, ready and willing to help until suddenly, silently they would leave us on our own. And there we would be (amazingly!) doing it all by ourselves. Somehow, they knew when to let go.

Few of us ever asked our parents or caregivers to let go; better to have them walk us through and give us constant, direct aid. But in letting go, parents gave us something better: They gave us pride. They gave us a sense of personal accomplishment. And they gave us the empowerment that comes only from meeting the world on our own.

Are you worried that God isn’t next to you for the long division? Are there challenges you don’t think you can meet on your own? Fear not. God is here to help. God will show the way and teach you all you need to know. You can always expect help from above. But you can also expect that God alone knows best when it is time to let go, even if you don’t feel ready.

Loving God, help me remember that you know me best. You know when to help and when to let go.

Emily Odean

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Image of God, Day 3

Today’s reading is drawn from Genesis 9:6 and Colossians 1:15.

The Bible has a lot to say about humanity. It tells us we were made male and female (Genesis 1:27), that we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14), are frail (see Psalm 103:14–16), that we are sinful (Psalm 143:2)—the list goes on. Perhaps the most profound thing it says about humanity is that we all have been given the unfathomable honor of bearing the image of God (imago dei). When we view another human being, we see God reflected in them. Even after the fall, despite the sin that resides in all people, humans continue to bear God’s image (see Genesis 9:6). And Christ—the perfect image of God (see Colossians 1:15)—came to redeem us so that we might reflect in greater fullness God’s glory.

As divine image bearers, we have a deep sense of purpose in this world: we are called to reflect God’s character and continue his work. This also shapes how we view and treat others. Each person—whether a stranger, neighbor or co-worker—must be given the dignity, respect and love due them as God’s image bearer.

Humans not only reflect God but also represent him. Ancient rulers often erected images of themselves in various parts of their realms, to represent their authority to their subordinates. We were created in God’s image so we could represent him here on earth, much like an ambassador represents a foreign country.Connecting

While we all were created to mirror God, not all of us represent God well. In fact, we all do it imperfectly. This is an important distinction that helps us in two ways. First, it helps us understand how we should view all people—as divine image bearers, loved by God. Second, it highlights the challenge we have of representing God in the world.

When you think of your coworkers, do you see them as people created in the divine image—worthy of dignity and worth that this reality brings with it? Or do you see them as merely a pathway to your own personal gain, even sometimes treating them as sub- human? And how does the truth of the gospel and the grace of God help you better represent God to those with whom you interact each day?

 

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