One of the main tenets of Christianity is that there were many prophecies from the Old Testament, hundreds of years old, that were fulfilled in the person and work of Jesus Christ. Many of these prophecies come from Isaiah and are reported to be anywhere from almost 800-600 years old by the time of Christ (depending upon who is calculating the dates for Isaiah’s composition). This passage is one of the better-known ones:
A voice is crying out:
“Clear the Lord’s way in the desert!
Make a level highway in the wilderness for our God!
4 Every valley will be raised up,
and every mountain and hill will be flattened.
Uneven ground will become level,
and rough terrain a valley plain.
5 The Lord’s glory will appear,
and all humanity will see it together;
the Lord’s mouth has commanded it.”
Here is a perfect example of how prophecy has both a present dimension for the people hearing it and a future dimension that gives even more insight into God through it. In the present, this is a statement of fact that God is going to bring his people back from exile. Their journey will be God-ordained, God-protected, and God-provided. What would ordinarily seem treacherous will be easy because the Lord is involved, and the entire world will see the power of God when the people arrive home.
In the future, this is a statement concerning the incarnation of Jesus. John the Baptist is the voice in the wilderness and he prepares the wilderness of people’s souls for the coming of the Lord’s glory in Jesus Christ. This is a powerful message that through Jesus, the spiritual exile in which humanity has existed since the Garden of Eden is ending. It is also a powerful message that the fullness of God’s glory is seen in Jesus.
From our vantage point in the present day, we can see both the original and future meanings of the prophecy and it can help us understand just how gracious and powerful God is. Thanks be to God!