Mark 1:3 - “The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight”.
Here Mark is quoting from Isaiah 40:3 - “The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God”.
Have you ever stopped to consider the importance of punctuation marks? If I wrote the statement, 'Let's stop to eat, Grandma!', then it would be understood that I was telling Grandma that we needed to stop and eat. However, if I wrote the statement, 'Let's stop to eat Grandma!', then it would mean that I wanted to stop and eat and Grandma was to be “what's for dinner”.
Likewise, in the Bible punctuation marks are oftentimes placed in the wrong places because they were not in the original Hebrew manuscripts but were added later. Even the Greek manuscripts were not punctuated like our English.
According to the Masoretic text, copied and edited by Jews, and the Hebrew language grammar layout, the above verses should read:
Mark 1:3 - “The voice of one crying, in the wilderness prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” and
Isaiah 40:3 - “ The voice of him that crieth, in the wilderness prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.”
In fact, the Complete Jewish Bible has these scriptures punctuated in this manner.
When we change the commas we actually change the whole meaning of the verses. John and the Prophet Isaiah were not calling out in the wilderness for someone to make the paths straight, they were calling out for people to make a path for Yahweh in the wilderness, to prepare for Him a highway in the wilderness. Total difference! We are to prepare, in the wilderness, a place for the King to pass through.
Clarke commentary gives us a great understanding for this analogy:
“The idea is taken from the practice of eastern monarchs, who, whenever they entered upon an expedition or took a journey, especially through desert and unpractised countries, sent harbingers before them to prepare all things for their passage, and pioneers to open the passes, to level the ways, and to remove all impediments”. He goes on to say, “The writer of the apocryphal book called Baruch expresses the same subject by the same images, either taking them from this place of Isaiah, or from the common notions of his countrymen: “For God hath appointed that every high hill, and banks of long continuance, should be cast down, and valleys filled up, to make even the ground, that Israel may go safely in the glory of God.” Baruch 5:7.
As the harbinger (a person or thing that announces or signals the approach of another) of Messiah at His first coming, John the Baptist was proclaiming with a loud voice, calling out to those who would come, to level and prepare the roads, in the desert, by which the Messiah was about to march. You see, the first century congregation or church was dry and in a desert, spiritually. John was calling out to them to prepare for Messiah's coming. The first step is still the same step in making the paths straight for the coming of Messiah - repentance.
Repentance always comes first. After that, discipleship is necessary. This making a path for Him in the wilderness, preparing a highway for Yshua and His people to pass behind Him, is not about a physical wilderness preparation but a spiritual preparation.
Isaiah 43:19 - “Behold, I will do a new thing; now it shall spring forth; shall ye not know it? I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.” In this scripture Yahweh is promising that He will make a way back for His people from the Babylonian captivity. Again, the making a way in the wilderness analogy is used.
There are three questions that I would like for you to consider about the wilderness: Who calls individuals into the wilderness, why are they called into the wilderness and how do they exit the wilderness?
I would like to use three examples to answer these questions. First, the example of the children of Israel in the wilderness, John the Baptist calling people out to the wilderness, and Y'shua (Jesus) when He was in the wilderness and fasted for 40 days and 40 nights.
Who calls individuals into the wilderness?
No one comes into the wilderness unless they are called by Yahweh. No one enters the wilderness unless they have already been delivered or set forth by Him. The wilderness is not intended for unbelievers who have not been called out or delivered. If you feel that you are in the wilderness then you were called there by Yahweh. Yahweh spoke by the prophets of old that it would be in the wilderness that He would gather His children and speak to them.
The Children of Israel were called into the wilderness by God after He delivered them out of Egypt. (Book of Exodus) A journey that should have taken only a very short time ended up taking 40 years, but He called them to that wilderness for a reason. The people that went out to hear John did not go out by accident. They were called by God to go out and hear this crazy wild man preaching repentance in the desert. True enough some of them might have went out because they were curious, but they would not have repented, the ones called into the wilderness by God would have repented at the message of John. We also have the example of Y'shua in Matthew 4:1. The Bible records that He was "led" into the wilderness "by the Spirit" of God. This is at the beginning of His ministry.
When Yahweh calls us into the wilderness, He wants us to learn at least 4 things about Him. These 4 things can be seen when looking at the example of the children of Israel and their wilderness journey. I have called these four things the 4 "P's" of the wilderness journey.
The first one is His promise of Divine Presence. In the wilderness He was a cloud by day and a fire by night. Yahweh wants us to trust His guidance, He wants to direct our paths. Many times we come to a crossroads in our life. We must learn to let Him give direction to our path.
The second one is His promise of Divine Protection. He is our Yahweh Nissi (banner or emblem). In Exodus 17:8-16 (key verse 15) we read where the Israelites were fighting against the Amalekites. As long as Moses kept his hands raised, Israel would win in the battle. We find that he had help keeping his hands up by Hur and Aaron. Moses tells us in these verses that Yahweh is our banner (Nissi).
In America, we have the Star Spangled Banner as our National Anthem. One stanza says, "and the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air, gave proof through the night that our flag was still there. O say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave, O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?” When nations are fighting, the side that is winning has their flag waving overhead. However, when they are defeated their flag is brought down.
Yahweh's strong right arm is our victory flag. His banner is our victory flag. It is a warrior's victory flag. He will fight against our enemies if we trust Him and allow Him too. He will fight for us against the wiles of Satan if we will trust and allow Him too.
The third one is His promise to be our Divine Physician – Yahweh Rapha. In Exodus 15:26, He promises that He will not bring afflictions upon us if we obey Him and trust Him.
The fourth one is His promise of Divine Provision – Yahweh Yireh. The children of Israel wandered 40 years in the wilderness and their clothes nor shoes wore out. Yahweh provided them with food and water.
We read in the New Testament (Brit Hadashah) that Y'shua was hungry after His 40 day fast. Satan tempted Him to turn stones into bread, but Y'shua waited on His heavenly Father to provide. Scripture states that angels came and ministered to Him and provision was given by His heavenly Father.
Sometimes, we don't trust Yahweh for our provisions, especially in America, because we try to make things happen for ourselves. However, in countries less fortunate than ours, they know what it means to wait and trust upon Yahweh for their provisions. When a believer tires or is unable to provide for himself, that is when faith is really put to a test. This is when Yahweh Yireh steps in.
Why be called into the wilderness?
The wilderness is a place that carries us away from our comfort zones, material possessions and distractions of life. It is in the wilderness that we can hear from Yahweh and receive answers.
It is in the wilderness that God desires to teach, try, and test us. This testing makes us strong and serves to purify us. It is in this wilderness that one must learn to apply the “teachings and instructions” of Yahweh to every test, trial and temptation.
It took 40 years for the children of Israel to learn to submit and pass the test. Many passed the test with John the Baptist and went on to follow the “one who came” after him, Jesus (Y'shua).
Y'shua (Jesus) Himself was driven by the Spirit of God into the wilderness so that He might learn submission to the Father in all things. If Y'shua did not escape the wilderness, then surely we will not.
When we consider that the children of Israel wandered 40 years in the wilderness, and that Y'shua fasted 40 days and 40 nights before beginning His earthly ministry, we should wonder what the number 40 represents? In the Hebrew language the number 40 represents testing and refining. Moses Himself spent 40 years in preparation for his delivering the Israelites out of Egypt.
Sometimes we have the idea that judgment, testing, trials, and temptations are a bad thing. None of these things have to be bad. They are intended to make us stronger. The only way that they are bad is if we do not pass the test. Yahweh desires for us to be holy, faithful and broken. Moses was broken before he could go back and lead his people out of Egypt. Brokenness is hard but it means that Yahweh has transformed our hearts, minds, and wills to His. Like a potter with a piece of clay, He wants to re-make us into the vessel that He desires us to be. This will not happen without tests, trials and temptations. This is what will purify us and make us ready to receive our King. This is the wilderness test! The wilderness is to rid us of carnality and unbelief.
How does one exit the wilderness?
This might seem strange, but one should exit the wilderness after they have made a straight path in the desert. We all enter the wilderness when the Spirit of Yahweh calls to our heart and we repent. We have then been called into the wilderness. Now the rest is up to us!
In the desert we are to “prepare the way” of Yahweh (Yshua) by bringing down the mountains, removing the rocks, clearing the paths of any obstructions in the way. This is a spiritual path. Y'shua is coming and His children have cleared a path for Him to come before them and lead them out of the wilderness. We have begun with repentance, the first step, then we have passed the trials, tests and temptations along the way, we have removed sin from our lives, and we have preached a message of repentance and holy living to others so that they might find the path out of the wilderness.
It is only when we exit the wilderness that we notice that we have become fully armoured, battle ready and worn, fully mature and ready to inherit the promised land that Y'shua our King has prepared for us.
In Hebrews 3:19 we are told that the children of Israel could not enter the promised land because of their unbelief. What did they grumble about in the wilderness? They grumbled about Yahweh's provisions and thought they would be better off somewhere else; for them it was the place of their bondage – Egypt. They didn't trust Yahweh as their provider, their Yahweh Yireh. They didn't trust Him as their Yahweh Rapha, the God that would heal and keep them from afflictions. They didn't trust that He was always with them, regardless of the situation, and they didn't trust Him that He was their Yahweh Nissi, that He could fight all of their battles for them. We must not make the same mistakes!
God has a habit of meeting us in the wilderness where we must rely on Him or we will exit the wilderness not having the right to enter the Promised Land. The wilderness is both terryfying and a great place to be if we rely on Him and what He has to teach us.
We will not exit the wilderness until we die before His coming, or until His coming; whichever comes first. The wilderness is our journey on this earth as believers in Y'shua. It is our testing ground to make us ready to inherit the Promised Land.
We are, “a voice crying, in the wilderness make his paths straight, prepare the way of the LORD.” We need to make straight paths in this wilderness.
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