The Israelites had been conquered and both the kingdoms had fallen. They were exiled to Babylonia and lived, built houses, planted gardens, living life just as Jeremiah had suggested (Jer 29:5-6). Isaiah 40, however is about their imminent return home. Isaiah compares this journey to the Exodus from Egypt and into the Promised Land, only better. For the Exodus Israelites the journey was long and treacherous. There was no road. They were chased by Pharaoh and needed food and water from God when they were hungry. God was their shepherd for the journey home, and they certainly needed their shepherd. Isaiah says that this new journey home will be much better. The paths will be straight and the terrain covered with Eden-like growth. There will be water everywhere and instead of a Pharaoh chasing them it will be King Cyrus (commissioned by God) sending them home. God will not only shepherd them, God will carry them home.
This message was wonderful for the Israelites to hear. It was a message of hope in a time of living as aliens and strangers in a foreign land. It was also a message of preparation. Here is verse 3, “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight the desert highway for our God.” The season of Advent is a time to prepare the way of the Lord. It is a time to reflect in prayer and contemplation on being returned to the image of God. It is also a time to prepare for new and exciting ways for God to use you to bless the world and people around you. How can you reflect God’s image to your neighbors, friends, and family? What are some things you can do in your neighborhood to help show someone the love of Christ? Preparing the way of the Lord is about drawing closer to Christ in order to be sent out into his creation.
Advent is not only a season that prepares us for the Incarnation, Jesus’ birth. It is also a season that prepares us for the second coming of Jesus. In many ways we live in a time between. It is a sort of Holy Saturday, that day between (terribly) Good Friday and Easter Sunday. We await the second coming of Our Lord. But don’t get too comfortable in Babylon. Oh, do your work, build a home, grow your garden, but keep in mind that the King of Glory is coming again!