Psalm of Praise: Psalms 97:1-2,9
The Lord reigns, let the earth be glad;
let the distant shores rejoice.
Clouds and thick darkness surround him;
righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne.
For you, Lord, are the Most High over all the earth;
you are exalted far above all gods.
Bible Reading: Matthew 3:1-3
In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea and saying, "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near." This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: "A voice of one calling in the wilderness, 'Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.'"
What does the word ‘Wilderness’ conjures up in your mind? For me it is an overgrown garden with weeds that have taken over at ground level and shrubs and trees that have grown up to make it difficult to find a way through.
I think wilderness in the bible is something different. For the Israelites leaving Egypt it was a place of wandering, of barrenness and of testing on their journey to the promised Land. For Moses, Elijah and Jesus it was also a place of isolation and of meeting with God.
It was into this wilderness that John the Baptist went preaching a message of repentance as he prepared the way for the coming of Jesus.
For all of us I think there are times when we can find ourselves in a bit of a wilderness. We feel as if we are wandering, maybe a little lost, isolated, drifting, perhaps struggling with temptation or feeling spiritually dry and hungry. Yet it is in these times that we can meet with God.
Repentance is about a change of direction, about a change of mind. I wonder if there are places in your life where God might be asking you for a change of direction or a change of mindset. If so, will you make time to meet with God and allow him to lead you out of the wilderness?
Paths in the wilderness can be hard to navigate and negotiate, often rocky and blocked with boulders and rockfalls. As John the Baptist prepared the way for Jesus he was removing metaphorical boulders from the paths so that people could encounter Jesus when he came.
For the people that we know who don’t know Jesus there could be some work to do to prepare them to encounter Jesus. This might involve correcting misconceptions about Jesus or about the Church, it might mean explaining forgiveness or abundant life. It might mean demonstrating unconditional love.
I wonder if there is anyone you know for whom you could prepare the way of the Lord?
Lord Jesus, in the wilderness of life, give me the faith to turn to you
and the grace to prepare the way for others to encounter you also.
On Jordan’s bank the Baptist’s cry