Greetings in the name of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
Listen! It’s the voice of someone shouting,
“Clear the way through the wilderness
for the LORD!
Make a straight highway through the wasteland
for our God! (Isaiah 40:3)
Last week, we talked about the forefathers of our faith – Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and David. They were all called by God, and received God’s glorious promise and blessings. All followed God while calling upon His name. They were faithful to God, and God pleased with them. However, they were not perfect before God. They all missed the target set by God, while struggling with their own human nature. Abraham struggled before the impossibility. Then he gave in, and chose a human solution of having a son that was not the heir of God’s promise. Jacob, although God had already prepared God’s eternal promise for him, stole the promise and blessing with his own earthly wisdom and cunning. David became the king of the Israel of the twelve tribes by God’s blessing, but he took his officer’s wife, and killed the officer. All missed the target set by God. In this aspect, they were not different from us.
If we miss the target set by God, this means that we sin against God. Once we know this truth, we might quickly question: is there anyone ever lived on earth, who did not commit a sin against God? The answer is, in fact, “no.”
All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own. Yet the LORD laid on him the sins of us all. (Isaiah 53:6)
Yes, we are all like sheep and go astray by sinning. Indeed, sheep are short-sighted. They cannot see well things at a long distance. Thus, they just follow the sheep in front of them when they move as one herd. It is an extreme case, but if the first sheep in the herd goes over a cliff by mistake, then the rest will follow the first sheep and fall one by one over the cliff. How stupid the sheep are! However, this given an insight about our nature of sinning – we tend to follow others and do what they do without carefully thinking about whether it is right or wrong before copying what others do. Thus, we do sin.
Indeed, there is no one on earth who is righteous, no one who does what is right and never sins. (Ecclesiastes 7:20)
Yes, it is an absolute fact that there is no one on earth who does not sin. Many struggled with sins and defeated by the sin nature in us. Thus, Apostle Paul lamented as follows: which also represents how fragile we are before sins:
Oh, what a miserable person I am! Who will free me from this life that is dominated by sin and death? (Romans 7:24)
Even so, God loves His children infinitely and unfathomably. For sinners like us, God has His Holy and Merciful Plan for us, and it has been fulfilled by sending His own begotten son, Jesus Christ and putting all our sins on Him. Then God sacrificed His own son like a lamb as an atonement of all of our sins. This is God’s unfathomable love. And how blessed we are! We are the recipient of His Holy and Merciful Plan.
He himself is the sacrifice that atones for our sins—and not only our sins but the sins of all the world. (1 John 2:2)
Yes, God made His own son Jesus Christ as the sacrificial lamb for our sins. This is graphically described by Prophet Isaiah as follows:
Yet it was our weaknesses he carried;
it was our sorrows that weighed him down.
And we thought his troubles were a punishment from God,
a punishment for his own sins!
But he was pierced for our rebellion,
crushed for our sins.
He was beaten so we could be whole.
He was whipped so we could be healed. (Isaiah 53:4-5)
Our savior, Jesus Christ, was punished on cross by God for us, and crushed for our sins. He was whipped by the soldiers, but it was for us so that we are healed in God’s grace and mercy. Therefore, John the Baptist cried out, when he saw Jesus Christ toward him,
“Look! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world! (John 1:29)
Yes, Our Savior, Jesus Christ, is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world – that is, our own sins. Thus, in Him, we are freed from sins forever, which is our eternal hope and faith in Him.
John the Baptist is the one who prepared the way for the first coming of Jesus Christ who was born in Bethlehem two thousand years ago. Here is the story about John the Baptist, which tells us how to prepare ourselves for the 2ndcoming of Jesus Christ as promised by Jesus as He was being lifted up to heaven after completing His ministry on earth including His death for our sins and resurrection.
When Herod was king of Judea, there was a Jewish priest named Zechariah. He was a member of the priestly order of Abijah, and his wife, Elizabeth, was also from the priestly line of Aaron. Zechariah and Elizabeth were righteous in God’s eyes, careful to obey all of the Lord’s commandments and regulations. They had no children because Elizabeth was unable to conceive, and they were both very old.
One day Zechariah was serving God in the Temple, for his order was on duty that week. As was the custom of the priests, he was chosen by lot to enter the sanctuary of the Lord and burn incense. While the incense was being burned, a great crowd stood outside, praying.
While Zechariah was in the sanctuary, an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing to the right of the incense altar. Zechariah was shaken and overwhelmed with fear when he saw him. But the angel said, “Don’t be afraid, Zechariah! God has heard your prayer. Your wife, Elizabeth, will give you a son, and you are to name him John. You will have great joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great in the eyes of the Lord. He must never touch wine or other alcoholic drinks. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth. And he will turn many Israelites to the Lord their God. He will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and he will cause those who are rebellious to accept the wisdom of the godly.” (Luke 1:13b-17)
When Zechariah was in the temple to serve God, he met an angel. Zechariah was afraid. The angel comforted Zechariah first, and told a good news. Zechariah’s prayer that had been with him for long time answered by God. His wife, Elizabeth would give a birth of a son, whose name would be John. The birth would not only be a joy for Zechariah and Elizabeth, but also for many. Most of all, the birth of John would be great in the eyes of the Lord, God. Why? John, who would be born, would be the one who prepared the way of Jesus Christ. This was a joy for the family, and many as well as God. It was a really great and amazing news to Zechariah.
The job of preparing the way for the 1stcoming of Jesus Christ, who was born in Bethlehem about two thousand years as our sacrificial lamb and savior, was glorious and even great before the eyes of God. Then how glorious would our job be to prepare the way for the second coming of Jesus Christ? For this time, our Jesus Christ will come as our forever King and Lord. This is our greatest hope, and we are all eagerly waiting for His second coming.
He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain. All these things are gone forever.” (Revelation 21:4)
Then Our King, Jesus will comfort us and give peace that nobody has ever provided. He will be our Prince of Peace, Mighty God and Ever Lasting Father forever. There will be no more tears in our eyes because every tear is wiped away by His precious and loving hand. At last, we will be at home, which all believers have been waited and waited. No sorrow will be at the door of our hearts knocking. There will be no more pain, and no more death because all things are passed away and completely renewed by Our Lord. The previous things are no more and even nobody will remember. This is our hope, and the faith that we carry every day. Surely, it is very hard for us to imagine, but Prophet Isaiah described the new world to come as follows:
In that day the wolf and the lamb will live together;
the leopard will lie down with the baby goat.
The calf and the yearling will be safe with the lion,
and a little child will lead them all.
The cow will graze near the bear.
The cub and the calf will lie down together.
The lion will eat hay like a cow.
The baby will play safely near the hole of a cobra.
Yes, a little child will put its hand in a nest of deadly snakes without harm.
Nothing will hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain,
for as the waters fill the sea,
so the earth will be filled with people who know the LORD. (Isaiah 11:6-9)
When Jesus Christ comes again, there will be a true peace. The will be no enemy among people and animals. Even the wolf and the lamb will live together peacefully. The calf and the lion will become friend. A little child will lead them together, and they follow the little child like a pet. The baby will play near the hole of a cobra, and put its hand in a nest of deadly snakes without harm. There will be a perfect peace and harmony, and all living creatures will truly enjoy them together. What a world it will be! The perfect creation, which God originally created, will be restored. Most of all, nothing will be hurt or hurt in this perfect new world. Indeed, peace and harmony will continue forever in the new heaven and earth, in which all people truly know God and become true children of God. Nothing like the first Adam who fell, but all will live and enjoy His perfect harmony in the Holy Mountain of God and in His creation. How exciting it will be! Hardly waiting for the day because we will finally see this reality: Our Heavenly Father’s presence with Jesus and Holy Spirit in His Holy Mountain and His kingdom.
Let’s go back the story of Zachariah, who met the angel. The angel continued, “He must never touch wine or other alcoholic drinks.” What was told by the angel was related to the tradition of a Nazirite as written in the book of Numbers:
“If any of the people, either men or women, take the special vow of a Nazirite, setting themselves apart to the LORD in a special way, they must give up wine and other alcoholic drinks. They must not use vinegar made from wine or from other alcoholic drinks, they must not drink fresh grape juice, and they must not eat grapes or raisins. As long as they are bound by their Nazirite vow, they are not allowed to eat or drink anything that comes from a grapevine—not even the grape seeds or skins. (Numbers 6:2b-4)
A Nazarite makes a special vow to God, and sets himself/herself apart to God in a special way – not drinking wine and even anything from a grapevine. “Set apart to God” means making oneself holy to God, not of the world. Drinking is our behavior of indulging in the world, trying to be a part of the world, instead of making us separated from the world. In order to be the one who prepares the 2nd coming of Jesus Christ, we have to set ourselves apart to God from the world. Can a friend of God be a friend of the world also? No, we are friends of God, not of the world. Therefore, the book of James strictly warned us:
You adulterers! Don’t you realize that friendship with the world makes you an enemy of God? I say it again: If you want to be a friend of the world, you make yourself an enemy of God. (James 4:4)
If we say with our own lips that we are a true friend of God, while still being a friend of the world, then we’d better look into ourselves carefully by questioning “are we really believing in God, trusting Him and leaning on Him in every moment of our lives with prayer and faith in God?” If not, we are not a true friend of God. Watch out. We are on a slippery slope, which will easily lead us to a fall into temptations of the world, and then soon being trapped in the world as the first Adam did. Indeed, those who are close to the world can be easily be an enemy of God. Will an enemy of God truly really expect to see the 2nd coming of Jesus Christ? No. The 2nd coming of Jesus will surely become the prelude of fear of the eternal condemnation for those who are friend to the world.
Here is one more requirement to be a true Nazarite. From not just a wine, but anything come from a grapevine abstain we. Why? It is easy to understand that indulging in wine makes us a friend of the world, and we need to stop this. But how about eating fresh graph juice or raisins? Surely, it looks innocent, but there is a deeper meaning associated. This means that we need to keep from any form of temptations. We are so weak to any kind of temptation of sinning. If we treat a small temptation as nothing and tend to allow such as small temptation into our lives. However, it quickly gets deep into our heart, multiplies in our heart, and takes over our entirety by making us to a slave of sin. An initially small temptation looks nothing and even cute, but if we treated as nothing, it will be the source of total destruction of ourselves. Then what’s the best policy to temptations including a tiny little ones?
Stay away from every kind of evil. (1 Thessalonians 5:22)
There is no small temptation, and no small evil. Once it gets into our heart, it will contaminate the entirety of ourselves. How many people are ruined by such a small temptation or a small evil? King David completely failed when he allowed to get into his heart for a small temptation of his eyes on a beautiful women, Bathsheba, which quickly grew to a hideous sin – killing her husband to steal her from Uriah. We know how faithful King David was before sinning. Even God was pleased with his faith, but David was powerless before such a small temptation. Again, there is no small temptation, no small evil, and no small sin. All are equally deadly, and they equally kill us by completely destroying our inner being. Then it leads to our eternal death.
Jesus warned them, “Watch out! Beware of the yeast of the Pharisees and of Herod.” (Mark 8:15b)
Jesus gave the same warning to His disciples. Only is the way being continuously faithful to God is to keep away from every kind of evil – whether small or big. Again, the size does not matter. All will quickly become big and too big for us to handle. Then what’s our conclusion? Especially, we, who wait for the 2nd coming Jesus, want to prepare ourselves by staying away from the yeast sin of the world and every kind of evil.
Listen! It’s the voice of someone shouting,
“Clear the way through the wilderness
for the LORD!
Make a straight highway through the wasteland
for our God!
Fill in the valleys,
and level the mountains and hills.
Straighten the curves,
and smooth out the rough places.
Then the glory of the LORD will be revealed,
and all people will see it together.
The LORD has spoken! (Isaiah 40:3-5)
Then we, who wait for the 2ndcoming of Jesus Christ, prepare a highway for the Lord in our hearts. Although our hearts are a desert and wasteland tainted by prides and sins, we should create a highway for Our Lord. How to do this? First, we make ourselves humble before God by cutting down our ego and pride before God and by confessing all sins in our hearts, which are barriers between God and us. Have we seen any highway with bumps or barriers? If so, nobody can drive on it. All mountains and hills in our heart need to be leveled, and all valleys should be filled with the grace of God. Then we make a highway for the 2ndcoming of the Lord. On the day of Jesus’ coming, the true glory of the LORD will revealed in our hearts without any hindrance, and all people will see His Glory together. This is the moment that all believed waited for long time since the first promise given to Abraham. Then our highest praise from our deepest part of our hearts will not leave our mouth while calling upon His Name forever. Our Eternal Lord and Father, and Ever-Loving Father! What a day it will be. The moment will finally have come to those who are eagerly waiting for the 2nd coming of Our Lord. Yes, Lord! Come, Lord Jesus! Come! Amen.
He who is the faithful witness to all these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon!” Amen! Come, Lord Jesus! (Revelation 22:20)