KEY SCRIPTURE Mark 1:1-3 The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God; As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.
RELEVANCE The introduction to the book of Mark showing John the Baptist's work also lays out a foundational work for every believer—to make straight the paths of the Lord.
Generally, straight means several things, such as the shortest distance between two points, confronting, no dishonesty, clear, simple, and direct, to mention a few examples. Strong's Concordance G2117 explains it as right, immediate/straightway, and the outline of Bible usage says level, upright, true, sincere, forthwith, and straightforward.
The definitions of straight make our job more straightforward. Whichever way we present the Word to people, we shouldn't add or take away from it. You know, bending it for whatever reason, watering it down when we fear losing a friend, mesmerising it to seem knowledgeable, demanding the keeping of laws when we're angry with someone, or to try to make it say what it doesn't say. Nor should we hide from presenting it.
Why did John need to make the paths straight?
Here are three possible reasons: 1. The Priesthood had, from the days of Israel's captivity in Babylon, added to God's Word as they saw fit, making it impossible even to understand, let alone keep. It became bent and twisted. Their creative hand heavily favoured deceit and guile and making ways around 'obstructive' scriptures. Like many government policies today, it heavily burdened all but the Priesthood and their families.
2. Whilst many believers looked and hoped for the coming of their final Saviour, most of the Priesthood did not. The synagogues preached that Emmanuel (Christ) (Matthew 1:23) was always in the distant future, just the way they liked it. Even today, that Priesthood lineage still reigns, banning the reading of Isaiah 53 about the coming of Christ.
3. Jesus Christ the Lord, the Kings of Kings, the Saviour, The Son of the Living God was finally at the doorstep of Israel and the world, and John had to preach the immediacy of His coming. Mark 1:15, "...The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the gospel."
Hebrews 4:12 informs us why we don't need to change any of God's Word but deliver it straight—correctly with prayer and love—and it will do the work by itself. "For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart."
This scripture shows us the psychology (for want of a better word) of God's Word and how it can even divide and separate the union of the human soul and spirit to allow truth to penetrate. It discerns (recognises or finds out) the thoughts and intents of the heart—what it thinks and what it is deciding to do—what it's just about to tell the brain to do.
Many years ago, the Lord told me to shepherd people gently; those He gave into my hands. To watch the flock, gently nurturing the young, those lost, and those who don’t know the Way. To make the Way simple for their eyes. I believe He said this because His Church needs shepherding at all times.
He called me to bear witness to those within the Church and those without, shepherding them gently with respect and understanding, sharply dividing the Word with the sword being the Word of God directed by the Spirit.
We can shepherd gently with respect and still not water down the Word. We can make God's paths straight—simple to follow, easy to understand, with no guile or alternate reason like signing them up to a Church.
No book of any alternate religion can do what God's Word can. Though they may have some ideas that make the reader think, and even be challenged, they do not have the support and workings of the Holy Spirit. Thus, they cannot pierce, divide, enter and change the human being.
The Word of God, the Salvation message, and mankind's future is already straight. It is sufficiently explicit, pure, cleansing, confronting, beautiful, and above all, truthful, to be dishonourably manhandled and bent out of shape, often unrecognisable compared to its original form. Through our love of our Saviour and desire to see His Word do its job, we find the conviction and courage to make and keep His paths straight.
PRAYER Dear Lord, thank you for the power of your Word to change hearts, families, communities and even nations. And thank you for John the Baptist's job to make straight the paths of our Lord, and being such a wonderful example.
Photo by Franceso Ungaro