A voice in the wilderness
‘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.’ Isaiah 40:3
SUGGESTED FURTHER READING: Luke 1:57–80
The general style of the prophets is poetical. Simplicity is the grand, inimitable characteristic of the whole Bible. But the magnificence and variety of imagery, which constitute the life and spirit of poetry, evidently distinguishes the style of the Psalms, Isaiah, and the other poetical books, from that of the historical parts in our common version. The various rules and properties of Hebrew poetry are not, at this distance of time, certainly known. But the present Bishop of London, in his lectures on this subject, and in the discourse prefixed to his translation of Isaiah, has fully demonstrated one property. It usually consists of parallel expressions in which the same thought for substance is repeated in a different manner. I may open the book anywhere, almost, to explain my meaning—as chapters 59, 55 and Psalm 114. The knowledge of this peculiarity may often save us the trouble of enquiring minutely into the meaning of every single word, when one plain and comprehensive sense arises if the whole passage be taken together. Thus in this place, though it be true that John the Baptist was long retired in the wilderness and began to preach in the wilderness of Judea, yet the word does not entirely foretell that circumstance. The expressions are parallel. The prophet, rapt into future times, hears a voice proclaiming the Messiah’s approach. And this is the majestic language: In the wilderness prepare ye the way of the Lord. Make straight in the desert a highway for our God. The wilderness and the desert are the same, as likewise in chapter 35, where the happy, the sudden, the unexpected, effects of his appearance, are described.
FOR MEDITATION: Now to see with the eye of faith the glory of the Redeemer in his appearance, to see power divine preparing the way before him, to enter into the gracious and wonderful design of his salvation, to acknowledge, admire and adore him as the Lord, humbly to claim him as our God, affords a pleasure very different from that which the finest music, however well adapted to the words, can possibly give.
SERMON SERIES: MESSIAH, NO. 2 [1/4], ISAIAH 40:3–5