When you hear the phrase “prepare the way of the Lord” you may think of the words of John the Baptist or even the prophet Isaiah- and you would be correct. These weeks before Christmas give us a chance to “prepare the way of the Lord” in our own lives as we wait in expectation to celebrate His coming.
What does it mean to prepare the way?
If I was planning a garden, a vacation, a holiday meal, etc., I would want to do some research and planning to make it happen.
If I want my children to love Jesus, I expose them to His Word and model His ways. That allows them to know Him.
To “prepare the way” in general means to create and carry out plans that make it possible for an idea to come to fruition or help us accomplish a task.
Preparing for the Lord
What does the Bible say about preparing the way?
To “prepare” in the Bible meant to ready, order, set up, establish, make firm (my favorite).¹ To “prepare the way” means firmly resolving to remove all stumbling blocks that prevent us from being right with God.
The angel who appeared before Zechariah (John the Baptist’s father) prophesied John would prepare the way by bringing many of Israel’s people back to their God. He would “turn the hearts of the father to their children and those who are rebellious to accept the wisdom of the godly- to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” Luke 1:17NLT
This verse holds significant meaning besides it’s prophecy about John the Baptist.
They are also the very last words of God from Malachi in the Old Testament before all went silent for so many years. (Malachi 4:6) God is weaving the thread of preparing the way into the New Testament.
Who Prepared the Way for Jesus?
There are many Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament that prepared the way for us to understand God’s plan for Jesus. They help prove He was truly Messiah and strengthen our faith.
Both Isaiah and Malachi (3:1) specifically prophesied about preparing the way. John the Baptist was the fulfillment of those prophecies.
Preparing the Way of the Lord Verse
The following message of comfort and restoration of the nation of Israel comes from Isaiah at a time when the Jews were still in captivity. This message from God gives a wonderful example of how to prepare the way of the Lord (no matter what our circumstances may be.) The result is that all will see His glory:
“A voice of one calling in the desert; prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the wilderness a highway for our God. Every valley shall be raised up, every mountain and hill make low; the rough ground shall become level, the rugged places a plain. And the glory of the Lord will be revealed, and all mankind together will see it.”
Isaiah tells us a ‘voice of one calling in the desert’ will be God’s messenger, who goes out into the wilderness to prepare the way for Jesus.
Make Straight the Way of the Lord Meaning
In order to build a straight “highway” for God, we must fill in low spots to raise them up. Mountains, hills, and rough ground need to be leveled. We must remove any obstacles so the road becomes passable.
This is a figurative expression to show us we need to remove all obstacles and smooth out any imperfections in our lives. Our “roads” need regular repair!
How can we make straight paths for our King this Christmas season?
Are there obstacles in your life that sabotage your best intentions?
What crooked spiritual paths need to be made straight?
What can we do to “roll out the red carpet” for Jesus, our King?
John the Baptist Prepares the Way
Israel had been waiting a long time for the Messiah to arrive. As far as we know, the prophets had been silent for 400 years.
(Just an interesting tidbit to think about: Anna the prophetess and Simeon were present when Joseph and Mary presented baby Jesus to the temple. They both prophesied that this was Jesus, God’s Son! Luke 2:21-38)
The nation of Israel had been preparing and waiting expectantly for years. They were more than ready for the Messiah to show Himself!
John the Baptist’s birth fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy of the special messenger that would prepare the way for Jesus. His father, Zacharias, filled with the Holy Spirit, proclaimed this about his son:
“And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of the sins.” Luke 1:76-77.
How did John the Baptist Prepare the Way for Jesus?
Matthew 3:1-2 explains-
“In those days, John the Baptist came, preaching in the Desert of Judea and saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.’”
People flocked to John, thinking he was the Messiah to come. But John was adamant that he was not the Messiah.
John had his own important role. He was the voice in the wilderness; urging the people to prepare themselves spiritually for their King. And it began with repentance.
“The whole Judean countryside and all the people of Jerusalem went out to him. Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan river.” Mark 1:5.
John’s primary message was to prepare the people to accept Jesus as Messiah. In order to prepare for His coming, they needed to repent of their sinful ways.
Repent and Prepare the Way
What does the word repent mean to you? It’s not something we necessarily like to contemplate. As a child, I thought sin was a grave error; a source of shame. Confession filled me with anxiety. I carried those thoughts into adulthood.
In reality, to repent is simply a heartfelt acknowledgement of our guilt and a commitment to amend our ways. It is turning away from sin and turning towards God and His mercy, love, and forgiveness.
As Christians, we have already admitted we need forgiveness and accepted it through Jesus’ sacrifice. This month, as we begin our spiritual preparation for Christmas, let’s reflect on the worldly attractions and temptations that lead us to sin.
We spend time critiquing our sports play, analyzing our goals and time management, or scrutinizing our financial situation. We work on improving hobbies or skills. Why does it seem easier for us to be inspired to work on worldly things, but not our spiritual life?
View confession of sin as a beautiful cleansing; preparing us to come before Him with humble thanksgiving. The Holy Spirit lives within us to give us the strength to change our lives.
How to Prepare the Way for the Lord
Many of the people asked John what they should do in response to his blunt message. He gave concrete ways to prepare the way in Luke 3:8,11,13,14:
●To those who wanted to be baptized but believed being descendants of Abraham alone saved them- “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” True repentance will always bring forth fruit.
●To the crowds- Share what you have with those in need– “The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same.”
●For the repentant tax collectors- Whatever your job, do it well and in fairness. “Don’t collect any more than you are required to.”
●Even soldiers repented, asking what they should do. “Do not intimidate anyone or accuse falsely, and be content with your wages.” Luke 3: 14. NKJV.
I love reading that John’s message resounded with two of the most hated groups in Israel- tax collectors and soldiers! What a beautiful example of God’s mercy on any repentant heart!
Do any of these statements give you ideas for your own spiritual preparation for Christmas?
Preparing the Way
Foremost, preparing for the Lord involves our heart. ♡
God chose David as king because he was “a man after my own heart.” (1 Samuel 13:14, Acts 13:22.) David was far from perfect, but he set his heart firmly on seeking the Lord.
How do we prepare our heart for Jesus? We sing about it in this Christmas carol:
“Joy to the world, the Lord has come. Let earth receive her King! Let every heart prepare Him room and Heaven and nature sing!”
●We prepare our hearts by pursuing Him with trust and love. (To pursue: a continuing effort, run after, follow, seek Him!)
●Make it a priority to sit with Him each day. Speak what’s on your mind this season, humble yourself with confession, and resolve to make Him the center of your life. Be still and listen for His responses.
●Ask Him to renew your heart, to make His presence felt right now.
●Unclutter your heart with the things that crowd Jesus out of His rightful place.
●Read His Word- every day! Even if it is only one verse, this is where we find His wisdom, guidance, and blessings.
The Holy Spirit lives within us to make all these things possible! We’re never left alone without resources.
When we straighten our own paths and remove what hinders our walk with Christ, we can show others His way. Let His light shine through us so that they can see Him this season.
Scripture about Preparing your Heart
“Draw near to God and he will draw near to you.” James 4:8
“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life.” Proverbs 4:23.
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.” Matthew 22:37
“Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me.” Psalm 51:10.
“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding.” Proverbs 3:5.
Did any one of these verses speak to you? Pray about it!
Preparing the Way for Jesus
As we enter this Christmas season, let’s prepare our hearts to bring the joy and meaning of Christmas to its full potential. We are celebrating the birth of our Savior!
His birth brings us the gift of eternal love and salvation. Because of Him, we wait in joyful and expectant hope to be reunited with Him forever.
Make this season about the excitement of His birth. Wait with an expectant heart for His signs all around you. He has many gifts to bring; are you ready to receive them? Prepare the way!
All Scripture is from the NIV unless specified otherwise.
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