God’s Word for You
Mark 1:2-3 A voice of one calling
by Pastor Timothy Smith on Saturday, May 8, 2021
2 This is how it is written in the prophet Isaiah:
Look, I am sending my messenger ahead of you,
who will prepare the way for you.
3 A voice of one calling out in the wilderness,
“Prepare the way of the Lord.
Make his paths straight.” (EHV)
This is the only place in all of Mark’s Gospel where he himself quotes from the Old Testament, apart from the dialogue of the men and women he records. He says “It is written in the prophet Isaiah.” Should we be too concerned that part of what he quotes is from Malachi and not Isaiah? Not at all. It’s the same as if I said, “Remember what Shakespeare said: ‘Throw away that stick and put away your knife. I must cure you of that dreadful trick of whittling. The game’s afoot. Follow your spirit, and upon this charge, cry ‘God for Harry, England, and Saint George!’” Only the second part is from Shakespeare, and it’s the more important item. So it is with Mark’s quote of Malachi 3:1 and Isaiah 40:3. The part from Isaiah is the more important part, the cry in the wilderness.
There isn’t any need to ask which is correct: Is the voice itself in the wilderness, crying “Prepare”? Or is the voice crying, “In the wilderness, prepare…”? Both are true. Both are present in the Hebrew text of Isaiah 40:3. Both path and voice are there. The wilderness is not just the inhospitable land where John was preaching, though. The wilderness is the inhospitable world, the fallen creation of God that is not ready to receive the Lord as a guest. It is the sinfulness in each and every human heart, blocking the road in tangles of temptations and swamps of sinfulness. The preparation of John is the preparation we still make, day by day. What is my sin? What is my guilt? What is my shame? These are things I must take to the cross or they will fester in my heart and bring only despair. But when I take them to the cross, the ashes of my shame burst into a field of flowers in Christ’s forgiveness and the promise of the resurrection. Sins of habit that make me stumble every step like a shambling, limping pirate are washed clean in the blood of the Lamb of God. In God’s eyes, my limping is over. In Christ’s love, my festering heart is cured, the poison of the devil’s lies is drained, and I am healed and whole once again. I stand prepared for the coming of the King.
This repentance in my own heart is the very beginning of this “Beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.” The Lord’s preaching and teaching will soon follow, and we will stand in awe. At first, his miracles will thrill us. Then, the depth of his preaching will amaze us. Finally, the enormity of his forgiving love will overwhelm us. He came for you and me. He found us. He rescued us. And he will bring us home forever.
Note: The lines before “The game’s afoot” are from Tom Taylor’s Our American Cousin, Act III scene 1. The rest is from Henry V (also Act III scene 1) and include Sherlock’s Holmes’ favorite Shakespearean quote. Student’s of Civil War history may recognize Our American Cousin as the play that was being performed when Lincoln was shot. The scene quoted was being performed just a few minutes before Booth entered Lincoln’s box.
Pastor Timothy Smith