Advent: Preparing the way of the Lord in worship
The clarion call of Advent is to prepare the way of the Lord. This comes from Isaiah 40:3: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” This came to be adopted as the ministry focus of John the Baptist (see Mal. 3:1; Matt. 3:3; Mk. 1:3; Luke 3:4).
The Promised Land that had been given to God’s covenant people, Israel, with clearly stated covenant stipulations, had become like a spiritual wasteland, and for God to return to His people, they had to prepare in the wilderness and desert a highway for the Lord.
Every period of estrangement between God and His people requires the same response: Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. And the Lord’s glory shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together (Isaiah 40:4-5, ESV)
A Plea For Restoration And Revival
Man’s sin invokes God’s displeasure and wrath. That is why Psalm 85, which is a form of lamentation, is also a cry for God’s restoration. The Psalmist cries out, in vv6-7: “Will you not revive us again, that your people may rejoice in you? Show us your steadfast love, O Lord, and grant us your salvation.”
In asking for God’s restoration and revival, we need to focus on ways to prepare for the Lord’s return. We need to identify the things that Heaven is pointing our attention to. As we pray for an outpouring of the Spirit in revival, that promise of the latter rain, we must begin with that which is of critical importance to God’s glory: worship.
Worship is the one eternally unchanging response required of all creature in our relationship with God. Worship is the Centre of our being and the heart of the reason for our creation. When the focus of worship is wrong, nothing else can be right. That indeed, is the focus of the first two commandments. Christ’s response in His temptation in the wilderness further underscores the importance: “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’” (Matt. 4:10, ESV).
When Worship Becomes Meaningless
We return to Isaiah’s prophecy, this time 29:13-14, where we read, And the Lord said: “Because this people draw near with their mouth and honour me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men, therefore, behold, I will again do wonderful things with this people, with wonder upon wonder; and the wisdom of their wise men shall perish, and the discernment of their discern…” (See also Ezek. 33:31)
Christ’s reference to Isaiah’s prophecy above comes in Matt. 15:4-9: For God commanded, Honour your father and your mother,’ and, Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’
But you say, ‘If anyone tells his father or his mother, “What you would have gained from me is given to God,” he need not honour his father.’ So, for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. You hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy of you, when he said: “‘This people honour me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’”