Peter Misselbrook's Blog
Jan 6 2020 - Luke 3:1-22 – A Highway for our God

The M4, linking London to Bristol, passes through the countryside just a couple of miles from our home. We live in sight of the beginnings of the Cotswolds. Its escarpment is not as high or as steep as it becomes further north, but it still stands proud over the fields and lanes below it. For the M4 to be driven through this part of its route a great cut has been made into the escarpment and the limestone and earth from the cut moved into the region below to create an embankment. Despite the sharp rise of the hillside, the motorway makes its way up a gentle slope by having humbled the hill and filled in the valley below. This feat of engineering has produced a straight run through the escarpment that contrasts with the old lanes that twist and turn as they wind their way up the steep slope.

Earth movers of the sort used in the construction of our motorways were not known in the days of John the Baptiser, let alone those of Isaiah the prophet. Nevertheless, the picture painted by their words is much the same. God is about to do something new. God is on his way to rescue his people and lead them out of exile; he will allow nothing to get in his way or to impede their journey back to the place where he will live with them and rule over them.

Every valley shall be filled in,
   every mountain and hill made low.
The crooked roads shall become straight,
   the rough ways smooth.
And all people will see God’s salvation (Luke 3:5-6).

God is on the move. The Messiah is coming with a baptism of judgment and salvation of which John's baptising is merely the sign; "He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire" (3:16). All people will see the salvation of God.

Luke alone records the advice of John to tax collectors and soldiers who came to him asking “What should we do?” Given his radical message, it’s surprising and instructive that he does not tell them to give up their jobs. He does not even suggest that such jobs as these are inconsistent with the kingdom for which he has come to prepare the way. Rather, he tells them to do their work honestly and with integrity and to be content with their pay. They are to seek to serve the purposes of God in the context in which God has placed them and in that context to stand out from their colleagues as those who serve a different Master. It is in this way that they enable others to see the salvation of God.

But the path of God's salvation is far from smooth. The coming of God to save us involved the way of the cross – foreshadowed in Jesus' baptism. Similarly, the path by which he brings us into the inheritance promised to us may often seem rough and steep. It takes the eye of faith to see that, through all obstacles and difficulties, God is driving forward his unstoppable purpose to bring us safe to glory. We can share Paul's confidence when he says, "I am certain that God, who began the good work within you, will continue his work until it is finally finished on the day when Christ Jesus returns" (Philippians 1:6).

Father God, thank you for your salvation that appeared with the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ. Help me to live to your glory where you have placed me and in the ordinary context of my daily life. May your transforming power be seen in me. And help me always to look beyond the obstacles that would seem to stand in the way of the advance of your kingdom to see the greatness of your saving power that can move mountains.

Peter Misselbrook