Friday, April 25, 2008

Punctuation Matters

Isaiah 40:1-11 -- Romans 14:13, 19

So, I open my Bible randomly--not usually the way I choose what scripture to read--and read this: "A voice cries out: 'In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 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. Then the Lord shall be revealed and all people shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.'"

And, I'm so perplexed by the punctuation placement of the : and the ". In the Gospels, this scripture is quoted like this, "A voice cries out in the wilderness, 'Prepare the way of the Lord.'" And, we know that John the Baptist is in the wilderness
crying out. Right? But Isaiah says, a voice cries out, "In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord." Huh. That's different. Isn't it? defines wilderness like this:
  • wilderness ((politics) a state of disfavor) "he led the Democratic party back from the wilderness"
  • wilderness, wild (a wild and uninhabited area left in its natural condition) "it was a wilderness preserved for the hawks and mountaineers"
  • wilderness (a bewildering profusion) "the duties of citizenship are lost sight of in the wilderness of interests of individuals and groups"; "a wilderness of masts in the harbor"
A state of disfavor? Wild? A bewildering profusion? Isn't that us? So a voice crying out, "In the wilderness prepare the way of the Lord?" As followers of Jesus Christ, is that not our calling? Are those not words for us to heed?

The scripture goes on: "A voice says, 'Cry out!' And I said, 'What shall I cry?' All people are grass, their constancy is like the flower in the field. The grass withers, the flower fades, when the breath of the Lord blows upon it; surely the people are grass. The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand forever."

That's a great question. What shall I cry? When all people--the good, the bad, the ugly--lack endurance, faithfulness, devotion. When our constancy fades. How can I make paths straight? When my constancy fades? I guess, the best thing I can do is get out of the way. The best thing I can do is not be a stumbling block.

"Let us therefore no longer pass judgment on one another, but resolve instead never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of another...Let us then pursue what makes for peace and mutual upbuilding."