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Bible Q

Is “Prepare the way of the Lord” (from Isaiah 40:3) talking about God or Jesus?

As it is written in Isaiah the prophet, “Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way, the voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight,’” (Mark 1:2-3)

This passage occurs in all four gospels : Matthew 3:3, Mark 1:2-3, Luke 3:4, John 1:23.

It’s very clear hear that Isaiah 40:3 is talking about preparing the way of the LORD (Hebrew Yahweh, the one God and Father) and yet the four gospels applies this to John the Baptist preparing the way for Jesus. In fact John attributes this being said by John himself.

For this reason some people have seen it as suggesting that Jesus himself is Yahweh.

The answer is fairly straightforward. Taking our cue from John 1:23 that John the Baptist himself quoted Isaiah 40:3 as the reason for his work it is hardly likely that John the Baptist would be claiming that Isaiah teaches that Jesus is Yahweh. The text and context in Isaiah relates to the way of Yahweh in the time of the Assyrian invasion, the reign of King Hezekiah, so the primary application is to preparing the roads of God himself, in the history of Israel and the world.

To project as the four gospel writers do, that onto Jesus himself being part of preparing the way of his Father is completely in line with the way that messianic prophecies in the Old Testament that are often firstly about the time of the prophet have a second greater fulfilment in Christ.

Comfort for God’s People

40 1 Comfort, comfort my people, says your God.
Speak tenderly to Jerusalem,
    and cry to her
that her warfare is ended,
    that her iniquity is pardoned,
that she has received from the Lord‘s hand
    double for all her sins.

A voice cries:
“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.
And the glory of the Lord shall be revealed,
    and all flesh shall see it together,
    for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.” (Isaiah 40-1-5)

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