From the Editor—Friday Reflections

Divine Pathways

The Way of the Lord Leads Home

July 6, 2018

July 6, The Prophet Isaiah
(Roman Catholic & Lutheran calendars) 

When I think of Isaiah, many sublime passages come to mind. His vision of the Holy One in the Temple. The Suffering Servant. Handel's setting of "Comfort Ye My People" from chapter 40. 

Then there is Isaiah 40:3, in which the Voice Crying in the Wilderness says,

Prepare ye the way [derek] of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. (KJV)

The Septuagint reads: Prepare ye the way ['odos] of the Lord, make straight the paths of our God.

This prophecy is cited in Matthew, Mark and Luke as being fulfilled by the ministry of John the Baptist. In John, also, the Baptist speaks of himself as the Voice crying, "Make straight the way of the Lord."

Another biblical reference to a pathway comes to mind every day during the prayers of the Ninth Hour (3 PM). In the version that I use, Psalm 84:3 reads:

Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
       in whose heart are the highways to Zion. (RSV)

There is no reference to Zion in the Hebrew text. Here are three other translations:

Blessed is the man whose strength is in thee; in whose heart are the ways of them. (Authorized Version)

Blessed is the man whose help is of thee, O Lord; in his heart he has purposed to go up [anabaseis]. (Breton) 

Happy is the man whose support is from you, O Lord; ascents [anabaseis] he arranged in his heart. (New English Translation of the Septuagint) 

The word anabasis, going up, would explain the NETS's footnote for "ascents": "perhaps ascents to Sion." The way to Jerusalem is always "up." Jesus went up to Jerusalem, "on the road" (the 'odos), the way of the Cross.

When remembering our Lord's death on the Cross at 3 PM, I am "looking up" at him. This verse reminds me that we are blessed if the critical inner strength that we possess is not rooted in intellect, passion, appetite, cleverness, or what have you, but comes from the Lord. We are strengthened in the inner man by grace.

Further, those who accept the rootedness of their being in the Lord have in their hearts the "highways to Zion," which is to say, the ascent up from the earthly life to the heavenly Jerusalem and its purity, light, and glory, following the lead of Christ who is The Way.

A man has pathways in life to choose; he may have ambitions to become famous, wealthy, loved, skilled, indulgent, pious, holy, wise, or provident—most men live with some purpose and pursue it, no matter how trivial, even if just to be entertained.

What is my purpose, my destination? And what is my strength? Our Lord's command to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength is a directive for discovering by choice our fullness of being in God.

This phrase "ascents he has arranged in his heart"—Perhaps it's another way of saying, "set your minds on the things above." These are the pathways ascending to where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God, in the heavenly Zion.

Our daily choice to shoulder the first commandment is one way to prepare the ways of the Lord, to make his paths straight. We look for him to come to us, then, by our invitation, for he will not coerce us. When we trust in him, he gives us strength to ascend, from glory to glory.

It's not complicated, easy to remember, and bears repeating. (And it's certainly not self-help!)

Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
in whose heart are the highways to Zion.

Or if you prefer:

Blessed is the man whose help is of thee, O Lord;
in his heart he has purposed to go up.

A verse to remember.

Yours for Christ, Creed & Culture,

James M. Kushiner
Executive Director, The Fellowship of St. James

—James M. Kushiner is Executive Editor of Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity, and Executive Director of The Fellowship of St. James.