December 15, 2019

The Holy Way

Passage: Isaiah 35:1-10, Psalm 146:5-10

…He will come and save you.’
5 Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened,
and the ears of the deaf unstopped;
6 then the lame shall leap like a deer,
and the tongue of the speechless sing for joy.
For waters shall break forth in the wilderness,
and streams in the desert;
7 the burning sand shall become a pool,
and the thirsty ground springs of water;
the haunt of jackals shall become a swamp,*
the grass shall become reeds and rushes.
8 A highway shall be there,
and it shall be called the Holy Way
the unclean shall not travel on it,*
but it shall be for God’s people;*
no traveller, not even fools, shall go astray.
9 No lion shall be there,
nor shall any ravenous beast come up on it;
they shall not be found there,
but the redeemed shall walk there.
10 And the ransomed of the Lord shall return,
and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
they shall obtain joy and gladness,
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

A highway shall be there,
and it shall be called the Holy Way.

Where I grew up as a kid there was a highway.

It ran right through the middle of my small home town.

It wasn’t called the Holy Way; it was called Highway 97.

We bragged that it was the longest highway in the world because, we said, it went all the way from South America to Alaska.

It turns out this bit of bragging was geographically inaccurate.

Because the southern end of Hwy. 97 is not somewhere in South America but in a place in California, called Weed.

However, Hwy 97 is the longest highway in BC, travelling as it does the full length of the province.

So, we were sort of correct, kind of.

Anyway, that highway, regardless of the inaccurate stories we told about it, was very important to my home town and to me personally.

To me, because my Dad kept a roof over our heads and kept us all fed by working on the maintenance crew that looked after the stretch of Hwy 97 that ran from the top of the Monte Creek hill in the north to Schweb’s Bridge in the south.

And during my high school years, the 97 carried me by school bus, to where I went to school.

On weekends it allowed me to travel quickly, usually too quickly, usually in my Dad’s car to Salmon Arm to hang out with my friends.

Without that highway my teenage years would have been pretty lonely, living as I did in a tiny town which offered few opportunities for activities of interest to teenagers.

Later in life Hwy 97 maintained its importance in my life as it made it possible for me to live at home with my parents (free rent) while working in the next town over from us.

So, that highway, Hwy 97, was always an important part of my early life.

But of course, the highway mattered deeply to others as well.

That Hwy moved a lot of goods and services between Vancouver, Kamloops and the Okanagan valley.

Hwy 97 permitted economic growth in our area that could never have happened without a smooth road over which commerce could move easily.

Those are some of the good things about Hwy 97.

Things that apply to highways in general.

But highways do not only bring us good things.

Nor do they just take us to good places.

Highways can also bring us to places of deep sorrow in our lives.

I became aware of this fact as I listened to my Dad tell me of the horrific crashes that he frequently saw while he worked on the highway.

Crashes where whole families were destroyed or forever changed by death or serious injury.

Hwy 97 also brought drunkenness and fighting to our small town, once a year during Stampede weekend, when ne’er-do-wells mostly from Kamloops descended on our small town to party and generally cause trouble.

So, highways, like most things man has invented, can bring us good or they can bring us evil.

Man-made highways can bring us life and prosperity, or they can bring us to places of death and unutterable sadness.

Today in Isaiah we learned that God is into highways.

We learned about one highway of God in particular.

This highway “shall be called the Holy Way”.

And God’s highway, “the Holy Way”, unlike human highways, will bring only good things to those who travel upon it.

It will only bring us to good places.

God’s Holy Way will never lead us amiss.

When we get in our car and head out on the highways built by people we can get into all kinds of trouble.

If we don’t watch the road signs, we can enter a curve too fast and careen off the highway before the curve ends.

If we don’t check our GPS we can end up in places where we do not want to be. I made a wrong turn once in Southern California and was lucky to make it out of the neighbourhood in one piece.

If we don’t listen to the stories of others who have gone down the road before us, we can find ourselves in unnecessary difficulty.

My sister tells a story of traveling in Arizona and ending up on a road marked “NO VEHICLES OVER 30 FEET PERMITTED” while pulling a 35-foot trailer with a 20-foot-long truck. After that sign there was no place to turn her rig around. That was a tense trip she told me.

If sis had checked with the locals she would have known to turn around before it was too late.

We can also get into trouble on the highway by just not paying attention to the road; by being preoccupied with the frustrating stuff of life and so not seeing that on-coming semi in our lane.

So, highways, man-made ones, can be both blessing and trouble.

Fortunately for us God’s highway will be different.

Isaiah tells us that even fools will not go astray once they are on the Holy Way.

So, even people like us, with our tendency to not pay attention to the way we live, with our proclivity to give in to the frustrations of our lives, even people like us will not go astray when we are on God’s Holy Way.

So, to quote the country song, “Jesus, take the wheel”, Lord, get us on to your promised highway, the Holy Way.

And when we get there, Jesus, keep us on track, keep us trucking toward the promise of the redeemed of God.

And the good news is that we get on this highway, the Holy Way, not through our own cleverness, not through our diligence or hard work.

We enter onto God’s Holy Way through faith alone.

And that faith is the gift of God.

By faith in Jesus we become members of the community of the redeemed, traveling together on God’s Holy Way.

And it is important to note that it is the REDEEMED that shall travel on the Holy Way.

To be redeemed means to be purchased at a price.

In the days of slavery, a slave’s freedom could be redeemed, or purchased with a price.

We were once slaves to sin, to sickness and to death.

Through repentance, through faith in Jesus as Son of God, we are now the redeemed of God.

As such we are given free entry to travel on the Holy Way.

But remember that we are the REDEEMED people of God.

We are who we are because our Lord paid for us with his life.

We are not the SELF-MADE people of God.

So, as we live in ways that demonstrate this truth; as we live remembering who we are and how we became the blessed of God.

We are empowered by the Holy Spirit to discern how God intends us to travel on his Holy Way.

For example, as the redeemed, there is no place in our journey for pride in self.

As those bought with a price, there is no place in our travels down God’s highway for ego, for feeling like we are better or somehow more deserving than our fellow travellers.

As the redeemed God, God, calls us to journey humbly with him, travelling down the highway with him, journeying with Jesus from his cross, carrying our own crosses.

Living like this we become living sign-posts on God’s highway.

Living in loving service to God and to our fellows we are Holy Spirit filled signs pointing others to the on-ramp to the Holy Way of God.

Let us pray that our redeemed lives may always point to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ as Son of God.

Let us pray that our redeemed lives may lead others onto the highway of the redeemed, God’s promised Holy Way.

Hear once again the promised destination of that Holy Way:

And the ransomed of the Lord shall return,
and come to Zion with singing;
everlasting joy shall be upon their heads;
they shall obtain joy and gladness,
and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.