Handel's Messiah: The Person and Work of Christ

3. 'Every Valley Shall Be Exalted'

By Dr. Paul M. Elliott
Are there valleys of humility in your heart, or mountains and hills of pride?

From the TeachingtheWord Bible Knowledgebase

Part 3 of a series. Read part 2.

Are there valleys of humility in your heart, or mountains and hills of pride?

As Handel's Messiah continues, the tenor soloist recites the fourth verse of Isaiah's great prophecy concerned John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ:

Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill made low; the crooked straight and the rough places plain. (Isaiah 40: 4)

Ancient Custom

It was the practice of ancient monarchs to send heralds before them, not only to announce their coming, but to prepare roadways and clear obstacles for their procession. Later in the prophecy, God through Isaiah presents a similar picture in relation to King Cyrus of Persia, who would be used as God's instrument:

Thus says the Lord to His anointed, to Cyrus, whose right hand I have held - to subdue nations before him and loose the armor of kings, to open before him the double doors, so that the gates will not be shut: "I will go before you and make the crooked places straight; I will break in pieces the gates of bronze and cut the bars of iron..." (Isaiah 45:1-2).

John's Calling

It was John the Baptist's prophetic task to prepare the way for the coming of the Messiah in three specific ways.

First, he was sent to exalt the valleys of the humility of those who longed for their Redeemer:

John answered and said, "A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven. You yourselves bear me witness, that I said, 'I am not the Christ,' but, 'I have been sent before Him.' He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom's voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled.

He must increase, but I must decrease. He who comes from above is above all; he who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all. (John 3:27-31)

Secondly, John was sent to bring low the mountains and hills of the pride of the Pharisees and Sadducees:

But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, "Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not think to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones.

And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire." (Matthew 3:7-12)

Thirdly, John was sent to straighten the crooked paths and smooth the rough places of the interminable, burdensome man-made commandments and doctrines that the teachers of the law had placed upon the people. He returned the people's focus to the pure Ten Commandments of God, especially those prohibiting covetousness and dishonesty:

So the people asked him, saying, "What shall we do then?" He answered and said to them, "He who has two tunics, let him give to him who has none; and he who has food, let him do likewise."
Then tax collectors also came to be baptized, and said to him, "Teacher, what shall we do?" And he said to them, "Collect no more than what is appointed for you."
Likewise the soldiers asked him, saying, "And what shall we do?" So he said to them, "Do not intimidate anyone or accuse falsely, and be content with your wages." (Luke 3:10-14)

Obstacles to Revival in Our Hearts

One of the great needs of our day is genuine revival. Revival does not come by the will of man at his bidding, but by the power of the Holy Spirit according to His sovereign purposes. Revival is, at its essence, the moving of the Spirit of God among prepared people. But we must note this well: God brings revival among those whose hearts are prepared.

How is it with your own heart? Are you living before God in humility, saying with John the Baptist, "He must increase, but I must decrease"? Or are there mountains of spiritual pride within you, standing in the way of the work of God? Are you proudly relying upon lineage, nationality, or your identity with a particular church or denomination? Are you relying upon your own righteousness? Or does your life show the fruits of true repentance? Are you a vessel who is fit for the Master's use, to bring revival to your own soul, and to His church?

But in a great house there are not only vessels of gold and silver, but also of wood and clay, some for honor and some for dishonor. Therefore if anyone cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for honor, sanctified and useful for the Master, prepared for every good work.
Flee also youthful lusts; but pursue righteousness, faith, love, peace with those who call on the Lord out of a pure heart. But avoid foolish and ignorant disputes, knowing that they generate strife. And a servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient, in humility correcting those who are in opposition, if God perhaps will grant them repentance, so that they may know the truth, and that they may come to their senses and escape the snare of the devil, having been taken captive by him to do his will. (2 Timothy 2:20-26)


Next: The revealed glory of the Lord


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