The voice in the wilderness (Mk 1:3-1:3)

“He is the voice

Of one crying out

In the wilderness.

‘Prepare the way

Of the Lord!

Make his paths

Straight!’”

 

φωνὴ βοῶντος ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ Ἑτοιμάσατε τὴν ὁδὸν Κυρίου, εὐθείας ποιεῖτε τὰς τρίβους αὐτοῦ,

 

Just as in Matthew, chapter 3:3, Mark has this citation from Isaiah about John the Baptist.  Both Mark and Matthew have this exact same quotation, word for word from Isaiah, chapter 40:3.  John, chapter 1:23, and Luke, chapter 3:4, have this very same quotation.  John used it as an explanation of who John the Baptist was.  Originally in Deutero-Isaiah, this was about preparing a new path or a way out of the Exile, just as there was the path of the Exodus.  In this wilderness or desert, they were to make a straight path, like a highway for God or the holy way to prepare a path for Yahweh.  However, it is clear that John the Baptist was the messenger being sent ahead.  He was a voice crying out in the wilderness (Φωνὴ βοῶντος ἐν τῇ ἐρήμῳ) to prepare the way of the Lord (Ἑτοιμάσατε τὴν ὁδὸν Κυρίου,).  He was going to make the paths straight (εὐθείας ποιεῖτε τὰς τρίβους αὐτοῦ).  Clearly, there was a connection between John the Baptist and Isaiah the prophet.

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The fourth beatitude about righteousness (Mt 5:6-5:6)

“Blessed are

Those who hunger for righteousness,

Those who thirst for righteousness,

They shall be filled.”

 

μακάριοι οἱ πεινῶντες καὶ διψῶντες τὴν δικαιοσύνην, ὅτι αὐτοὶ χορτασθήσοντ

 

The happy, blessed, and fortunate ones (μακάριοι) were those who hungered and thirsted for righteousness (οἱ πεινῶντες καὶ διψῶντες τὴν δικαιοσύνην).  They would not go away empty handed.  They would be satisfied or filled (ὅτι αὐτοὶ χορτασθήσοντ).  Isaiah, chapter 55:1-2 has an invitation to those without money to come to drink and eat.  They could have water, wine, milk and bread.  They would enjoy themselves at this banquet.  Matthew may have been referencing Psalm 107:4-9, where Yahweh had helped a small group of lost Israelites who were hungry and thirsty, while wandering in the desert.  He satisfied their thirst and filled their hunger with good food.  In their distress, they called out to Yahweh, who heard them.  He led them in a straight path to an inhabited town.  Thus, they gave thanks to Yahweh.  So too, those who hungered and thirsted for righteousness, the right way of doing things, would be satisfied or filled with this righteousness.

Ephraim is the first born (Jer 31:9-31:9)

“With weeping,

They shall come.

With consolations,

I will lead them back.

I will let them walk

By brooks of water.

I will let them walk

In a straight path.

They shall not stumble.

I have become

A father to Israel.

Ephraim is my first-born.”

The Israelites would return home weeping. Yahweh would lead this great group, as he consoled them. They would walk by brooks of water on a straight path. Thus, they would not stumble. Yahweh would be the father of Israel again. There his first born would be Ephraim, of the northern country, and not Judah. This seems out of character, since Judah was always favored. However, this is the northern kingdom of Israel that he is talking about.

Keep on the straight and narrow (Prov 4:20-4:27)

“My child!

Be attentive to my words!

Incline your ear to my sayings.

Do not let them escape from your sight.

Keep them within your heart!

They are life to those who find them.

They are healing to all their flesh.

Keep your heart with all vigilance!

The springs of life flow from your heart.

Put away from you crooked speech!

Put devious talk far from you!

Let your eyes look directly forward.

Your gaze should be straight before you.

Keep straight the path of your feet!

Then all your ways will be sure.

Do not swerve to the right or to the left!

Turn your foot away from evil!”

The parental fatherly advice concludes this chapter. They are to keep on the straight and narrow path. Once again, he asks his children to be attentive and listen to his words. They are not to let his words escape, but rather keep them in their hearts. If they do that, then they will have life and healing. The heart is where all life comes from, so that your heart had to be vigilant. They were not to have crooked or devious speech. Their eyes should always be looking forward with a gaze straight ahead. They had to keep their feet on the straight path, never swerving to the right or the left. They were, of course, to stay away from evil.

Yahweh helped those wandering in the desert (Ps 107:4-107:9)

“Some wandered in the desert wastes.

They found no way to an inhabited town.

They were hungry and thirsty.

Their soul fainted within them.

Then they cried to Yahweh in their trouble.

He delivered them from their distress.

He led them by a straight way.

They finally reached an inhabited town.

Let them thank Yahweh

For his steadfast love!

Let them thank Yahweh

For his wonderful works to humankind!

He satisfies the thirsty.

He fills the hungry with good things.”

This section points out how Yahweh has helped those wandering Israelites in the desert. I am not sure what particular event this refers to since these wanderers seem to be looking for inhabited towns. This does not seem to be a reference to the 40 years of wandering in the desert, but a smaller group of lost Israelites who were hungry and thirsty. Their souls were fainting. In their distress they called out to Yahweh. Yahweh heard them. He led them in a straight path to an inhabited town. Thus they have to give thanks again to Yahweh for his steadfast love and the all the works that he has done for all humans. He has satisfied the thirsty. He has filled the hungry with good food.