At Gateway Church in Austin, we continued our series called Outlaws, a series looking at prophets whose stories point towards the Messiah.
Throughout our lives, we will have opportunities to pave roads for others and to have them paved for us. God does the same for us, as He shows us the path He would have for our lives, although we don’t always choose His way. Are you ready to allow God to take the wheel and drive you down the paved road?
The Outlaws series included the following messages:
Work through the following questions and Scriptures on your own, and get together with your running partner, life group, or friends and family to talk through what you are learning.
WITH YOUR FAMILY, ROOMMATES, OR LIFE GROUP, WORK THROUGH THE MESSAGE NEXT STEPS:
LISTEN TO THE MESSAGE I SHARED AT GATEWAY IN SOUTH AUSTIN:
HERE ARE THE MESSAGE NOTES FROM OUR TEACHING TEAM:
Have you ever paved a road for someone?
- You know, you have a friend or an acquaintance and they need something…
A job, a connection, you name it.
- And you know someone that could help them. They ask or you offer to “pave the road…”
- Do an email intro, connect them via text, introduce them and build them up, etc. etc.
- You do this for them… You make the connection…
- And then they don’t bother following through on it… AT ALL.
Has that ever happened to you? So frustrating, right?
Robb Overholt, one of our executive pastors who used to be part of South campus has this saying:
“Paved roads are better than dirt roads… but only if you drive something down them.”
So if someone can, and offers to, pave a road for you, take them up on it, and then take advantage of it.
What good is it if someone paves a road for you, clears a path, makes a way, if you don’t take advantage of it?
One thing I’ve learned over the course of my life is that not everyone feels a desire to take paved roads, some people even resist them. Sometimes in a very literal sense, but often in a much more troubling, figurative sense.
Do you see that? People you know who do not seem to listen. They seem to like the harder way – even though you know better and have even shown them a better way!
Maybe that’s you. You don’t trust others or you think you know what’s best only to discover your way doesn’t seem to be working out.
Outlaws Series Overview
For the last several weeks, we’ve been in a series called Outlaws.
These were outlaws of a different kind preparing the way for the coming of different kind of world… A world where God would send his long promised Messiah who would defeat sin and death, create a way for us to connect personally to God, and who would initiate a new Kingdom in this world that we can be part of advancing – a Kingdom of love, faith, and hope.
So these Outlaws we looked at included:
- Moses who brought freedom to the people of Israel who had been enslaved to the Egyptians. 3500 years ago, the first Passover demonstrated God’s miraculous power to rescue His people, and pointed towards the ultimate Passover Lamb – the Messiah would shed His blood as the ultimate sacrifice for all humanity.
- Isaiah warned his people to turn back to God rather than continue down their destructive path. 2700 years ago Isaiah also pointed towards the Messiah who would be born of a virgin in Bethlehem and who would come and suffer for humanity.
- 2600 years ago, Jeremiah warned his people as well, and he pointed towards a new covenant initiated by the Messiah who would be from the line of David. No one listened and so Jerusalem was destroyed and many of the people of Israel were taken from their homes to live in Babylon. Even still, they were called to pray for and help prosper their new city and reminded that God had good plans for their future.
- 2500 years ago, Daniel lived counter-culturally and miraculously survived and even prospered. He had dreams and visions that pointed towards the Son of Man, the Messiah and even indicated the timeframe the Messiah would arrive. Remarkably he was correct.
We have scientific proof through radio carbon dating that these prophets prophesied accurately about the Messiah before He walked among us.
Paving the Way for God
These were Outlaw prophets paving a road… making a way… clearing a path for God to come…
For God to intersect time and human history, both of which He created… And come to humans in the flesh, as a human with flesh, to make a way to redeem the world, bring humanity back in to full relationship with him. The road we were always meant to travel on.
Today we will look at the final preparations for God to come.
And this was all foretold…
Let’s take a quick, Cliff Notes, peak at some of it:
Isaiah, who we talked about three weeks ago, said humanity would know that Messiah had arrived when the final Outlaw made the final preparations…
A voice of one calling: “In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. – Isaiah 40:3
YES!! Make way for the coming of the Lord right through the desert of our lives and make it flat as a freeway please – with no speed limit if possible. And that’s what God does… no speed limits.
- And sometimes it seems that things are moving way too fast (Israel faced crisis after crisis which required trusting God in a deeper way when things happened they had not expected – maybe you can relate)
- And other times it’s way too slow like the way Israel wandered in the desert on the way to the Promised Land for 40 years – maybe you can relate).
So we pull over, and when we do, we can get comfortable in our spot on the side of the road… Just like Israel did so often.
And we start laying down roots on our side of the road in a way we were never intended to…
And, then maybe we start looking across the road (where the grass always looks greener) and we forget about the actual road that was made for us and so we miss opportunities to get back on the road and moving on down it in the way we were created to.
Let’s just be honest, why do people get off the road?
To go their own way…
So God is willing to give humanity it’s way. When we read the Scriptures, we have to see each story as a case study from which we can learn. We discover God’s loving character, and see ourselves in the rebellion, pride, or brokenness of the people in these stories.
What we discover is that God is so kind, so patient, and so loving that often He gives us what we want – even if it not what He would want for us.
He will give you your way.
If people don’t want to hear from God, he doesn’t force it.
So, at one point, in the midst of all this “paving the way” in the times of Old Testament Outlaw prophets, God foretells that there will be a “famine of His word“ through the outlaw prophet named Amos… Construction on the road will stop for some 400 years.
“The days are coming,” declares the Sovereign Lord, “when I will send a famine through the land – not a famine of food or a thirst for water, but a famine of hearing the words of the Lord. – Amos 8:11
And so it happened that for 400 years there were no prophets and no books of the Hebrew Bible written (a famine of God’s word, a work stoppage on the road construction).
A prophet named Malachi would become the last of the Outlaws that the people would hear from before 400 years of drought that stops the construction of the paved road.
Malachi, like many of the other prophets was warning the people of Israel that going against God’s ways can be destructive.
Doing so hurts us and hurts others.
So the letter begins with the people of Israel asking:
“God, why don’t you love us?! Things are bad for us!”
Malachi reminds them:
“God warned you about this! God does love you and that’s why He kept warning you! You thought He was just mad but in reality, these are the natural consequences for your chosen actions.”
Malachi then reminds them of how they had refused to do the right thing.
- They refused to take care of their responsibilities at the Temple.
- They were unfaithful to God and even spoke out against following God.
- They were unfaithful to the wives of their youth.
- They stopped giving to God through the local storehouse as He had directed.
Even still God promises “Return to me, and I will return to you” – Malachi 3:7.
God describes their way back is to ask for forgiveness and do the right thing: to renew their commitment to God, to their faith community, to their families and He even promises that if they start giving again then He will overwhelm them with blessing.
“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the Lord Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”
Malachi 3:10 NIV
And in the middle of all of this is a promise that will affect all of humanity! God didn’t just promise to restore them in that moment, He promised a new covenant – a paved road from Him to us. He promised a way out of the desert.
He promises and foretells of the next and final Outlaw prophet to come, who will resume the construction and reveal the long promised Messiah.
“I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me. Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come,” says the Lord Almighty. – Malachi 3:1
These are the last promises to the people for 400 years. When people don’t want to hear from God, He gives them what they want, but as soon as we, as humans, turn back, He longs to come and lead and guide us, on the road again. He has made a way and paved a road.
Maybe that is where you are on your journey.
You have not been seeking God, and you have wandered from where you used to be.
Will you Turn Back and let God lead and guide you?
John the Baptist
And sure enough, 400 years later, the Mother of Outlaw prophets does resume construction, paving the path for the Son of God… John the Baptist, and wow, does he resume the paving of the way.
In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea2 and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” 3 This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.’ 4 John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. 5 People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. – Matthew 3:1-4
Of course they did… That’s something you have to see, right?
Picture the scene on the beach after 400 years of silence!
22 Finally they said, “Who are you? Give us an answer to take back to those who sent us. What do you say about yourself?”
23 John replied in the words of Isaiah the prophet, “I am the voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way for the Lord.’”
24 Now the Pharisees who had been sent 25 questioned him, “Why then do you baptize if you are not the Messiah, nor Elijah, nor the Prophet?”
26 “I baptize with water,” John replied, “but among you stands one you do not know. 27 He is the one who comes after me, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie.”
28 This all happened at Bethany on the other side of the Jordan, where John was baptizing.
29 The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him and said, “Look, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! 30 This is the one I meant when I said, ‘A man who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’ – John 1:22-29
And then and there the Outlaw Prophets have paved their portion of the road… Jesus, Emanuel… God with us.
And what does he, Jesus, get busy doing? He gets busy finishing the road project. Making a way for us to experience true life, the life we were made for.
Listen to what He says of it in one of His most famous messages:
13 “Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it. 14 But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life, and only a few find it. – Matthew 7:13-14
Surely here, Jesus speaks of eternal destiny as well as material and physical experiences on earth as it is in heaven. That is His custom. And, of course, part of it is sheer numbers, and I would have needed better odds, I’ll tell you that. But God’s economy is different.
Letting Jesus Take the Wheel
That’s what makes Jesus so much better than me… And that’s what makes Jesus so much better a driver for me than I am for me. He’s a better driver than me and He’s a better driver than you, not just a better navigator. He knows the road because He is the author and the finisher of it.
Maybe you’re here today and you’ve never found your way to this “narrow road” and you’ve never dreamt of letting Jesus drive you on it. I pray today that you consider it, maybe for the first time.
But maybe you’re here today, like me, and you’ve found the way to the narrow road, but like the Israelites before us, there are circumstances and neon signs on the side of the road that war within you and tempt you to get off the track.
First, you ask Jesus to stop driving… Stay in the car you know, maybe the back seat is best for you now, Jesus, but I’ll take the wheel. If this conjures up images of a Carrie Underwood song for you, well, whatever it takes to paint a good word picture.
So with Jesus in the car, put not at the wheel, it gets exponentially easier to take an exit and get off course… Sometimes again and again.
On the left side of the road, where fear is currency.
Or the right side of the road, where your past haunts you.
From one of the great books of Wisdom in the Scriptures, we find this counsel:
Trust God from the bottom of your heart; don’t try to figure out everything on your own. Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track. – Proverbs 3:5-6 (MSG)
There is a road with a seasoned driver on the track, ready at the wheel, who “will not let you go” (song title) Because, truly, none of this is, or has ever been, in your control.
Maybe today is your day…
- To get on the narrow road for the first time ever. To leave your fear on the left side…
- To leave the pains of your past on the right.
- To trust God with your life in order that you could find new life…
- I pray it is so. It is the season of resurrection, after all.