Isaiah 40:3 – Malachi 3:1 – The Sent Messenger and His Message

The voice of one who cries, Prepare [[Hebrew, a form of the verb transliterated as “panah”, meaning “to turn” — Strong’s #6437] you [plural] in the wilderness the way [Hebrew, a form of the word transliterated as “derek”, figurative of “moral character”] of [on behalf of, toward] Yahweh; make level [Hebrew, a form of the word Yahshar, make straight, in effect, justify] in the desert a highway for [or, to] our God. — Isaiah 40:3, World English

“Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare [Hebrew, a form of the verb transliterated as “panah”, meaning “to turn” — Strong’s #6437] the way* before [in the face of] me; and the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, behold, he comes!” says Yahweh of hosts. — Malachi 3:1, World English

The two prophecies above speak of John the Baptist and his work. Many, in seeing the application of John the Baptist as being the forerunner of Jesus, have thought that these scriptures offer proof that Jesus is Yahweh. This idea, however, is due, in part, to a misreading of what these scriptures are actually saying. We will consider the scriptures in the NT that apply the above two scriptures to John the Baptist and his work.

In Malachi 3, two messengers are referred to. The first is the messenger who turns the way toward Yahweh, and then there is the other messenger, spoken of as the “messenger of the covenant. The Hebrew translated “messenger” in both instances is malak, angel. Neither of these are of the order of spirit beings that are normally referred to as “angels”, but both are messengers for Yahweh. The Hebrew word translated “way” [Strong’s #1870] is a form of the word often transliterated a derek, meaning:

way, road, distance, journey, manner
road, way, path
journey
direction
manner, habit, way
of course of life (fig.)
of moral character (fig.)
http://www.biblestudytools.com/lexicons/hebrew/nas/derek.html

Yahweh, through the prophet Malachi, was foretelling that the work that was being assigned to John the Baptist was to turn the moral character of the people before the face of Yahweh. This John the Baptizer did by preaching to the people of Israel the message of repentance toward Yahweh, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God who sent and raised Jesus up as his prophet, the God and Father of Jesus. (Exodus 3:14,15; Deuteronomy 18:15-20; Isaiah 61:1; Mark 1:4; Acts 3:13-26; 13:24; 19:4; Ephesians 1:3) Although John’s preaching of repentance was based on the sacrifice (Romans 3:25; 5:12-19; 8:3; Hebrews 9:28; 10:10; 1 Peter 3:18) of the one who was coming after him, John was not preaching that the people should repent toward Jesus, but he was preaching, as did the disciples, “repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Acts 20:21) The preparing, or turning, of the way before the face of Yahweh, was actually toward the God of Jesus, not toward Jesus himself.

The Lord (adon) whom Israel was seeking was the Messiah, who came suddenly to his temple. He came unexpectedly to test and prove Israel as a people, and as such he came to the temple in Jerusalem, but more specifically, Jesus came to his temple, his church, which has been given to him by his God. — Ephesians 2:20-22; John 6:37,39; 10:29.

In Isaiah 40:3, we find that John is being foretold as the voice in the wilderness. John is not depicting, himself, as preparing the way, as many have falsely assumed; he is the one declaring to the people to prepare the way; this he did by his preaching to the people repentance toward Yahweh, by which, through faith, the way of the people were being made straight,  justified, before Yahweh.

Matthew 3:1-3

In those days, John the Baptizer came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!” For this is he who was spoken of by Isaiah the prophet, saying, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make ready [form of Greek, transliterated, Hetoimazos (Strong’s #2090), corresponding with Hebrew Strong’s #6457, to turn, as to change one’s course in life, repent] the way [Greek course of conduct] of [before] Yahweh, Make his paths straight.” — Holy Name supplied.

Matthew 3:3
houtos gar estin ho rheetheis dia eesaiou tou
THIS FOR IS THE (ONE) SPOKEN OF THROUGH ISAIAH THE
3778 1063 1510_2 3588 2064_5 1223 2268 3588
propheetou legontos phwnee bowntos en tee
PROPHET SAYING VOICE OF ONE CRYING OUT IN THE
4396 3004 5456 0994 1722 3588
ereemw hetoimasate teen hodon kuriou eutheias
WILDERNESS MAKE YOU READY THE WAY OF LORD, STRAIGHT
2048 2090 3588 3598 2962 2117
poieite tas tribous autou
BE MAKING THE ROADS OF HIM.
4160 3588 5147 0846_3

Like most quotations of the Old Testament in the New Testament, this is not a direct quote of Isaiah 40:3, but an indirect quote. The phrase “in the wilderness” is removed from the command to the people and applied directly to the “one” who is delivering the message to the people .

It should be clear here that the one crying in the wilderness is John the Baptizer. He, in effect, tells the people: “Make ready the way of Yahweh, Make his paths [more literally, paths of him”] straight.” The method by which John the Baptist tells the people this message is by his preaching to the people: “Repent, for the Kingdom of the Heaven is at hand!” (Matthew 3:1-3; see also Acts 20:21, which shows that repentance is toward God.) In other words, ‘The Royal Majesty from heaven is at hand!’ Neither Yahweh’s paths, nor Jesus’ paths, needed to be make straight, since both are without sin. It is the paths of the sinful people, the people of Israel, who belong to Yahweh, that needed to be made straight, and, thus, the method in which the people make ready [turned] the ways [figurative of moral character] of Yahweh, and make his ways straight is through repentance toward Yahweh, being made straight, just, through faith, in preparation for the one coming in Yahweh’s name, the one who spoke for Yahweh, the one appointed as King by Yahweh. — Deuteronomy 18:15-19; Psalm 2:2,6; 45:6,7; 110:1,2; Isaiah 9:6,7; 61:1; Daniel 7:13,14; Matthew 21:9; 23:39; 28:18; Luke 24:19; John 4:25; 5:43; 8:28; 10:25; 12:49,50; Acts 2:34-36; 3:17-26; 5:30,31; Ephesians 1:22; Philippians 2:9-11; Hebrews 1:2,9; 3:1,2.

Some often refer to the verse in Isaiah 40:3 as though the message to prepare the way was actually addressed to John the Baptist, rather than being the words addressed to the people. Thus, some would read the prophecy as an address to John the Baptist to prepare the way of Yahweh, who they claim to be Jesus. As a result that misread the prophecy as saying that John the Baptist, himself, was to prepared the way for Jesus, and then claim that that what they have misread means that Jesus is Jehovah. In reality, in Isaiah, the messenger [John] directs the message to the people of Israel. (Isaiah 40:3, Malachi 3:1 — see also Genesis 18:19; Proverbs 10:29; Jeremiah 5:4,5) The command given to prepare the way is not to one person, as John the Baptist, but the Hebrew is in the plural, not singular. Thus in Matthew 3, the “one” before foretold is John the Baptist, who is the one in the wilderness who declares a message to the people: “Prepare the way before Yahweh”, which was a message to the people of repentance toward Yahweh.

Of course, Jesus is the representative of Yahweh, and John did come before Jesus, and did, by means of preaching repentance toward Yahweh, prepare the people to receive Jesus, not as Yahweh the Almighty, but the Anointed One of Yahweh the Almighty, the one whom Yahweh. sent to speak his words in his name. Jesus did not come in his own name; Jesus came in the name of another who is not himself, that is, he came in the name of his God, whose name is Yahweh (Jehovah). — Deuteronomy 18:15-20; Psalm 118:26;Isaiah 61:1; Luke 1:32; 13:35; John 3:16,17; 5:43; 17:1,3; Acts 3:13-26; Hebrews 1:1,2.

Thus, a secondary way of viewing the words of Matthew 1:1-3 is that by telling the people to prepare the way of Yahweh by means of repentance toward Yahweh, a way was also being prepared for Jesus, the representative of Yahweh. It could be said that John, in making the way, so to speak, for Jesus, was also preparing the way for the one who sent Jesus. The Messiah was sent by Yahweh as the representative of Yahweh. Those who received him received Yahweh also, just as any who receives a true disciple of Christ, also receives Christ. — Matthew 21:9; 23:39; Mark 9:37; Luke 2:26; 9:20,48; John 3:17; 4:34; 5:24,30,36-38; 6:29,38-44,57; 7:16,18,28,29,33; 8:16,26,29,42; 9:4; 10:36; 11:42; 12:44-49; 13:20; 17:1,3; Hebrews 1:9.

Regardless, one would have to read into the verses that Matthew meant to say Jesus is Yahweh, which would mean that Jesus did indeed ome in his own name, and that John must have erred in recording Jesus’ words of John 5:43. One would have to imagine even more so that anything written in these verses denotes anything about a triune God, which “God” is not once ever mentioned in the Bible.

Matthew 11:9,10

But why did you go out? To see a prophet? Yes, I tell you, and much more than a prophet. For this is he, of whom it is written, ‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face, who will prepare your way before [in the sight of] you.’


Matthew 11:10
houtos estin peri hou gegraptai idou egw
THIS (ONE) IS ABOUT WHOM IT HAS BEEN WRITTEN LOOK! I
3778 1510_2 4012 3739 1125 2400 1473
apostellw ton aggelon mou pro proswpou sou
AM SENDING OFF THE MESSENGER OF ME BEFORE FACE OF YOU,
0649 3588 0032 1473_2 4253 4383 4771_1
hos kataskeuasei teen hodon sou emprosthen sou
WHO WILL PREPARE THE WAY OF YOU IN FRONT OF YOU.
3739 2680 3588 3598 4771_1 1715 4771_1

Jesus quotes indirectly from Malachi 3:1 . Jesus is speaking to the multitudes of Jews concerning John the Baptist, that John was more than just an ordinary prophet. The wording replaces the “me” as found in Malachi 3:1 with “you”: in relation to the prophecy, the messenger sent is John the Baptist. His message was to the people that they prepare the way before the face of Jehovah; the wording turns it around and seems to speak of the way before the people of Israel. The “I” is Jehovah himself speaking prophetically, and the messenger is John the Baptist. John was to deliver to the people of Israel a message that they were to prepare the way before (in the face) of Jehovah. I cannot be certain as to why Jesus changed the “me” to “you”, but it is possible he did so because, in application, it is the people whose way was in need of repentance, and thus John preached that they should repent before God. Acts 20:21 shows that such repentance is toward God, not Jesus. It appears that Jesus turned the prophecy around and is using the word “you” to mean the people of Israel, that John the Baptist was sent by God to prepare the way of Israel before their own face, which emphasized the need of repentance. Indeed, Jehovah himself did not need to have his way prepared through repentance, but it was the people of Israel who were in a sinful state and in need of repentance.

 

Mark 1:2-5

As it is written in the prophets, “Behold, I send my messenger before your face, Who will prepare your way before you. 3 The voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make ready the way of Yahweh! Make his paths straight!'” 4 John came baptizing in the wilderness and preaching the baptism of repentance for forgiveness of sins. 5 There went out to him all the country of Judea, and all those of Jerusalem. They were baptized by him in the Jordan river, confessing their sins. — Divine name supplied.

Both prophecies are referred to here. Again, it is evident that Mark is making an indirect quotation and rewords the prophecies. Malachi 3:1 is quoted similarly to the same way is quoted in Matthew 11:9,10, which see above. Jesus is the representative of Yahweh, the messenger of the covenant, and also was sent by Yahweh. He is not Yahweh who sent him.

It was the through the repentance, or the transmentation, of the people that Isaiah 40:3 was being fulfilled. Verse two shows this, in that the messenger directs the message to the people of Israel, who needed to repent before Yahweh. And thereby the people, through their repentance toward God, did prepare the way of Yahweh by making themselves a prepared people before their Messiah (anointed of Yah) was made known to them. — Acts 20:21.

Please note that it is not only John, who is the messenger to the people, but more importantly the people who prepare the way of Yahweh by means of their repentance. John’s mission was pre-eminently that of a reprover and reformer, telling the people to prepare the way of Yahweh through repentance toward Yahweh symbolized through water baptism.

See Matthew 3:1-3 and Matthew 11:9,10 above.

Luke 1:1-4

Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Ituraea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, in the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John, the son of Zacharias, in the wilderness. He came into all the region around the Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance to remission of sins. As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make ready the way of Yahweh. Make his paths straight.”

This is also another indirect quote of Isaiah 40:3. See Matthew 3:1-3 above.

Luke 1:15-17

For he will be great in the sight of Yahweh, and he will drink no wine nor strong drink. He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. He will turn many of the children of Israel to Yahweh, their God. He will go before his face in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,’ and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for Yahweh.”

Here John is said to make ready a people for Yahweh. This he did by his preaching of repentance toward Yahweh.

See Matthew 3:1-3 above.

Luke 1:76,77

And you, child, will be called a prophet of the Most High, For you will go before the face of Yahweh to prepare [Hebrew in Malachi 4:1 is a form of the verb transliterated as Panah, meaning to turn] his ways, To give knowledge of salvation to his people by the remission of their sins.

It is often claimed that Jesus is referred to here as Yahweh (Jehovah). Actually, it is the God of Jesus that is spoken here as Yahweh, not Jesus. John preached to the people of Israel repentance toward God, and it was in this manner that John prepared, or turned the people, to the ways of Yahweh. See Matthew 3:1-3 above.

Luke 7:26,27

But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I tell you, and much more than a prophet. This is he of whom it is written, ‘Behold, I send my messenger before your face, Who will prepare your way before you.’

See Matthew 3:1-3 and Matthew 11:9,10 above.

John 1:23

He [John the Baptizer] said, “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of Yahweh,’ as Isaiah the prophet said.”

The same applies here as to the verses already discussed above.

The above examination shows that there is nothing in any of these verses that should lead us to believe that Jesus is Yahweh.

Some Related Writings – We do not necessarily agree with all conclusions presented by these authors.

“Waiting For Messiah”, Zion’s Watch Tower, December 1, 1911, page 443, Reprints page 4930
http://www.agsconsulting.com/htdbnon/r4930b.htm

“Messenger of Jehovah”, Zion’s Watch Tower, December 15, 1905, page 376, Reprints page 3683
http://www.agsconsulting.com/htdbnon/r3683.htm

“Christ’s Testimony of John”, Zion’s Watch Tower, November 1, 1908, page 368, Reprints page 1736
http://www.agsconsulting.com/htdbnon/r1736.htm

“Preparing the Way”, The Dawn – Herald of Christ’s Presence, February 2002
http://www.dawnbible.com/2002/0212ib29.htm

         
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