Helen the Trail Builder
Shortly after Renae and I got married a long time ago, her mom, Helen Hara, was awarded a Certificate of Appreciation from the US Forest Service for her many hours of service with the San Gabriel Valley Trailbuilders organization. She was a part of Trailbuilders for many years helping construct and maintain hiking trails in the San Gabriel mountains. She used to spend many days and hours clearing rocks and brush, carving trails in hillsides, helping with bridges and passes, and smoothing the ground. Sometimes when my family and I go on a hike, I think about my mother-in-law and the work she did all those years to prepare these trails for us, and other hikers and bikers to enjoy.
Today, in our Harvesters’ bible study, we looked at the work of John the Baptist in preparing the way for the Lord. Luke 3:4-6 says: “As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet: “A voice of one calling in the wilderness, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him. Every valley shall be filled in, every mountain and hill made low. The crooked roads shall become straight, the rough ways smooth. And all people will see God’s salvation.’” This was Isaiah’s prophecy of John the Baptist as the forerunner for Jesus. Thinking of the role of forerunner, Albert Barnes, in his commentary on Isaiah written in 1851, says this: The idea is taken from the practice of Eastern monarchs, who, whenever they entered on a journey or an expedition, especially through a barren and unfrequented or inhospitable country, sent forerunners or heralds before them to prepare the way. To do this, it was necessary for them to provide supplies, and make bridges, or find fording places over the streams; to level hills, and construct causeways over valleys, or fill them up; and to make a way through the forest which might lie in their intended path.
John the Baptist came preaching a message of repentance that Jesus the Messiah would build upon by proclaiming God’s holiness, forgiveness, and blessing. He was a herald and forerunner of God’s message of hope and salvation. Like John, those who went before, to mark and improve routes, were the forerunners. They did the work to prepare the way for the king or ruler to come but also to benefit the other people that came after. As a trail builder, that’s how I think of Helen, my mother-in-law, blessing many of us that use the trails today. John the Baptist paved the way for our Lord Jesus Christ, that we might learn to repent of our sins, ask for God’s forgiveness, and change our ways. Thank God for our forerunners!