Mountains Made Low
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. Luke 3:4-6
As John the Baptist looked forward to the Messiah coming, he had clear vision that it meant that everyone was going to be welcome. Salvation was for all people, not just some.
One of the challenges then (and now) was that some people were too powerful to acknowledge their need for God, and a lot of times those people in power oppressed others. Those others would feel like they lived in 'the valley of the shadow of death.' John's vision has both kinds of people on level ground - those high up and those low down.
There's a historical and geographical piece to this image that everyone would have known about back then. There were a couple of very prominent mountains in the center of Israel. One was Mount Zion, on which Jerusalem was built - and the Temple with all of its power was at the top of that mountain. If Mount Zion represented religious power, another mountain represented political power - and it was the Herodium. Herod the Great literally built a mountain out in a field within eyesight of Jerusalem and made an enormous resort on top of it as well as a mighty fortress (see this picture). John is letting his hearers know that those who build their own political power and those who occupy the positions of power in religion are going to be brought low because the ground is level at the foot of the cross. Before God, the ground has always been level. So there's no room for judgment, for condescension, for racism (or any other -ism!) because the Savior came for each and every one of us.
Ponder these things and pray about yourself and our world in light of what God's saying to you.