And a highway will be there; it will be called the Way of Holiness; it will be for those who walk on that Way. The unclean will not journey on it; wicked fools will not go about on it. No lion will be there, nor any ravenous beast; they will not be found there. But only the redeemed will walk there, and those the Lord has rescued will return. They will enter Zion with singing; everlasting joy will crown their heads. Gladness and joy will overtake them, and sorrow and sighing will flee away. Isaiah 35:8-10
For many years my favorite vacation was to travel to San Francisco and hitch rides on the cable cars. I can still remember the smell they make when the cable operator would grip the underground cable and off we’d go! We would hop on and off at various famous stops and drink in the beautiful vistas of the bay. But did you know that unlike its counterparts, the trolleys, cable cars don’t have motors?
The San Francisco cable car system is made up of miles and miles of undergound cables which all intersect at the large cable car powerhouse. There you will find giant wheels operating the cables. Each cable car has a grip which clamps down on the moving cable. It’s the cable itself which moves each car. When a cable car needs to stop it releases the cable and applies its wheel brakes. Without the constantly moving cable, the cars are motionless.
I’m fascinated with how so many everyday activities in our lives reflect our relationship with God and His Holy promises. Without Him operating without ceasing, keeping our lives safely along His chosen path for us, we can so easily find ourselves stuck, a cable car without power.
A good friend of mine and I were out walking one day and we were discussing how easy it is to lose our grip of God’s promises. We get so distracted by the fears, anxieties and paths the world puts on us. The things we “should do” because the world expects it from us. But lately I’ve decided I need to be like the cable car operator – pulling back on that long lever and gripping the life-giving cable of God. And gripping it tightly.
As so many people know San Francisco is also famous for it’s steep hills. And the cable car operators find many challenges in navigating those hills. They need to know exactly when to grip at the right amount in order to make it up the hill or else they must release the cable and slide backwards to try it again. And on the downward slope they need to apply the right pressure on the cable while using their wheel brakes. Each operator must become an expert, not only about the cable car operation, but the individual pitfalls of each hill.
And like those operators, as Christians, we need to be as well versed on the character and promises of God. He promises to lay out a clear path for us. We need to place our full effort and attention on Him and that path. His path doesn’t remove us from the dangers of the hills and valleys, rather He helps us to weave our way up and around and down them.
I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one. They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. John 17:14-16
When we wrestle with God, at best, or at our worst completely ignore Him, we will find ourselves stuck at the bottom of our great hills. Or, plunging recklessly toward the bottom. The “highway is there” for us. It is the way of His righteousness.
A cable car operator who cannot successfully operate his car, and therefore protect his or her passengers, no longer has the privilege of that esteemed and famous job. And when we refuse to pay attention to the promised path which God provides for us and grip a hold of it, we miss out on the joy and gladness. The covenant of a promised path requires us to study His Word and hold fast to it.
In reading up about cable cars also discovered that all the miles of cable have a “sacrificial lubricant” that allows the grip to not wear down the cable itself. The lubricant wears away similar to a pencil eraser wearing down, rather than the paper it’s being used on. It’s that burning lubricant that gives the San Francisco cable cars it’s unique and memorable smell.
Jesus is our “sacrificial lubricant.” He ripped the curtain away and opened up our direct communication with God. He sent the Holy Spirit to walk with us at every moment. His teachings, when gripped, help us to live on the promised path set out for us.