Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel account of the life and ministry of Jesus Christ as written and recorded by the beloved physician Luke. More specifically, today’s passage is found in the first twenty verses of the third chapter. When you come to this particular passage of scripture you will find all the pomp and all the circumstance surrounding the dual births of the messiah and the messenger. When you come to this passage you will find the beloved physician like transitioning away from that which was written concerning the life of a young messiah who was not only circumcised, not only brought to the temple where He was dedicated, but also how his parents brought Him to Jerusalem each year to celebrate the feast. When the second chapter of the New Testament gospel of Luke ends it does so with the young Jesus Christ growing in wisdom and growing in grace with both people and the Lord. What’s actually quite interesting about the first two chapters of this book—before we even get into that which is found in the third chapter—is how each of the first two chapters end. If you turn and direct your attention back to that which is found in the final verse of the first chapter you will find John the Baptist entering into the desert where he would remain until the day of his appearing and showing unto Israel. What’s more, is that concerning John the Baptist you will find it written that he grew in wisdom and grace with both God and people, and how he would continue to grow up into the man he was called and created to be. As you come to the final verse of the second chapter you will find it written concerning Jesus how after He left Jerusalem with Mary and Joseph he returned home to Nazareth with them and submitted himself unto them. What’s more, is that you will find it written how Jesus Himself continues to grow into the man He was sent to be, as well as continued to grow in wisdom and grace with both God and people. When both the first and second chapters come to a close they do so by presenting us with two distinct pictures concerning the messenger and the messiah—namely, how they both began to grow and would ultimately grow into the men they were called and sent to be before the living God within and upon the earth.
I am convinced that in order to truly understand and get a proper picture of what is written and found in the third chapter of the New Testament gospel of Luke it is absolutely necessary and imperative that we first acknowledge and consider the fact that both Jesus and John would begin to grow and would grow up into the men they were called and sent to be. I absolutely love that which is written at the end of the first two chapters of this New Testament gospel, for what we find in these two chapters is a wonderful and powerful picture concerning the messiah and the messenger, and how both the messiah and the messenger would grow together—one in the desert away from the influences of men, and the other in Nazareth where he would submit Himself unto His earthly parents. How absolutely wonderful and incredible it is to think about and consider the fact that at one point in time both the messiah and the messenger would grow in the wombs of their mothers together, and that picture would ultimately translate into them each growing into the men they were called and sent to be in two different and two distinct places. It is absolutely intriguing and captivating to think about and consider how the Lord causes and allowed these two men to grow, for He allowed the first to grow through solitude and seclusion while he allowed the second to grow in submission to the authorities that were placed above Him for a season. It is absolutely imperative that we pay close attention to this particular reality, for through it we encounter a tremendous prophetic word concerning us in this generation and the growth that takes place within our own lives. I am convinced that there are many who would like to jump straight to John the Baptist appearing in the country of Judaea after the word of the Lord came to him in the desert, however, I am convinced that we miss out on a wonderful and powerful work the Lord desires to do in and through us in the process He uses to bring about our growth. There would be many who would think about and consider Jesus the Christ coming to the Jordan river, being baptized or John, coming out of the waters after hearing the voice from Him and the Spirit descending upon Him, and even His appearing unto Israel and Judaea, however, I am convinced that we dare not miss and lose sight of the process of growth that was absolutely necessary within the lives of each of these men. When we speak of the messenger and the messiah we must recognize and understand what while it is true they both grew, and while it was true that they both grew into the men they were called and sent to be, there was a work and process which needed to take place during that process.
Concerning this concept of growth I feel it absolutely necessary to call and bring our attention to the words which the apostle Paul wrote when writing his epistle which was sent to the church and congregation of the Ephesians. If you begin reading with and from the first verse of the fourth chapter of this New Testament epistle you will find some truly incredible language written and penned by the apostle Paul concerning growth and the process of maturity within the life of the believer and disciple of Jesus Christ. I believe that for us to truly understand what is written and found in the final verses of the first and second chapters of the New Testament gospel of Luke, we must turn and direct our attention to the concept of growth, for without and apart from that which is written in the final verse of the first chapter, there would and there could be no room or space for what is found in the third chapter of the gospel. In the final verse of the first chapter of the New Testament gospel of Luke we find and read the following words which were written concerning John the Baptist after his father Zecharias’ tongue was loosed and he prophesied over who and what the child would become:
“And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his shewing unto Israel” (Luke 1:80).
Just prior to the words which are found in the eightieth verse of the first chapter we find Zecharias prophesying the following words concerning the life of John the Baptist and the type of man he would indeed become before the Lord and among men:
“And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways; to give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins, through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us, to give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:76-79).
What’s more, is that there are also the words which the angel Gabriel spoke unto Zecharias concerning the birth of this child, and the divine purpose of the living God upon the life of this child before God and among men within and upon the earth. Beginning with the eleventh verse of the first chapter of the New Testament gospel of Luke we find the following words which were spoken concerning the life of John the Baptist and the type of man he would be, as well as the type of ministry he would have before God and among men within and upon the earth. Consider if you will the words which the angel Gabriel spoke unto Zecharias while he was in the holy place in the Temple of the Lord before the altar of incense which was before the Lord:
“And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And when Zecharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zecharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth. For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb. And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, 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 the Lord” (Luke 1:11-17).
Within the first chapter of the New Testament gospel of Luke—not only do we find the words which the angel Gabriel spoke concerning the child which we be born unto he and his wife Elizabeth, but we also find the words which Zecharias himself prophesied concerning this child. It is absolutely astonishing and remarkable to think about and consider that before the child would even begin growing within the womb of Elizabeth he would have an angelic word spoken over and concerning his life, and before he would even begin growing in the desert before his showing unto Israel, he would have the prophetic word spoken over him by his own father Zecharias. We dare not miss and lose sight of this absolutely incredible and important reality, for there were two distinct words which were spoken over and spoken concerning this child. This isn’t even to mention the fact that before the angelic word of Gabriel was spoken concerning this child, and before the prophetic word spoken by his father was spoken over and concerning his life, there was an earlier prophetic word which was spoken by the Old Testament prophet Isaiah. If you turn and direct your attention to the fortieth chapter of the Old Testament prophetic book of Isaiah you will find the following words which were written concerning this child who would eventually and ultimately grow up into becoming the man the living God called and created him to be. If you begin reading with and from the first verse of the fortieth chapter of this Old Testament prophetic book you will find the following words which were spoken of by this ancient Hebrew prophet:
“Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins. The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the touch places plain: and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it. The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry? All flesh is grass, and all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field: the grass withereth, the flower fadeth: because the spirit of the Lord bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand forever” (Isaiah 40:1-8).
While it is true that there was the prophetic word of the ancient Hebrew prophet Isaiah was spoken over and concerning this child centuries before the angel Gabriel would even appear in the city of Jerusalem, and while it is true that the angel Gabriel delivered and brought forth a divine word from the throne of God in heaven concerning this child, and even though there was the prophetic word which was prophesied by the child’s on father after he had been born, we must come to terms with this incredible reality and concept of growth which needed to take place within the life of this child. I wrote earlier in this particular writing that both the Messiah and the Messenger grew together in the earth at the same time, however, the means and methods of these two lives growing were completely different from each other. In the eightieth verse of the first chapter of the New Testament gospel of Luke we find and read the following words: “And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his shewing unto Israel” (Luke 1:80. In the fortieth verse of the second chapter of the New Testament gospel of Luke we find the following words which were spoken concerning Jesus after He and His parents returned to Nazareth after His being dedicated at the Temple of the living God where both Zecharias and Anna saw him, worshipped the living God because of Him, and prophesied concerning Him. Consider the following words which were written by the beloved physician Luke concerning this young child after He and His parents returned to Nazareth after His dedication at the Temple: “And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him” (Luke 1:40). What’s more, is that while we must consider the words contained in the fortieth verse of the second chapter of this New Testament gospel, we must also consider what is written in verses fifty-one and fifty-two of the second chapter concerning the child. Consider if you will the following words which were written by the beloved physician Luke concerning Jesus the Christ after He and His parents once again returned to Nazareth after journeying to Jerusalem to celebrate the feast:
“And He went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart. And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:51-52).
When we talk and speak about John the Baptist and Jesus the Christ, our conversation regarding and concerning them must begin with the tremendous fact that they both would grow into the men they were called, created, separated, consecrated and set apart by the living God to be before Him and among men within and upon the earth. Luke writes of John the Baptist how he remained in the deserts until the day of his showing unto the children of Israel, while concerning Jesus the Christ Luke goes on to write how He went down with His parents to Nazareth and was subject unto them. It might also be said that Jesus went down to Nazareth and submitted Himself unto His parents, thus bringing us face to face with a truly remarkable concept concerning both Jesus Christ, as well as John the Baptist. I have already written how the Messenger would grow in solitude and seclusion, while concerning the Messiah, He would grow in subjection and submission. I am absolutely and completely convinced that we must pay close and careful attention to the words which are found in this passage of Scripture, for it brings us face to face with a prophetic word concerning our own lives—namely, how the Lord not only causes us to grow and mature, but also how He prepares us to become the men and the women He has called, created and separated us to be. Taking this a step further I feel it is necessary to call your attention to the words which were written in the fourth chapter of the New Testament epistle written by the apostle Paul unto the saints and believers in Ephesus. Beginning with the first verse of the fourth chapter we find the following words written by this beloved apostle:
“I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with long suffering, forbearing one another in love; endeavoring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men. (Now that he ascended, what is it but that he also descended is the same also that ascended up far above all heavens, that he might fill all things.) And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: that we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to decide; but speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: from whom the whole body filly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love” This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness to work all uncleanness with greediness. But ye have not so learned Christ; if so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: that ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and be renewed in the spirit of your mind; and that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness” (Ephesians 4:1-24).
The words which the apostle Paul writes unto the Ephesian saints in this particular epistle must be carefully understood when we seek to have a discussion and conversation concerning John the Baptist—and even Jesus Christ Himself—for as much as the third chapter opens up with a description concerning the life and ministry of John the Baptist, it is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand how the Lord caused both John the Baptist and Jesus the Christ to grow up into the man they were both called to be, and they even grow up in sync and harmony with each other, however, the means and method whereby these two grew into the men they were called and consecrated to be would be different from the other. Whereas John the Baptist was hidden and concealed in the desert until the day of his showing unto the children of Israel, thus growing in solitude and seclusion, Jesus the Christ would grow in the town of Nazareth in subjection and in submission to Mary and Joseph. Please pay close and careful attention to these words and this reality, for when we think about and consider our own growth into who and what we have been called and consecrated to be, we must recognize and understand the necessity of solitude and seclusion as part of the process of growth, and even the necessity of submission and subjection within our hearts and lives. We dare not miss and lose sight of the fact that when we think about and speak concerning the reality of growth within our lives, we cannot speak of it without also speaking of the necessity of submission and subjection, as well as solitude and seclusion. In fact, I am convinced that there are those whom the Lord prepares in solitude and seclusion alone, there are those whom the Lord prepares through submission and subjection, but there are others whom the Lord uses both submission and solitude in order to prepare such individuals to be fit for His service in the kingdom of heaven. There are those among us who need to come to terms with the fact that the living God and the Spirit of Almighty God prepares us through such means as submission and solitude. If you take the time to study the entirety of Scripture you will come face to face with the fact that the Spirit of the living God prepares the servants of the living God through submission and solitude—through time in the desert alone before the living God, as well as through the presence of submission to others before and around us. You can look at the life of Moses and will clearly see how the Lord prepared him for that which was before him by spending forty years in the backside of a desert. You can look at David and see how the Lord prepared him within the wilderness and forests of Judah while evading being captured and killed by a murderous king. You will find how the prophet Elijah was prepared by the Lord by the river Cherith where the Lord fed him by ravens who brought him meat, as well as with the water of the stream. You will even find how the apostle Paul was prepared by the living God by spending three years in the wilderness where he was alone with Jesus the Christ and with the Spirit of the living God.
It would be very easy simply to speak concerning the preparation of the Lord through submission and solitude alone, and to even mention the lives of those individuals who I just named. It would be incredibly easy to think about and consider the fact that such individuals would spend a considerable amount of time—always prescribed by the living God Himself—in the wilderness and desert in order that they might be ready and prepared to step into and fulfill that which the living God called and consecrated them for. With that being said, I am convinced that in order to understand this concept of preparation even more, it is absolutely necessary that we understand how the living God prepares us for the role, the work, and the ministry He has called us to through our interaction with others, and through the relationships we have with others. We cannot and must not miss and lose sight of this tremendous fact, for to do so would be to miss out on the work the Lord desires for us to do. I believe with all my heart that the words which the apostle Paul wrote and spoke unto the Philippian congregation, and the words which the apostle Paul wrote unto the Roman congregation must be carefully considered and understood if we wish to understand how the Lord prepares and makes ready His servants for that which He has called them to. Consider if you will the words which the apostle Paul wrote in two of his epistles—first in the epistle which was written unto the Roman church, and second to the Philippian church:
“Let love by without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another; not slothful in business; fervent in spirit; serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope; patient in tribulation; continuing instant in prayer; distributing to the necessity of saints; given to hospitality. Bless them which persecute yhou: bless, and curse not. Rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep. Be of the same mind one toward another. Mind not high things, but condescend to men of low estate. Be not wise in your own conceits. Recompense to no man evil for evil. Provide things honest in the sight of all men. If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men. Dearly beloved, avenge not yourselves, but rather give place unto wrath: for it is written, Vengeance is mine; I will repay, saith the Lord. Therefore if thine enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst, give him drink: for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head. Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:9-21).
“If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comforts of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, fulfill ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one according, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought in not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling. For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of His good pleasure. Do all things without murmurings and disputing: that ye may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke, in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom ye shine as lights in the world; holding forth the word of life; that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I have not run in vain, neither laboured in vain” (Philippians 2:1-16).
There is not a doubt in my mind that the living God makes ready and prepares His finest servants and His finest soldiers through solitude and submission, through seclusion and subjection, however, I am also convinced that the living God prepares us through our relationships with others. In fact, I am convinced that one of the greatest means and methods whereby the Lord prepares His faithful servants and soldiers is through the various relationships they have with others. As it pertained to John the Baptist we find the Lord preparing Him through seclusion and solitude, as he would remain in the desert until the time of his showing unto the children of Israel. Concerning Jesus the Christ we find Him being prepared by the living God—first by submitting Himself unto His parents in the town of Nazareth, but also through spending forty days and forty nights in the wilderness where He would be tempted of the devil. In all reality—both Jesus the Messiah and John the Baptist the Messenger would be prepared and made ready by the Spirit of the living God by spending time in the desert and the wilderness, and in the case of John the baptist we find that it was while he was in the wilderness that the word of God came unto him. The third chapter of the New Testament gospel of Luke presents us with words concerning the social and political climate during the days in which John the Baptist and Jesus the Christ would grow, for Luke writes: “Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea, and Herod being terrace of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the terrace of Abilene, Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zecharias in the wilderness. And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins” (Luke 3:1-3). Please don’t miss one very specific detail within this passage of Scripture—namely, that first the word of God came unto John in the wilderness, and then came John into all the country of about Jordan. FIRST THE WORD OF GOD COMES, THEN THE MESSENGER COMES! It is absolutely necessary that we pay close and careful attention to this particular reality, for there would be many who would seek to come without and apart from the word of God first coming and appearing unto them. There would be countless men and women who think and believe that they have been released to come into the places before and around them, and yet they do so prior to, without and apart from the word of God first coming and appearing unto them. What I absolutely love about this passage of Scripture is that we first find the word of God coming unto John the wilderness—in the place of solitude and seclusion—and then we find John the Baptist coming into all the country round about the Jordan.
Please don’t miss and lose sight of this awesome and incredible reality, for we dare not, we cannot, we must not, we should not make any attempt to come before the word of God has first come and been revealed, and before the word of God has first thrust us forth from the desert. There is not a doubt in my mind that it is the word of God which releases us to engage ourselves in that which we have been called, that which we have been consecrated, and that which we have been separated by the living God to do. Despite our best efforts and our best intentions—until and unless the word of God appears unto us and thereby releases us to go forth and step into that which the living God has called us, we dare not and must not make any attempt to step into that which the living God has called us to do. There would be those among us who would think and believe that they can step forth into that which the Lord has indeed and has in fact called them to, however, to do so would be to put at risk the word and the work. I am completely and utterly convinced that there are men and women who have put both the word and the work at risk, and have put both in jeopardy by attempting to go before they have been released, and before the word of God has released them to step into that which they have been called to do. I leave you with the words which the prophet Jeremiah prophesied and spoke in the twenty-third chapter of the prophetic book which bears his name beginning with the ninth verse:
“Mine heart within me is broken because of the prophets; all my bones shake; I am like a drunken man, and like a man whom wine hath overcome, because of the Lord, and because of the words of his holiness. For the land is full of adulterers; for because of searing the land mourneth; the pleasant places of the wilderness are dried up, and their course is evil, and their force is not right. For both prophet and priest are profane; yea, in my house have I found their wickedness, saith the Lord. Wherefore their way shall be unto them as slippery ways in the darkness: they shall be driven on, and fall therein: for I will bring evil upon them, even the year of their visitation, saith the Lord. And I have seen folly in the prophets of Samaria; they prophesied in Baal, and caused my people Israel to err. I have seen also in the prophets of Jerusalem an horrible thing: they commit adultery, and walk in lies: they strengthen also the hands of evildoers, that none doth return from his wilderness; they are all of them unto me as Sodom, and the inhabitants thereof as Gomorrah. Therefore thus saith the Lord of hosts concerning the prophets; Behold, I will feed them with wormwood, and make them drink the water of gall: for from the prophets of Jerusalem is profaneness gone forth into all the land. Thus saith the Lord of hosts, Hearken not unto the words of the prophets that prophesy unto you: they make you vain: they speak a vision of their own heart, and not out of the mouth of the Lord. They say still unto them that despise me, The Lord hath said, Ye shall have peace; and they say unto every one that walkathons after the imagination of his own heart, NO evil shall come upon you. For who hath stood in the counsel of the Lord, and hath perceived and heard his word? Who hath marked his word, and heard it? Behold, a whirlwind: it shall fall grievously upon the head of the wicked. The anger of the LORd shall not return, until he have executed, and till he have performed the thoughts of his heart: in the latter days ye shall consider it perfectly. I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran: I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied. But if they had stood in my counsel, and had caused my people to hear my words, then they should have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their doings. Am I God at hand, saith the Lord, and not a God afar off? Can any hide himself in secret places that I shall not see him? Saith the Lord. Do not I fill heaven and earth? Saith the Lord. I have heard what the prophets said, that prophesy lies in my name, saying, I have dreamed, I have dreamed. How long shall this be in the heart of the prophets that prophesy lies? Yea, they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart; which think to cause my people to forget my name by their dreams which they tell every man to his neighbor, as their fathers have forgotten my name for Baal. The prophet that hath a dream, let him tell a dream; and he that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat? Saith the Lord. Is not my word like as a fire? Saith the Lord; and like a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces? Therefore, behold, I am against the prophets, saith the Lord, that steal my words every one from his neighbor. Behold, I am against the prophets, saith the Lord, that use their tongues, and say, He saith. Behold, I am against them that prophesy false dreams, saith the Lord, and do tell them, and cause my people to err by their lies, and by their lightness; yet I sent them not, nor commanded them: therefore they shall not profit this people at all saith the Lord” (Jeremiah 23:9-32).