Saying Goodbye to Comfort & Familiarity: Trading Convenience and Comfort For the Sake of Preparation

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 verses twenty-one through thirty-eight of the third chapter. When you come to this particular passage of Scripture you will find the beloved physician Luke transitioning away from that which he wrote concerning John the Baptist, and now directing his attention and focus to the Messiah. Within the first twenty verses of the third chapter of the New Testament gospel of Luke we find the author providing us with great detail concerning the emergence of John the Baptist—an emergence and manifestation that would take place only after the word of God came unto him in the desert. In order to understand the sequence of events which transpired within this passage of Scripture it is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize that the births of the Messiah and the Messenger were according to the divine will and plan of God, and that they came according to the word spoken by the angel Gabriel unto both Mary while in Nazareth, as well as Zecharias while serving in the ministry of the Temple in Jerusalem. Both the birth of the Messiah, as well as the birth of the Messenger came according to the prophetic words which were spoken in the midst of the Law and the prophets, were foretold by the angel Gabriel, and were both in accordance with the divine will, plan and purpose of the living God. Perhaps one of the most necessary facts we must recognize and understand when reading these passages is that everything that was done was in perfect accordance to the divine will, plan and purpose of the living God, and that everything centered upon that which was spoken—the spoken word(s) of the ancient Hebrew prophets, the spoken word of the angel Gabriel, etc. When we come to the manifestation, the emergence and appearance of John the Baptist we find it coming in accordance to the word of God which appeared unto him in the desert. As the third chapter of this New Testament gospel opens and begins, it does so with Luke writing concerning the social, political and religious climate during that time. Within the first two verses we are presented with who was Caesar in Rome, who was the Roman governor over Judaea, who the tetrarchs were during that time, as well as who the high priests are. Consider if you will the words which are written in the first two verses of this particular passage of Scripture:

“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 tetra has of Ituraea and of the region of Trachnoitis, and Lysanias the tetra has of Abilene, Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness” (Luke 3:1-2).

What is quite interesting concerning that which is found and contained within this opening passage of the third chapter is that some of the same names we find here were in essence synonymous with the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ, as well as within the life and ministry of John the Baptist. Of the names which are mentioned within this list we will most certainly recognize that of Caesar, that of Pontius Pilate, that of Herod Tetrault of Galilee, and even Caiaphas who was one of the high priests during those times. I am convinced that in order for us to truly understand the lives and ministries of the Messiah and the Messenger it is necessary for us to understand the authority and power which was in place during that time, for it would be directly beneath and directly under those authorities which the lives and ministries of these two men would emerge upon the scene like flashes of lightning which flash within the sky, and in some cases even strike the ground. When the word of God came unto John, it didn’t come unto him while he was serving after the order of his father Zecharias in the ministry of the Temple, nor while he was training in the school of the priests in order that he might follow in his father’s footsteps. Perhaps one of the most intriguing realities surrounding the Messiah and the Messenger is that for all intents and purposes each of these men should have followed in the footsteps of their earthly fathers. Of course we know that Zecharias was the natural and biological and natural father of John the Baptist, and that Joseph was the surrogate and earthly father of Jesus while He was upon the earth. If you study the Scripture you will find that Zecharias was a priest who served faithfully before the Lord in the ministry of the Temple. Within the four gospels written concerning the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ you will also find that Joseph—his earthly and surrogate father—was a carpenter by trade. In all reality, it would have been common for sons to follow in the footsteps of their fathers during those days, and for them to essentially take up the family business. As you study the New Testament gospel of Luke—as well as the other New Testament gospel accounts of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ—you will notice that neither Jesus, nor John the Baptist followed in the footsteps of their fathers. Of course we know that after Jesus left Jerusalem at the age of twelve with his parents, He went down with them, submitted unto them, and even learned the art of carpentry—undoubtedly taught Him by Joseph who had helped raise him until the appointed time of His appearing. There is not a doubt in my mind that for thirty years Jesus learned the practice of carpentry and undoubtedly helped Joseph in various projects which he made throughout and over the years.

If you read and study the accounts of both John the Baptist, as well as Jesus the Christ you will find that neither man followed in the footsteps of their earthly fathers. The accounts of both of these men reveals a completely different story than two men who followed in the footsteps of their fathers, and who essentially carried out the family business. When you come to the end of the first chapter of the New Testament gospel of Luke you will find the following words written concerning John the Baptist: “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). With these words we find that while it was true John the Baptist grew, and waxed strong in spirit, he didn’t spend his days, his weeks, and even his years in the city of Jerusalem, nor even in the hill country of Judaea with his parents Zecharias and Elizabeth. In fact, I am convinced that what we find and what we read of John the Baptist is kind of a similar story to that which we find and read in the Old Testament concerning the prophet Samuel. In the Old Testament book of First Samuel you will find that Hannah the wife of Elkanah was barren and unable to have and conceive children. Within the first and second chapters of this Old Testament book you will find Hannah being one of two wives to this man Elkanah, and how the other wife—Peninnah—bore and brought forth children from Elkanah. Within the account of Hannah, Elkanah and Peninnah you will find that while Elkanah loved Hannah, she was barren and unable to conceive and bring forth children. What’s more, is that as if it wasn’t enough that she was unable to conceive and bear children, Hannah was also sorely provoked by her adversary Peninnah, as she made her fret, because the Lord had shut up her womb. What’s worse, is that this provocation would take place year after year as Elkanah, Hannah and Peninnah would go up to the house of the Lord to worship before the Lord. Year after year Hannah would go to the house of the Lord to worship before the living God, and yet directly linked and directly connected to her worship of the living God was a provocation of her adversary. WORSHIP WITH PROVOCATION! WHEN PROVOCATION MEETS WORSHIP! I happen to find something quite interesting and remarkable within this passage—namely, that we often think that when we go unto the house of the Lord we are somehow exempt from provocation by our adversary and by our enemy. There are those who would think that when we gather together to appear before the Lord in His holy house to worship Him, we are somehow free and except from the provocation of our enemies and adversaries. There are those among who would think that we are somehow free from any type of assault or attack against and upon us simply because we are seeking to worship the true and living God. The truth of the matter is that the account of Hannah reveals a woman who was faithful in her worship of the Lord year after year, and that as certain and as faithful as her worship was, so also was her provocation. In all reality, it would almost seem that her worship of the Lord was directly linked and directly connected to her being provoked by her enemy and adversary.

As you study the account of Elkanah, Hannah and Peninnah, you will find that this man went up yearly to worship God at the house of the Lord which at that time was present within Shiloh. Scripture records and recounts how unto Peninnah and her children Elkanah gave portions, but unto Hannah he gave a worthy portion, for he loved her. In all reality, I would dare say that the main source and the main cause of Peninnah’s provocation of Hannah was that although she was able to conceive and bring forth children, Elkanah clearly loved Hannah. Perhaps it might even be worth it to say that Elkanah loved Hannah more dearly and more deeply than Peninnah—this despite the fact that Peninnah had borne him children. If there is one thing we must recognize and learn from this passage of Scripture it’s that more often than not in the absence of love there will most certainly be provocation. Time and time again history has proven and revealed that in the absence of love there will always be jealousy, there will always be envy, their will always be animosity, and there will also undoubtedly be hatred and malice. That which we find within this passage of Scripture is indeed a tremendous picture of the love which Elkanah had toward Hannah—a love which far surpassed and was far greater than the love which he had toward Peninnah. Scripture is very clear that not only did Elkanah love Hannah, but he also gave her a worthy portion when they went up yearly to the house of the Lord to worship Him in Shiloh. Despite the fact that Hannah was loved by Elkanah, despite the fact that she was given a worthy portion for her worship of the Lord, and despite the fact that she went up yearly to worship the Lord, her adversary sorely provoked her, and so much so to the point of weeping and fasting. Scripture makes it very clear that the provocation of Peninnah would be a great source of sorrow within the heart and soul of Hannah, for she would be given over to much weeping, and would not eat that which was given unto her. Oh what a tremendous picture is found within this passage of Scripture concerning the absence of love, and how in the absence of love there will most certainly be a jealousy and envy which may in most cases lead to provocation of the adversary. One of the realities which is found within the account of Hannah’s life is that not only is envy and jealousy a direct response to feeling unloved by one whose affection you seek, but also worship of the Lord does not guarantee that we will live our lives exempt and free from the provocation of our enemies and adversaries. The account of Hannah, Elkanah and Peninnah proves and reveals that in the absence of love and affection there will most certainly be envy, jealousy, malice, animosity, and in some cases, even hatred. What’s more, is that this account proves and demonstrates reveals that it is possible be faithful in our worship of the Lord, and yet the more we are faithful in our worship of the Lord, the more we find ourselves being provoked by our enemy and adversary.

If you continue reading the account of Hannah in the opening chapter of the Old Testament book of First Samuel you will find that one day after they had eaten and drank, she rose from her place and went unto the house of the Lord. It was there at the house of the L<Old—in bitterness of soul—she prayed unto the Lord and wept sore. It was there at the house of the Lord where Hannah vowed a vow unto the living God, and declared that if He would indeed look upon her affliction, and remember her, and not forget her, but would give unto her a son, she would give the child unto the Lord all the days of his life, and there would be no razor which would come upon his head. While at the house of the Lord Eli perceived that she was drunk and commanded her to put away the wine and strong drink from her lips—words which prompted to respond to Eli by declaring that she wasn’t drunk, but was a woman of sorrowful spirit who poured out her soul before the Lord. Hannah spoke and declared unto Eli that our of the abundance of her complaint and grief has she spoken fervently before and unto the Lord. Upon pouring out her heart before the Lord she went her way from the house of the Lord, and did eat, and her countenance was no more sad. Early the following morning Elkanah, Peninnah and Hannah worshipped before the Lord, and returned, and came to their house in Ramah. It was there in Ramah where Elkanah had sexual relations with Hannah, and the Lord remembered her and allowed her to conceive and bring forth a son. Scripture records how after Hannah had conceived and brought forth the child, she named him Samuel, saying, “Because I have asked him of the Lord.” What is so interesting about the conclusion of the first chapter of the Old Testament book of First Samuel is that when Elkanah and Peninnah went unto the house of the Lord to worship, Hannah remained behind until the child had been weaned. It would be after the child had been weaned that Hannah would bring forth the child unto the house of the Lord in Shiloh and would dedicate him there unto the Lord, and would commit him into the service of the Lord. Consider if you will how the first chapter of the Old Testament book of First Samuel concludes and comes to an end:

“So the woman abode, and gave her son suck until she weaned him. And when she had weaned him, she took him up with her, with three bullocks, and one Ethan of flour, and a bottle of wine, and brought him unto the house of the Lord in Shiloh: and the child was young. And they slew a bullock, and brought the child to Eli. And she said, Oh my lord, as thy soul liveth, my lord, I am the woman that stood by thee here, praying unto the Lord. For this child I prayed: and the Lord hath given me my petition which I asked of him: Therefore also I have lent him to the Lord: as long as he liveth he shall be lent to the Lord. And he worshipped the Lord there” (1 Samuel 1:23-28).

Now you might be wondering why on earth I would mention and include the account of Samuel and Hannah when writing and speaking concerning John the Baptist and Jesus the Christ. The reason I have chosen to include the words which were written concerning Samuel and Hannah is because I can’t help but wonder what it must have been like for Hannah to rise from her place in Ramah once Samuel had been weaned, and bring him unto the house of the Lord knowing that she had committed him to the Lord. I wonder what it was like as Hannah and the young child made their way to the house of the Lord, as Hannah knew that while she would journey to the house of the Lord with that which the Lord had given her, she would leave the house of the Lord leaving behind that which the Lord had given her. Oh, what a tremendous and powerful picture this truly is within our hearts and lives of those times we go unto the house of the Lord bringing with us that which the Lord has given unto us knowing—or perhaps not knowing—that what we have brought to the Lord which He has indeed given unto us, we would be leaving behind. In other words, while we would make the trip to the house of the Lord bringing with us that which the Lord has given us, we would leave behind at the house of the Lord and in the presence of the living God that which the Lord had given unto us. The journey which Hannah made with the young child Samuel must have been similar in nature—at least to some degree—to the journey which Abraham made with young Isaac as the Lord had commanded and instructed him to sacrifice his only son Isaac whom he loved before Him. Abraham journeyed to Moriah to sacrifice his only son Isaac before the Lord as a sacrifice, and Hannah would journey to Shiloh with young Samuel in order that she might leave him there at the house of the Lord where he would minister before the Lord all the days of his life. The reason I mention this is because I can’t help but wonder what it was like for Zecharias and Elizabeth when John left the hill country of Judaea in order that he might make the journey into the desert where he would remain until the day of his appearing. I can picture John speaking unto his parents and declaring unto them that he knew he wasn’t to enter into the service of the priests in the ministry of the house of the Lord, and that he was to in fact leave his father’s house, leave his family, leave his friends, and leave all that was familiar unto him in order that he might journey into the deserts where he would remain until the day of his appearing. It would be there in the desert where John would live off locusts and wild honey, and would gird himself with camel’s skin. Oh, I can’t help but wonder what it must have been like for Zecharias and Elizabeth to watch as the child which was given unto them by the Lord left the hill country of Judaea and the home which he had grown up in in order that he might dwell in the desert until the day of his showing unto the house of Israel.

The story of John the Baptist, as well as the story of Jesus the Christ is one of sons who did not grow up to walk in and follow in the footsteps of their earthly fathers, nor go into the family business which was performed before them. If you study the accounts of the Messiah and the Messenger you will find that John the Baptist didn’t grow up to enter into the service of the priests of the Lord in the service and ministry of the Temple of the Lord, but instead would go before the face of the Lord as His holy prophet and messenger. What’s more, is that Jesus the Christ would not grow up to follow in the footsteps of Joseph who was a carpenter by trade—this although Jesus would have undoubtedly learned the craft and trade of carpentry growing up in the house of Joseph and Mary. I would dare say that there were perhaps countless days when Jesus would be in the shop with Joseph as He not only watched him perform the craft he had learned, but would also have partaken in the craft Himself. Eventually there came a point in time when Jesus would arise from Nazareth and would make His way to the Jordan River where John the Baptist would be baptizing men and women for the remission of sins. Eventually Jesus would be baptized by John the Baptist in the waters of the Jordan River, would witness the heavens opened, the Spirit descending in bodily form as of a dove upon Him, and the voice of the Father speaking unto Him declaring that He was His beloved Son in whom He was well pleased. Immediately following Jesus’ baptism in the waters of the Jordan He would be led by the Spirit into the wilderness where He would be tempted of the devil before returning in the power of the Holy Spirit to Galilee within Judaea. What is most interesting about the accounts of the Messenger and the Messiah is that neither one of them would grow up to follow in the footsteps of their fathers, and neither one would carry on and carry out the ministry and business their earthly fathers were engaged in. Undoubtedly there must have been some degree and measure of expectation placed on both men growing up, as those around them who knew them felt and believed they should follow in the footsteps of their fathers. Oh, I can’t help but wonder what it was like for John the Baptist to leave the hill country of Judaea, and to leave the home of Zecharias and Elizabeth in order that he might journey into the desert where he would dwell until the day of his showing unto Israel. I can’t help but wonder if men and women who knew him best tried talking him out of leaving his home, and tried convincing that what was best for him was remaining in the hill country of Judaea, and even serving before the Lord in the ministry of the Temple. I wonder what it was like for John the Baptist to leave the hill country of Judaea, to leave his father’s house, to leave his family and friends, and to leave all that was familiar to him growing up in order that he might journey into the desert where he would remain until the day of his showing unto the children of Israel. What was it like for Jesus the Christ when He finally left Nazareth, made His way to the waters of the Jordan where He would be baptized by John, and would then be led by the Spirit into the wilderness where He would be tempted of the devil.

I can’t help but find within the account of the Messiah and the Messenger a wonderful and powerful prophetic picture of times within our lives when in order to fulfill that which we have been called by the living God, we might go against expectations which others have for us. There is not a doubt in my mind that there are times within our lives when in order to fulfill and step into that which the Lord has called us to, we will need to leave that which is familiar to us—we will need to leave our families, leave our friends, leave our homes, and leave the comforts and conveniences which have been afforded unto us in order that we like John might go into the deserts where we will remain until the day of our showing and appearing within the earth. What I find so interesting about John the Baptist is that he didn’t immediately leave his father’s house, he didn’t immediately leave his family and friends, and he didn’t immediately leave all that was familiar to and comfortable for him in order that he might step into that for which he had been called. When we speak of John the Baptist we find one who left his family, left his friends, left his father’s house, left the familiar, left the comfortable, and left the convenient in order that he might journey into the desert and remain there until the day of his showing and appearing unto the children of Israel. It’s worth noting that John didn’t leave the hill country of Judaea in order that he might enter into the school of the priests, nor even to immediately step into that for which he had been called. When we read the account of John the Baptist we find him leaving the hill country of Judaea in order that he might journey into the desert and remain their in solitude, in silence and in seclusion until the day of his appearing and showing unto the children of Israel. How absolutely incredible and wonderful it is to think about and consider the fact that in order for us to step into that for which the Lord has called us to, we will need to first leave that which is familiar and comfortable for us in order that we might enter into that which is uncomfortable, that which is not familiar, and perhaps even that which is dangerous in order that we might be able to be qualified and prepared for the moment when the Lord will release us to step into that which He has called us. There are times in our lives when although we leave the familiar and the comfortable—we don’t do so in order that we might immediately step into that for which we have been called and set apart by the living God. Just as John the Baptist left the comfortable and familiar in order that he might enter into the desert where he would remain until the day of his showing unto the children of Israel, so also we are called to leave that which is comfortable, that which is familiar, that which is convenient for us, in order that we might step and enter into a world that is altogether uncomfortable, unfamiliar and unknown unto us. Like John the Baptist we aren’t called to leave that which is familiar in order that we might immediately enter into what the Lord has called us to, nor even lay hold of that which the Lord has promised us. Abraham left his father’s house, his country, his family, and all that was familiar unto him, and yet he wouldn’t immediately enter into that which would be promised unto him, and he himself would never inherit that which was promised to him.

Perhaps the question we must ask ourselves is whether or not we are willing to open ourselves up to being uncomfortable before the Lord in the desert while He prepares us for that which He has called and separated us to accomplish and fulfill within the earth. Are we willing to arise from the comforts and conveniences we have enjoyed within our lives in order that we might enter into a world and realm that is altogether unfamiliar and uncomfortable for us? Are we willing to enter into a period of silence, solitude and seclusion in order that we might be made ready and prepared for that which the Lord has called us? I have previously written how John the Baptist was prepared and made ready for that which the living God called and appointed him for through solitude, silence and seclusion, and how Jesus the Christ was made ready and prepared through submission and subjection to Mary and Joseph. The question that must be asked of us is whether or not we are willing to undergo the process and preparation that is necessary in order that we might be made ready and prepared for that which the Lord has called us to. What’s interesting about the lives of the Messiah and the Messenger is that whereas the word of God came unto John in the wilderness, and thus thrust him from the desert into the country round about the Jordan—such was not the case with Jesus the Christ. We don’t read of any word coming unto Jesus the Christ, and we don’t read of any experience within His life that revealed unto Him the time of His appearing and manifestation had come. We read of Jesus’ coming unto John at the waters of the Jordan where He would be baptized, and we read of the heavens opening, the Spirit descending and the Father speaking unto Jesus, but we don’t read of any instruction being given unto Jesus that the time of His own showing and appearing had come. We know that Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness where He would be tempted by the devil, however, we don’t read anywhere in Scripture of the Spirit speaking unto Jesus and revealing unto Him that the time of His appearing, and the time of His emergence had come. There is a part of me that wonders what caused Jesus to rise from His home in Nazareth and make His way unto the waters of the Jordan River where He would be baptized by him. I wonder what caused Jesus to arise from the home of Mary and Joseph and make His way unto the waters of the Jordan River, in order that He might be baptized. Did the Father speak unto Him and reveal the time of His appearing and manifestation had come? Did Jesus being the eternal Son of God instinctively know that the time had come for Him to begin appearing unto men? We know that at the age of twelve Jesus knew that He must needs be about His Father’s business—a declaration which reveals that from an early age Jesus knew His identity, knew who He was, knew who His Father was, and know what He must do. What’s more, is that as you continue reading in the gospel accounts of His life and ministry—particularly in the gospel of John—you will find that Jesus was aware of the timing of His life, for He declared unto His own mother that His time had not yet come. There is a part of me that can’t help but believe that Jesus had a strong sense of the timing of the Father for His life, and was sensitive to the will, the plan and the purpose which was set before Him. The question we must ask ourselves is whether or not we ourselves are sensitive to the timing of the Lord for our lives, and are sensitive to that which we have been called to by the living God. We must come to terms with whether or not we are willing to allow ourselves to be made uncomfortable in order that in that place of discomfort we might be made ready and prepared for that which the Lord has called us to. We must ask ourselves whether or not we are willing to leave the comforts and conveniences of our lives—even our family, friends, and all that we have known—in order that we might do what is necessary to be made ready and prepared for that which the living God has called us to.

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