Today’s selected reading continues in the Old Testament prophetic book of Isaiah the son of Amoz which he saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem in the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah kings of Judah. More specifically, today’s passage is found in chapters forty through forty-four of this Old Testament book. When you come to this particular portion of the book of Isaiah you will notice the entire tone and language of the book shifting dramatically. It has been said and stated that the Old Testament prophetic book of Isaiah is essentially a composite of the whole of Scripture—particularly and especially concerning s its makeup and composition. If you read this Old Testament book you will notice that just like the canon of Scripture has a total of sixty six books, so also the prophetic book of Isaiah has six chapters. What’s more, is that if you ready and study the canon of Scripture you will notice that the first thirty-nine books of it contain what we know as the Old Testament—a section of Scripture which is made up of “The Pentateuch,” The Historical Books,” “The Poetic Literature,” and finally, “The Prophetic Literature.” When you come to the New Testament you will notice that it is made up of twenty-seven books with it being broken down and made up of “The Gospels,” “The Book of Acts,” “The Pauline Epistles,” “The General Epistles,” and finally the prophetic book of the Revelation of Jesus the Christ. This is actually quite intriguing and astonishing when you think about it, for the Old Testament prophetic book of Isaiah might very well be considered to resemble the whole of Scripture in its makeup—and not only in its makeup, but also in how it is structured. As you read this Old Testament prophetic book you will find that the first thirty-nine chapters of the book deal exclusively and specifically with the judgments of God, the discipline of God, the wrath of God, and quite honestly the Old Covenant which is found in the pages and books of the Old Testament. The entire Old Testament of Scripture is a composition of the Old Covenant which was characterized by two distinct realities—The Law and the prophets. You cannot read the Old Testament without encountering and coming face to face with the awesome reality that within its pages is the reality and the manifestation of the Old Covenant with the sacrificial system which was implemented by and through Moses the servant of the LORD when he stood before the presence of the LORD atop Horeb in the wilderness of Sinai for forty days. The Old Testament is a powerful narrative concerning God’s dealing and interaction with His sacred and chosen people, which were the nation of Israel. You cannot read the Old Testament and not encounter—almost from the very beginning—the manifestation of the work of the LORD in the earth through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and ultimately through His chosen people Israel.
When, however, you come to the New Testament, you will still find the living and eternal God continuing to manifest and make Himself known unto the people which dwelt in Judaea, Jerusalem and Galilee beyond the Jordan. What’s quite interesting and unique when reading the first portion of the Old Testament prophetic book of Isaiah is when you consider the fact that there are certain key passages that speak specifically and directly to the coming and manifestation of the Messiah. If you turn and direct your attention to the seventh, the ninth, and the eleventh chapters of the Old Testament book of Isaiah you will find that within these three chapters the prophet Isaiah made some of the most well-known and beloved declarations and promises concerning the Messiah who was to come. In all reality, I believe that if the apostle Paul was essentially “the apostle of Christ” [Yes, I do realize that he viewed himself as one who was untimely born, and that he was not one of the original apostles who walked with and followed Jesus the Christ while He was upon the earth], the prophet Isaiah was ultimately “the prophet of Christ.” You cannot read this Old Testament prophetic book of Isaiah and not encounter and come face to face with the awesome and powerful reality that he prophesied and saw more concerning the coming Messiah than any of his contemporaries, and any of those who came before or came after him. If and as you read the language which is found in the Old Testament prophetic book of Isaiah you will encounter time and time again very specific references which point directly to the coming of the Christ and the Messiah who would be manifested within and upon the earth. You cannot read the Old Testament prophetic book of Isaiah and not encounter the truly awesome and powerful reality of Isaiah the son of Amoz seeing very specific visions concerning the coming of the Messiah—this despite the fact that he would never know His name. Oh, we do know that in some of the earlier declarations found within this book he would hear and see the names “Immanuel,” “Wonderful God,” “The Everlasting Father,” “The Prince of Peace,” and the like, however, he would never see, hear or know the name of Jesus. He would indeed see and understand the manifestation of the Messiah within the earth, and he would prophesy as such unto the city of Jerusalem, as well as the kingdom and nation of Judah.
With all of this being said, and before we delve into the words which are found within these chapters I feel it is absolutely necessary to think about and consider the words which the prophet Isaiah prophesied concerning the Messiah in chapters seven, nine and eleven of this Old Testament prophetic book. It is necessary to read and consider these words, for the words which are found within these chapter help set the stage and the tone for the words and language found in chapters forty and beyond. That which you will read in chapters forty and beyond contain a great deal of language concerning the Messiah, and the words which are found in the fortieth chapter are perhaps some of the most well-known words concerning the Messiah—and not only concerning the. Messiah, but also concerning the forerunner of the Messiah who would come before His face and prepare the way for Him. You cannot read the latter portion of the Old Testament prophetic book of Isaiah and not come face to face with the presence and vision of Christ which is found within and throughout its pages. The Old Testament prophetic book of Isaiah is chalk full of wonderful and powerful references concerning the Hebrew Messiah who would come according to the divine counsel and will of the eternal God. It would be the living and eternal God who would—through His servants the prophets—set the Messianic expectation within the hearts and souls of his people. You cannot read the Old Testament without encountering and coming face to face with the remarkable reality that there was indeed a Messianic expectation that was found within the hearts and souls of the people of God as they would look for and expect the Messiah which was to come. The eternal God would speak through His servants the prophets and instill within the hearts and souls of His people an expectation, a hope, a desire, and a passion for the manifestation of the Messiah, and would through the prophets reveal several key elements concerning the Messiah. What is truly remarkable and astonishing is when you think about the Messianic prophecies which are found within Scripture you will find that each and every one of them served one single purpose and one single function—namely, to show the people of God what to look for and what to expect when looking for the Messiah. What’s more, is that it would be through the prophetic revelation which is found in the Old Testament prophetic literature that men and women who were paying attention would be able to discern and recognize the messiah when He actually did appear and manifest Himself in the earth.
I SHOWED YOU HOW TO RECOGNIZE THE MESSIAH! I REVEALED UNTO YOU THE SIGNS TO LOOK FOR! I GAVE YOU EVERYTHING YOU NEEDED TO DISCERN WHEN THE MESSIAH WAS PRESENT AMONG YOU IN YOUR MIDST! I LEFT NOTHING TO CHANCE, AND I LEFT NOTHING TO GUESS OR WONDER! As I sit here this morning I can’t help but think about the absolutely incredible and astonishing reality that when we think about the Messianic expectation and the Messianic hope, the living and eternal God gave countless signs which would allow His people—or at least those who were listening and paying attention—to recognize the Messiah when He was present among them in their midst. This is actually quite astonishing and quite intriguing when you think about and consider it, for the words which you find in the opening chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the apostle John present us with the fact that despite the fact that the Messiah came unto His own, His own received Him not. Perhaps one of the greatest tragedies facing and surrounding the generation which was present within the earth during the days and time of the Messiah was that there were a number of them who did not even recognize the Messiah when He was present among them in their midst. In fact, I can’t help but wonder what the greater tragedy is among those who were alive and present during the days and generation of the Messiah—those who could not recognize Him as the Messiah, or those who rejected Him as the Messiah. Moreover, I would dare say there were three distinct realities surrounding the Messiah which was present within and in the midst of the earth—three distinct responses which those who were present during those days would have had to choose which one they would give themselves to. During the days of the manifestation of the Messiah there would be those who would not recognize the Messiah—despite the plethora and copious amounts of prophetic language and literature that gave them everything they needed to in fact be able to recognize Him. During those days there were those who heard the claims Jesus made concerning His being the Messiah, and they might very well have even considered how events and realities of His life lined up with the words of the prophets, and yet they rejected the Messiah during those days. Finally, there were those who were present during those days men and women who neither rejected nor failed to recognize Him, but actually received Him. In fact, certain of these realities are found within the opening chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative of the apostle John:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him; and without Him was not any thing made that was made. In Him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not. There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through Him mighty believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not. He came unto His own, and His own received Him not. But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. John bare witness of Him, and cried, saying, This was He of whom I spake, he that cometh after me is preferred before me: for He was before me. And of His fullness have all we received, and grace for grace. For the Law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ. NO man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared Him” (John 1:1-18).
What makes the words which are found within this passage of Scripture so absolutely wonderful is when you consider the fact that within its verses we not only find those who could receive Jesus as the Messiah and in fact rejected Him, but we also find those who did in fact receive Jesus as the Messiah. Those who received Jesus as the Messiah were given power to become sons of God—those who were born not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. The more I think about the manifestation of the Messiah within the earth, the more I can’t help but think about and consider the fact that there were indeed three distinct reactions and responses to the Messiah—namely, reception, rejection, and a failure to recognize Him. This reality and concept of being unable to recognize the Messiah is one that is truly astonishing when you take the time to think about it, for the living and eternal God gave His people everything they needed to be able to discern the appearance and manifestation of the Messiah among them in the earth. Although no generation would know whether or not they would be the generation in which the Messiah would appear, there would be that generation which would see and experience the fulfillment of countless prophecies which were spoken concerning Jesus through a band from the mouths of the ancient Hebrew prophets. It would be true that no generation would know whether or not they would be the generation of the Messiah until they began seeing the fulfillment and a manifestation of the prophetic words which were spoken by and revealed through the prophets. There would be countless generations that would live with the words of the ancient Hebrew prophets concerning the Messiah, and none of those generations knew whether or not they would and could in fact be the generation of the Messiah. THE GENERATION OF THE MESSIAH! The truth of the matter, however, is that there was indeed a generation of the Messiah—that generation which would be alive and present within and upon the earth at the time when the Messiah would be manifested among them in their midst. There would in fact be a generation that would be alive and present in the earth during those d as when the living and eternal Messiah would appear and would be manifested among them. Pause for a moment and think about what it would and must have been like to be the generation of the Messiah—to be that generations which would not only know the name “Jesus,” but would actually believe on Him as the eternal and only begotten Son of the Father, and as the one who was long prophesied and foretold by the ancient Hebrew prophets.
I sit here this afternoon and I can’t help but wonder what it must have been like to be the generation of the Messiah—to be that generation that was alive and present upon the earth when that One whom the Law and the prophets spoke about and foretold finally appeared and was manifested upon the earth. What was it like for those men, those women, and those children to be alive and present during the days of the Messiah, and during the days when everything that had been spoken of and prophesied by the Hebrew prophets actually came to pass during their day. For generations—even during four-hundred years of silence—there was the expectation and hope that a Messiah would come and be manifested within the earth. Concerning those four-hundred years of silence—those years when there would be no open vision, nor any prophetic word from heaven—there would indeed be the words which the living and eternal God had already spoken through the Law and the prophets. It was indeed true that during those years there would be no prophet that would be present and manifested among the people of God, however, that did not mean that it was not still possible to hear from the LORD. In fact, even Jesus Himself declared that the Law and the prophets did in fact speak of Him, and presented a wonderful and powerful reality concerning His presence and manifestation in the midst of the earth. Jesus would speak unto those who were present during that generation and would declare that they had the Law and the prophets, and that both spoke concerning Him. Moreover, if you consider the parable Jesus spoke concerning the rich man and Lazarus you will find that when the rich man was tormented in hell and spoke unto Abraham, he asked that Lazarus might be sent unto and among them, for if one rose from the dead and appeared unto them they would believe. Abraham responded to his words by declaring that they had the Law and the prophets, and if they refused to listen to both, they would not hear, nor would they listen—even if one rose from the dead and appeared unto and among them. Oh that we would recognize and understand this, for even though there was a period of four-hundred years of silence when there was no open vision from heaven, and when the voice of the prophet and seer was absent from the land, there would be the voice of the Law and the voice of the prophets. The LORD did not leave those generations which were alive and present during the four-hundred years of silence without any revelation from heaven, for during those years they would have the words of the Law and the prophets—words which would show them what the LORD required of them, and words which showed unto them the character and nature of the living and eternal God. We dare not think about and consider—even for a brief moment—that the four-hundred years of silence were years without any form of revelation, and that the people during those days would and could not hear the voice of the living God.
The more I think about and consider this reality, the more I can’t help but come face to face with the fact that the living and eternal God—the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ—gave and provided absolutely everything that would be needed to discern and recognize the Messiah when He would in fact be manifested in the midst of the earth. There was absolutely no reason anyone during the days of the Messiah should have missed Him, and should have failed to recognize Him, Through the Law, as well as the words which the ancient Hebrew prophets spoke within and during their generation there was enough “information,” so to speak, concerning the Messiah that those who were actually alive and present during those days and during that generation should have recognized Him—from the time He was born in Bethlehem, to His growing up and living in Nazareth, and even through His ministry and works among them within the earth. What makes these chapters found within the Old Testament prophetic book of Isaiah so absolutely intriguing and captivating is when you think about and consider the fact that the prophet Isaiah not only saw the Messiah who would be manifested in the midst of the earth, but He also saw the type of man He would be and the type of ministry He would have among men. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this absolutely astonishing truth, for within the prophetic book of Isaiah we are brought face to face with the wonderful and divine nature of the Messiah, and that which the Messiah would fulfill and accomplish in the midst of the earth. The prophet Isaiah would not only see visions and revelation concerning the birth of the Messiah, bu the prophet Isaiah would also see visions and revelation concerning the character and nature of the Messiah. The prophet Isaiah would indeed and would in fact see the birth of the Messiah, and would speak of and foretell that birth during this generation, but he would also see beyond the birth of the Messiah and would see even further down the line to what type of man this Messiah would indeed and would in fact be. How absolutely wonderful and powerful it is to think about and consider the awesome truth that the prophet Isaiah can be thought of and considered to be “the prophet of Christ,” and “the prophet of the Messiah,” for he would see, speak and foretell great things concerning the Messiah. No other Hebrew prophet would indeed and would in fact see and speak more concerning the Messiah than Isaiah the son of Amoz would, for the Spirit of the LORD would reveal very specific truths concerning the coming Messiah. With that being said, please consider if you will the words which are found in the seventh, ninth, and eleventh chapters of this Old Testament prophetic book concerning the coming Messiah:
“Moreover the LORD spake again unto Ahaz, saying, Ask thee a sign of the LORD thy God; Ask it either in the depth, or in the heigh above. But Ahaz said, I will not ask, neither will I tempt the LORD. And he said, Hear ye now, O house of David; Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will ye weary my God also? Therefore the LORD Himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel. Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil, and choose the good. For before the child shall know to refuse the evil, and choose the good, the land that thou abhorest shall be forsaken of both her kings” (Isaiah 7:10-16).
“Nevertheless the dimness shall not be such as was in her vexation, when at the first he lightly afflicted the land of Zebulun and the land of Natphali, and afterward did more grievously afflict her by the way of the sea, Beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the nations. The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined. Thou hast multiplied the nation, and not increased the joy: they joy before thee according to the joy in harvest, and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil” (Isaiah 7:1-3).
“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counseller, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there shall e no end, upon the throne of David, and upon His kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth e Ben for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this” (Isaiah 9:6-7).
“And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: and the Spirit of the LORD shall rest upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD; and shall make Him of quick understanding in the fear of the LORD: and He shall not judge after the sight of his eyes, neither reprove after the hearing of His ears: but with righteousness shall He judge the poor, and reprove with equity for the meek of the earth: and He shall smite the earth with the rod of his mouth, and with the breath of his lips shall He slay the wicked. And righteousness shall be the girdle of his loins, and faithfulness the girdle of his reins. The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf and the young lion and the fatling together; and a little child shall lead them. And the cow and the bear shall feed; their young ones shall lie down together: and the lion shall eat straw like the ox. And the sucking child shall play on the hole of the asp, and the weaned child shall put his hand on the cackatrice’ den. They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea. And in that day there shall be a root of Jesse, which shall tend for an ensign of the people; to it shall the Gentiles seek: and his rest shall be glorious. And it shall come to pass in that day, that the LORD shall set His hand again the second time to recove the remanant of His people” (Isaiah 11:1-11).
These four passages all point to the absolutely wonderful and awesome reality and truth concerning the coming of the Messiah, and would not only speak and reveal the reality of the Messiah being born of a virgin, but also the names of the Messiah—names which would reveal his very character and nature within the earth. The prophet Isaiah would not only see and prophesy that the Messiah would be born of a virgin, but that this son would be given unto us according to the divine will and working of the Father. The prophet Isaiah would indeed see and recognize the absolutely wonderful truth concerning the Messiah, and would see the day and time when this anointed of the LORD would appear and would be manifested in the midst of the earth. Within these passages the prophet not only saw the Messiah as the direct manifestation of the glory of the living God as evidence in His name being called “Immanuel,” but the prophet also saw the Messiah as being a direct manifestation of the government of the living God, for he would speak of the Messiah as being the direct fulfillment of the government of the living God. Isaiah the son of Amoz would see and recognize that the Messiah would be the perfect fulfillment and manifestation of the government and peace of the living God, and that He would sit and reign upon the throne of David in the midst of the people of God. Oh we must recognize and understand this truly remarkable reality, for it helps set the stage for what we find when we come to chapters forty and beyond. It would be in chapters nine and eleven we would begin to see a glimpse of the Messiah—a glimpse of His character and nature—and yet it would be when we come to the fortieth chapter of this prophetic book where we encounter both the revelation of the Messiah, as well as the messenger of the Messiah. You cannot read the fortieth chapter without encountering and coming face to face with the direct manifestation of the Messiah, and the divine messenger which would go before His face. What’s so absolutely captivating about this particular reality is that when John the Baptist spoke concerning himself—not only would he emphatically and unreservedly declare that he was not the Messiah, but he would quote from the prophet Isaiah to declare and describe who he was. What’s more, is that when you find John the Baptist speaking concerning himself you will never find him speaking of his identity apart from that of the Messiah. It’s almost as if John the Baptist realized that his identity was intrinsically linked and bound up in the revelation, the manifestation and the Idenity of Jesus the Christ, and that without and apart from Him he would and could not be anything.
It is with this in mind I invite you to consider the words which the prophet Isaiah prophesied, spoke and foretold concerning this divine forerunner and messenger of the Messiah which would be manifested within the earth. The prophet Isaiah would indeed see a vision and revelation of the Messiah in the midst of the earth, however, he would also see a wonderful and powerful revelation of that one whose sole mission, whose sole purpose and whose sole function would be prepare the way for the coming of the Messiah. The prophet Isaiah would in all reality see a divine vision and revelation of the Messiah, yet directly linked to the coming of the Messiah would be a messenger who would be sent before Him and before His face that the way might be prepared and made ready for Him. Pause for a moment and consider this reality and truth, for although the eternal God would indeed send the Christ and the Messiah in the midst of the earth, He would not send Him without and apart from the divine messenger who would be born during those days and would appear as a flash of lightning out of the eastern sky bringing men and women face to face with the manifestation of the kingdom of heaven, as well as the manifestation of the Messiah who was spoken of and foretold. When we think about and consider John the Baptist we must consider that his entire purpose, his entire function, his entire ministry, his entire life was wrapped and bound up in the manifestation of the Messiah. Despite the fact that the Spirit of the LORD would indeed use him in a wonderful and powerful way in the midst of the earth, his Idenity would be intrinsically wrapped up and bound together with the Messiah. John the Baptist realized and recognized a truth which Jesus recognized concerning Himself—namely, that apart from the Christ and apart from the Messiah he was nothing and could be nothing. John the Baptist realized that his entire purpose, his entire role, his entire function was to point men away from himself and project them upon the Messiah who was the Christ and the Son of the living God. This reality is not only expressed in the three Synoptic Gospels, but it is also manifested and expressed in the New Testament gospel narrative which was written by the apostle John as well. In order to understand the words which John the Baptist spoke, it is absolutely necessary that we first consider the words found within the fortieth chapter of this prophetic book. Consider if you will the following words which were found in this prophetic book beginning with the first and opening verse of the fortieth chapter:
“Comfort ye, comforts 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 e exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough 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 whithereth, 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 tend for ever. O Zion, that bringest good tidings, get thee up into the high mountain; O Jerusalem, that bringest good tidings, lift up thy voice with strength; Lift it up, be not afraid; say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God! Behold, the LORD God will come with a strong hand, and his arm shall rule for Him: Behold, His reward is with Him, and His work before Him. He shall feed His flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in His bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young” (Isaiah 40:1-11).
The words which are found within this passage of Scripture were spoken by the mouth, and even written by the very hand of Isaiah the son of Amoz concerning a divine messenger and forerunner who would come before the face of the Messiah, and who would prepare the way for Him. The words which are found within this passage would indeed be found in the New Testament, however, they would be found on the lips and out of the mouth of John the Baptist, for he knew and understood these words directly applied to him. When John the Baptist was asked concerning his being the Messiah, and concerning his own Idenity—not only did he emphatically and unreservedly declare that he was not the Messiah, but he also described himself in direct connection with the Messiah, and direct relationship to the Christ. John the Baptist would indeed speak unto those who were curious as to whether or not he might be the Messiah, and he boldly and without hesitation or reservation declared that he was not the Messiah. Oh, he appeared and was manifested first, and yet his entire life and ministry would be intrinsically linked, connected and bound to that of the Messiah. John the Baptist would and could not think of himself without and apart from the Messiah, and could not view himself as being anything apart from the eternal Messiah that would be manifested in the midst of the earth. In fact, as you read the four gospel narratives you will find that John the Baptist quoted these words from the prophet Isaiah to describe his role, his purpose, his function, and ultimately his Idenity in the earth. What is absolutely powerful is that John the Baptist never tried explaining himself separate from the Messiah, for he never thought of himself greater or more highly than he ought to, and he never thought of himself apart from the Messiah. John the Baptist realized and recognized that his entire existence was wrapped up in the person and Idenity of the Messiah, and that without and apart from who the Messiah he could do nothing, and he would be nothing. This was a similar reality to that which Jesus the Christ realized and recognized concerning Himself, for just as John the Baptist realized that he was nothing without the Messiah, and that he could be nothing apart from the Messiah, so Jesus realized that He could do nothing apart from the Father. I would dare say that this discussion about John the Baptist recognizing his Idenity as being intrinsically linked and connected to the Messiah must also consider the words which Jesus Christ Himself spoke when He was confronted by the Pharisees after healing a man who had an infirmity for thirty-and eight years. With this in mind, I invite you to consider the following words which are found in the gospels concerning John the Baptist, as well as the words which are found in the fifth chapter of the gospel narrative written by the apostle John concerning Jesus the Christ:
“In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, and saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. For this is He that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make his paths straight. And the same John had his raiment of camel’s hair, and a leathern girdle about his lions; and his meat was locusts and wild honey. Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judaea, and all the region round about Jordan, and were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the warpath to come? Bring therefore fruits meet for repentance: and think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the Gardner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire” (Matthew 3:1-12).
“The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God; As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make his paths straight. John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. And there went out unto him all the land of Judaea, and a they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. And John was clothed with camel’s hair, and with a girdle of a skin about his lions; and he did eat locusts and wild honey; and preached, saying, There cometh one mightier than I after me, the latched of whose whose I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose. I indeed have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost” (Mark 1:1-8).
“Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Ceasar, Pontius Pilate begin Governor of Judaea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonities, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene, Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness. And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins; as it is written in the book of the words of Esaias the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make his paths straight. Every valley shall e filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God. Then said he to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and being not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham. And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. And the people asked him, saying, What shall we do then? He answereth and saith unto them, He that hath two coats, let him impart to him that hath none; and he that hath meat, let him do likewise. Then came also publicans to be baptized, and said unto him, Master, what shall we do?A Nd he said unto them, Exact no more than that which is appointed you. And the soldiers likewise demanded of him, saying, and what shall we do? And he said unto them, Do violence to no m an, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages. And as the people were in expectation, and all men mused in their hearts of John, whether he were the Christ, or not; John answered saying unto them all, I indeed baptize you with water; but one mightier than I cometh, the latched of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost and with fire: whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and will gather the wheat into his garner; but the chaff he will burn with fire unquenchable. And many other things in his exhortation preached he unto the people. But Herod the tetrarch, being reproved by him for Herodias his brother Philip’s wife, and for all the evils which Herod had done, added yet this above all, that he shut up John in prison” (Luke 3:-20).
“And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou? And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ. And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No. Then said they unto him, Who art thou? That we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself? He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the LORD, s said the prophet Esaias. And they which were sent were of the Pharisees. And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet? John answered them, saying, I baptize with water: but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not; he it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose. These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing. The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world. This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me. And I knew him not: but that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water. And John bare record,s aging, I saw the Spirit descending from heaven like a dove, and it abode upon him. And I knew him not: but he that sent me to baptize with water, the same said unto me, Upon whom thou shalt see the spirit descending, and remaining on him, the same is he which baptizeth with the Holy Ghost. And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God. Again the next day after John stood, and two of his disciples; and looking upon Jesus as He walked, he saith, Behold the Lamb of God!” (John 1:19-36).
“And therefore did the Jews persecute Jesus, and sought to slay Him, because he had done these things on the sabbath day. But Jesus answered them, my Father worketh hitherto, and I work. Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was His Father, making himself equal with God. Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise. For the Father loveth the Son, and sheweth him all things that himself doeth: and he will shew him greater works than these, that ye may marvel. For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will. For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son: that all men should honour the Son, even as they honour the Father. He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent him. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life. Verily, verily, I say unto you The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live. For as the Father hath life in Himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself; and hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of man. Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all that are in the graves shall hear his voice, and shall come forth; they that have done good, unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation. I can of m one own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me” (John 5:16-30). .
Each of these passages of Scripture help paint the picture of the tremendous reality that John the Baptist would and could not seek to explain or understand himself without and apart from the Messiah. John the Baptist knew and understood that his entire life, and that for which he was called, ordained and appointed was intrinsically linked and connected to the Messiah. If there is one thing I absolutely love about John the Baptist, it’s that he would and could not view himself apart from the Messiah, as he realized his entire Idenity was bound up in the Messiah. Were it not for the Messiah John the Baptist would be nothing, and would do nothing, for it would only be because of the Messiah John the Baptist would have any presence in the midst of the earth. We do know and understand through the New Testament gospel narrative which was written by the beloved physician Luke that the birth of John the Baptist’s was foretold by the angel Gabriel unto Zechariah as he ministered before the altar of incense in the Holy Place. We know and understand from Scripture that John the Baptist was one whose birth was foretold by the angel Gabriel, and that he was going to be born for such a time as this, and with a very specific purpose and function in the earth. In fact, when the angel Gabriel spoke unto Zecharias in the Holy Place beside the altar he would declare unto him concerning John that many will rejoice at his birth, for he would be great in the sight of the LORD. The angel Gabriel would declare that he would drink neither wine nor strong drink, and would be filled with the Holy Ghost from his mother’s womb. Moreover, the angel Gabriel would declare that many of the children of Israel would he turn to the LORD their God, and he would go before the LORD 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, and to make ready a people prepared for the LORD. Undoubtedly growing up John the Baptist would know and recognize that his entire purpose and role in the midst of the earth would be to prepare the way for the Messiah, and to make ready a people for the LORD. John the Baptist knew and understood that he was sent into and upon the earth that he might make a people ready and prepared for the LORD, and that they might be ready for the manifestation of the kingdom of heaven in the midst of the earth. John recognized and understood that he had one mission, one purpose and one function in the midst of the earth, and that was to point men to someone other than himself. Although large crowds would come unto him to hear his teaching and be baptized of him, he would ultimately point men and women unto Christ the Messiah who was greater than he himself was.
Perhaps one of the greatest truths surrounding John the Baptist is that he recognized his Idenity was completely and utterly wrapped and bound up in that of the Messiah. John the Baptist never attempted to explain himself apart from the Messiah, and always spoke of himself in light of who the Messiah was. You cannot read each of the four gospel narratives and not encounter and come face to face with this awesome and powerful reality, for there would indeed be a Messiah who would be manifested in the midst of the earth, and yet before the Messiah Himself would be manifested in the midst of the earth there would be a divine messenger who would be sent from God to make ready a people for the Messiah. Stop and think about the awesome truth that there would come the Messiah in the midst of the earth, and that there would come that One who would fulfill all the prophetic words and declarations which were spoken concerning Him, yet there would be another who would come before the Messiah, and who would go before His face that he might prepare and make ready a people for the Messiah. THE MESSIAH AND HIS MESSENGER! After four-hundred years of silence there would be a powerful prophetic voice that would be manifested in the midst of the earth, and it would be the voice of one crying in the wilderness. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this awesome reality, for there would indeed come a voice that would appear in the wilderness, and that voice would cry out unto the hearts and spirits of men inviting them to come unto one who was greater than himself. The prophet Isaiah did in fact see a powerful vision and revelation of Jesus the Christ, and with that vision and revelation would come a powerful vision of the messenger and forerunner who would go before the face of the Messiah, and who would prepare the way for men and women through baptism and through repentance. This John the Baptist realized and recognized that he was that voice which the prophet Isaiah spoke of, and even Zecharias his father would have a glimpse of this reality when the angel Gabriel spoke unto him, as the angel would speak of John the Baptist making read a people prepared for the LORD. Oh how absolutely astounding it is to think about and consider the tremendous truth that John the Baptist’s entire existence, and his entire purpose, and his entire identity in the midst of the earth had absolutely nothing to do with himself—this despite the fact that his birth was spoken of and foretold by the angel Gabriel before he was even born. John the Baptist was not called, nor was he set upon this earth to live for himself, but rather he was placed upon this earth to live for the Messiah, as he would be that one who would prepare and make ready a people for the coming of the Messiah.
Please don’t miss and lose sight of this reality, for when you read the words which are found in the Old Testament prophetic book of Isaiah you will find that when the second portion of the book opens and begins—not only does it begin with words of comfort and words of forgiveness, but it also begins with a powerful declaration and prophetic word concerning the Messiah and His messenger who would go before Him and before His face. When and as the prophet Isaiah began speaking in these latter chapters concerning the work of the LORD in the midst of the earth, he would begin—according to the word of the LORD—by speaking of the voice of one who cried out in the wilderness, saying, Prepare the way of the LORD, and make straight in the desert a highway for our God. It is truly something worth noting and pointing out this reality, for when setting forth the Messianic expectation concerning the Messiah, the prophet Isaiah would see a wonderful and powerful vision of the divine messenger of the living God who would go before the face of the Messiah and who would make ready a people who were prepared to meet the LORD. We must recognize that the ancient Hebrew prophets did in fact set forth a Messianic expectation concerning the first coming of the Messiah—the coming of the Messiah in which He would come as the Lamb of God which would take away the sin of the world. With that being said, however, it is also imperative that we understand that the prophets of old also spoke of a second Messianic expectation—an expectation which the apostles themselves would live with, and one which generations of Christians and followers of Jesus Christ would live with ever since those times. With that being said, I am absolutely and completely convinced that there is a generation of Messianic forerunners and messengers who are being called, and who have been called to prepare men and women for the coming, the appearing and the manifestation of the LORD. There is a generation that will be manifested in the midst of the earth, and their sole purpose, their sole function, their sole role in the earth is to prepare and make ready a people for the coming of the Lord as the Lion of the tribe of Judah.
What I so love about the words which are found within these chapters is not only that they reveal the divine Servant of the LORD, which would fulfill and accomplish the word and will of the LORD in the midst of the earth, but they also sought to settle the dispute that there would and could be other gods which were likened unto the living and eternal God. The prophet Isaiah would emphatically declare and proclaim that there would not and could not be any gods, idols and images which man could and would make that could compare to the eternal and living God. It wasn’t enough for the prophet Isaiah to merely speak of the coming and manifestation of the Messiah, for the prophet also sought to emphatically and boldly proclaim and declare that there would and could not be any others like unto the LORD, and none that could compare unto the true and living God. IT is absolutely necessary and imperative that we recognize and understand this truly wonderful reality, for we must firmly settle within our hearts and our spirits that there is none other than the living and eternal God, and that there are no others who can compare to this eternal God in the earth. Despite and regardless of whatever idols and images we might make within our hearts, and/or within our houses of worship, and even within our homes—there is never and there can never be any god that can compare to the living and eternal God. One of the greatest realities we must come to terms with is that the LORD our God is not only one LORD, but also that He is the only LORD, and that there is none like Him in the heavens above, nor in the earth below, nor under the earth. We must settle within our hearts and our spirits that there is none other god like unto the LORD our God, and He alone is truly worthy of our praise, our worship, and our affection and desire. One of the greatest declarations that is found and bound up in the Messiah is that there is none other than the LORD our God, and despite the fact that others might vie and compete for our attention and affection, we must reserve our desire, our delight, and our love for the LORD our God. It is not by accident, nor by coincidence that Moses declared that the LORD our God is one LORD, and that we must love the LORD our God with all our heart, with all our soul, and with all our strength. Oh that we would firmly settle within our hearts that there is none other likened unto the LORD our God, and that He alone is worthy of our affection, He alone is worthy of our attention, He alone is worthy of our desire, delight, pleasure and pursuit. We must settle within our hearts that “the eve ark sting God, the LORD, the Creator of the ends of the earth faints not, nor is weary. Moreover, there is no searching of His understanding.” This God who is our LORD gives power to the faint, and to those who have no might He increases strength. Although youths might faint and be weary, and young men shall utterly fall—those that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength, for they shall mount up with wings as eagles, they shall run and not be weary, and they shall walk and not faint.