Present at the Event, Absent In the Baptism & Repentance

Today’s selected reading continues in the New Testament gospel narrative of the life and ministry of Jesus the Christ as it was written and recorded by the beloved physician Luke. More specifically, today’s passage is found in the third chapter of the book. “Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judaea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilne, Annas and Caiaphas being the high priests, the word of God came unto John the son of AZacharias 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 be 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 forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin 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” (Luke 3:1-9).

            “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? And 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 man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages” (Luke 3:10-14).

            “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 latchet 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 3:15-20).

            “Now when all the people were baptized, it came to pass, that Jesus also being baptized, and praying, the heaven was opened, and the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove upon him, and a voice came from heaven, which said, Thou art my beloved Son; in thee I am well pleased” (Luke 3:21-22).

            “And Jesus Himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli, which was the son of Matthat, which was the son of Levi, which was the son of Melchi, which was the son of Janna, which was the son of Joseph, which was the son of Mattathias, which was the son of Amos, which was the son of Naum, which was the son of Esli, which was the son of Nagge, which was the son of Maath, which was the son of Mattathias, which was the son of Semei, which was the son of Joseph, which was the son of Juda, which was the son of Joanna, which was the son of Rhesa, which was the son of Zorobabel, which was the son of Salathiel, which was the son of Neri, which was the son of Melchi, which was the son of Addi, which was the son of Coasm, which was the son of Elmodam, which was the son of Er, which was the son of Jose, which was the son of Eliezer, which was the son of Jorim, which was the son of Matthat, which was the son of Levi, which was the son of Simeon, which was the son of Juda, which was the son of Joseph, which was the son of Jonan, which was the son of Eliakim, which was the son of Melea, which was the son of Menan, which was the son of Mattatha, which was the son of Nathan, which was the son of David, which was the son of Jesse, which was the son of Obed, which was the son of Booz, which was the son of Salmon, which was the Son of Naason, which was the son of Aminadab, which was the son of aram, which was the son of Esrom, which was the son of Phares, which was the son of Juda, which was the son of Jacob, which was the son of Isaac, which was the son of Abraham, which was the son of Thara, which was the son of Nachor, which was the son of Saruch, which was the son of Ragau, which was the son of Phalec, which was the son of Heber, which was the son of Sala, which was the son of Cainan, which was the son of Arphaxad, which was the son of Sem, which was the son of Noe, which was the son of Lamech, which was the son of Mathusala, which was the son of Enoch, which was the son of Jared, wich was the son of Maleleel, which was the son of Cainan, which was the son of Enos, which was the son of Seth, which was the son of Adam, which was the son of God” (Luke 3:23-38).

            When you come to this particular portion of Scripture you will find the beloved  physician Luke transitioning from the narrative of the births of the Messiah and His messenger, as well as the details surrounding the proclamation of their births and who and what manner of men they were to be. If there is one thing I can’t help but think about when considering the words and language found within the first chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by Luke I can’t help but think about and consider the fact that while it was indeed true the angel Gabriel appeared unto Zacharias in the Temple beside the altar and proclaimed unto him how his wife Elisabeth would conceive and bring forth a child, this angel would do so much more than proclaim the birth of this child. As you read the words which are found within the first chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by the beloved physician Luke you will find that in addition to making the proclamation concerning the birth of this child into the world as a result of his wife Elisabeth conceiving, the angel Gabriel would also proclaim who and what manner of man this child would grow up to be. It wasn’t enough for Elisabeth to conceive a child within her womb in her old age and in her barrenness, for there was something much greater and much bigger than simply the birth of the child. It would have been one thing for the living and eternal God to answer the prayers of Elisabeth and Zacharias concerning having a child and His giving unto them a child, however, there was something else entirely and altogether different about the living and eternal God answering their prayer by giving them a child and setting apart that child for His purposes. Oh how absolutely incredible it is to think about the fact that when the angel Gabriel proclaimed and announced the birth of the Messiah’s messenger he would not only proclaim this child would be set apart and sanctified from his mother’s womb, but the angel Gabriel would also proclaim who and what manner of man this child would grow up to be. The angel Gabriel would make it perfectly and abundantly clear that this child would indeed be marked, separated and set apart from his mother’s womb—and not only would he be marked, set apart and separated from his mother’s womb, but he would also be filled with the Holy Ghost from the womb of his mother.

            I sit here today thinking about and considering the words and language that is found within the first and opening chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative which was written by the physician Luke and I can’t help but think about and consider the fact that when the angel Gabriel appeared unto Zacharias beside the altar within the Temple of the LORD, he would indeed proclaim that he and his wife Elisabeth would bring forth a child into the world, however, there was something so much greater and something much more powerful about the bringing forth of this child into the midst of the world. There was something truly astonishing and truly remarkable about Elisabeth bringing forth this child into the world, for Elisabeth would indeed and would in fact bring forth a child not for their own pleasure and delight only, but for the pleasure and delight of the Father. If you take the time to stop and think about the angelic proclamation which Gabriel would deliver unto Zacharias you will indeed find that the LORD would answer their prayers and honor their faithfulness and righteousness before Him, and the LORD would indeed grant unto them a child in their old age much like He did for Abraham and Sarah in their old age, however, this child would not be born solely for their enjoyment, their pleasure and their delight. Although it was perhaps and indeed true that Elisabeth and her husband Zacharias would indeed and would in fact experience great and tremendous delight within their hearts as a direct result of the birth of this child within their lives unto them, there was something much greater and far more important than their enjoyment of this child. Oh they would indeed enjoy and take great delight and pleasure in this child from the time he was born unto them and perhaps throughout his childhood, adolescent and teenage years, and even during his years as a young adult, however, the true and ultimate purpose for this child was not merely for their enjoyment and pleasure, but for the delight and pleasure of the living and eternal God. This particular child was marked, set apart and separated before he would even be conceived within his mother’s womb by the living and eternal God, for it would be God Himself who would mark this child for His own unique plans and purposes.

            We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of how absolutely astonishing and incredible this truly is when you take the time to think about this, for it draws and calls our attention to the absolutely awesome and powerful truth surrounding the birth of this child and how this child would indeed be born into the world to fulfil the divine purposes and plans which the living God had ordained and appointed for him since before he was conceived within the womb of his mother. What’s more, is that we must needs recognize and understand that there was more to the birth of John the Baptist than simply the angelic visitation of Gabriel unto Zacharias within the Temple of the LORD in Jerusalem and the declaration concerning the birth of this child and who and what the child would grow up to become. If you take the time to read and study the Scripture you will find that when you read and speak about the life of John the Baptist, his life was one that was prophesied long before even the angel Gabriel would appear in the city of Jerusalem unto Zacharias when he was ministering in the Temple of the LORD. It would be very easy to simply get caught up in the angelic visitation of Gabriel unto Zacharias in the Temple of the LORD and to think that the words which this angel and messenger of God would proclaim were the only proclamation concerning John the Baptist, however, what we must needs realize and understand is that there was a prophetic word which was spoken concerning John the Baptist long before the angel Gabriel would ever come into the Temple of the LORD and appear unto Zacharias. If you journey back into the Old Testament—specifically into and within the prophetic book of Isaiah—you will find and discover that the living and eternal God would anoint and inspire this ancient Hebrew prophet to speak of and proclaim the life and ministry of this one who would go before the face of the Messiah as His messenger. Oh we have a great need to recognize and understand this, for if we want to understand the life, the significance and importance of John the Baptist we must needs understand that the angel Gabriel’s declaration and proclamation concerning John the Baptist would come on the heels of the prophetic words which were spoken concerning John the Baptist centuries before. With this in mind, I invite you to consider the following words which were prophesied and spoken concerning John the Baptist by the prophet Isaiah:

            “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 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 withereth, the flower fadeth; because the Spirit of the LORD bloweth upon it: surely the people is grass. The grass whithereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever” (Isaiah 40:1-8).

            While it is important to read and understand these words which were prophesied and spoken by the ancient Hebrew prophet Isaiah during the days of Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz and Hezekiah, it is also necessary to recognize how there would be another Hebrew prophet who would proclaim and speak concerning the coming of the Messiah’s messenger. It was indeed true that Isaiah would prophesy the word of the LORD concerning this coming messenger of the Messiah, however, Isaiah wasn’t the only Hebrew prophet to proclaim the word of the LORD concerning this messenger which would be sent by and sent of God unto men. If and as you turn your attention to the third chapter of the final book within the Old Testament—the prophetic book of Malachi—you will find that this final prophetic voice which would proclaim the word of the LORD before four-hundred years of silence would ensue had proclaimed a mighty and powerful word concerning John the Baptist. If you turn and direct your attention to the words which are found in the third and final chapter of this Old Testament prophetic book you will find this final prophetic voice of the living and eternal God making a wonderful and powerful declaration and proclamation concerning this messenger of the Messiah and who and what manner of man he would be. In fact, I would dare say that if we are truly going to understand the context and narrative surrounding John the Baptist as the divine messenger of the Messiah who would go before His face we must needs recognize and understand the words which are found within the third chapter of this prophetic book. It is within the third chapter of this prophetic book where we are given an additional glimpse and further insight into who and what manner of man and messenger who would go before the face of the Messiah would indeed be. With this in mind I now invite you to turn and direct your attention to the following words which are found in the third chapter of the Old Testament prophetic book of Malachi beginning with the first verse:

            “Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before m: and the LORD, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: Behold, he shall come, saith the LORD of hosts. But who may abide the day of his coming? And who shall stand when he appeareth? For he is like a refiner’s fire, and like a fuller’s soap: and he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the LORD an offering in righteousness. Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the LORD, as in the days of old, and as in former years. And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, saith the LORD of hosts. For I am the LORD, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed” (Malachi 3:1-6).

            Pay close and careful attention to the words which are found here, for these words not only paint the powerful picture of the messenger of the Messiah coming unto Judah and Jerusalem, but also the Messiah Himself coming unto and among them. It is with both of these passages of Scripture found in the Old Testament prophetic books of Isaiah and Malachi we are brought face to face with the tremendous truth surrounding who and what manner of man this child which would be born unto Zacharias and Elisabeth would indeed be and become. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this and how absolutely incredible it truly is, for it calls and draws our attention to the tremendous truth surrounding this messenger of the Messiah and what manner of man he was ordained and appointed to be. If there is one thing we must needs acknowledge when considering John the Baptist it’s that even before he was conceived within the womb of his mother Elisabeth the LORD had already marked, set apart and separated both he himself, as well as his life for the divine plans and purposes of the living God. Not only this, but as you read the words which are found within these portions and passages of Scripture you will find that they indeed set the framework and serve as the context for the angelic visitation of Gabriel unto Zacharias beside the altar in the Temple of the LORD in the city of Jerusalem. Oh we have great need to pay close and careful attention to these words, for they draw and call our attention to the fact that when the angel Gabriel appeared unto Zacharias there in the Temple of the LORD in the city of Jerusalem he would emphatically proclaim and declare an even greater and an even additional revelation concerning who and what manner of man this child would indeed grow up to be. Oh it would be true that this child would indeed bring great joy, great delight, great pleasure, and great happiness unto Zacharias and Elisabeth in their old age, however, this child was not entirely, nor was he altogether given unto them solely for their plans and their purposes. It would be easy to think about and consider that this child was given unto them solely for their delight and their pleasure, and yet the truth of the matter is that this child was given unto them for the divine purposes of the living God.

            Much like Hannah was barren in the Old Testament, and much like the wife of Manoah was barren during the days of the judges of Israel, the LORD would cause both of their wombs to be opened that they might conceive and bring forth a child into the earth—and not just a child, but a child which would be born for a specific purpose ordained and appointed by the living and eternal God. We must needs recognize and acknowledge that the prophet Samuel would indeed be given unto Hannah to essentially turn back the reproach of her being barren, however, this child would be given unto her for a much greater purpose than merely her own desires, her own delights, and her own pleasures. In fact, even when Hannah besought and entreated the LORD for a male child she would declare and proclaim unto the LORD that if He honored her request and answered her petition she would give the child unto the LORD all the days of his life. The LORD would indeed honor the prayer and petition of Hannah, and would grant her a son, however, the son which would be born unto her would not merely be any ordinary son, but would serve as both prophet and judge within the days of the children of Israel just before the beginning of the reign of the kings. The narrative and account of Samuel is one that is truly remarkable and astounding when you take the time to consider it, for not only would he be ordained and appointed a prophet of the LORD among the children of Israel who would faithfully proclaim the word of the LORD, and not only would he serve as the final judge in Israel, but he would also be involved in the LORD’s choosing and selecting of the first two kings of Israel—the first king being Saul, and the second king being David. Concerning the narrative of the life of Manoah and his wife the angel of the Lord would appear unto her and would proclaim that she would indeed bring forth a male child, and that her child would be brought into the world for a specific purpose. With this in mind, I invite you to consider the following words which are found within the Old Testament books of First Samuel and Judges:

            “Now there was a certain man of Ramathhaim-zophim, of mount Ephraim, and his name was Elkanah, the son of Jeroham, the son of Elihu, the son of TOhu, the son of Zuph, and Ephtrathite: and he had two wives: the name of one was Hannah, and the name of the other Peninnah: and Peninnah had children, but Hannah had no children. And this man went up out of his city yearly to worship and to sacrifice unto the LORD of hosts in Shiloh. And the two sons of Eli, Hophni and Phineas, the priests of the LROD, were there. And when the time was that Elkanah offered, he gave to Peninnah his wife, and to all her sons and her daughters, portions: but unto Hannah he gave w worthy portion; for he loved Hannah: but the LORD had shut up her womb. And her adversary also provoked her sore, for to make her fret, because the LORD had shut up her womb. And as he did so year by year, when she went up to the house of the LORD, so she provoked her; therefore she wept, and did not eat. Then said ELkanah her husband to her, Hannah, why weepest thou? And why eatest thou  not? And why is thy heart grieved? Am I not better to thee than ten sons? So Hannah rose up after they had eaten in Shiloh, and after they had drunk. Now Eli the priest sat upon a seat by a post of the temple of the LORD. And she was in bitterness of soul, and prayed unto the LORD, and wept sore. And she vowed a vow, and said, O LORD of hosts, if thou wilt indeed look on the affliction of thine handmaid, and remember me, and not forget thine handmaid, but tilt give unto thine handmaid a man child, then I will give him unto the LORD all the days of his life, and there shall no razor come upon his head. And it came to pass, as she continued praying before the LORD, that Eli marked her mouth. Now Hannah, she spake in her heart; only her lips moved, but her voice was not heard: Therefore Eli thought she had been drunken. And Eli said unto her, How long wilt thou be drunken? Put away thy wine from thee. And Hannah answered and said, NO, my lord, I am a woman of a sorrowful spirit: I have drunk neither wine nor strong drink, but have poured out my soul before the LORD> Count not thine hand maid for a daughter of Belial: for out of the abundance of my complain and grief have I spoken hitherto. Then Eli answered and said, Go in peace: and the God of Israel grant thee thy petition that thou hast asked of him. And she said, Let thine handmaid find grace in thy sight. So the woman went her way, and did eat, and her countenance was no more sad. And they rose up in the morning early, and worshipped before the LORD, and returned, and came to their house to Ramah: and Elkanah hew Hannah his wife; and the LORD remembered her. Wherefore it came to pass, when the time was come about after Hannah had conceived, that she bare a son, and called his name Samuel, saying, Because I have asked him of the LORD. And the man Elkanah, and all his house went up to offer unto the LORD the yearly sacrifice, and his vow. But Hannah went not up: for she said unto her husband, I will not go up until the child be weaned, and then I will bring him, that he may appear before the LORD, and there abide for ever. And Elkanah her husband said unto her, DO what seemth thee good; tarry unto thou have weaned him; only the LORD establish his word. 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 on ephah 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 aid, O 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 1:1-28).

            Now that you have read the words which were written and recorded in the opening chapter of the Old Testament book of First Samuel I invite you turn back to the previous book and consider the words which are found in the thirteenth chapter of the Old Testament book of Judges concerning Manoah and his wife and the angelic visitation that would take place during that time:

            “And the children of Israel did evil again in the sight of the LORD; and the LORD delivered them into the hand of the Philistines forty years. And there was a certain man of Zorah, of the family of the Danites, whose name was Manoah; and his wife was barren, and bare not. And the angel of the Lord appeared unto the woman, and said unto her, Behold now, thou art barren and bearest not: but thou shalt conceive, and bear a son. Now therefore beware, I pray thee, and drink not wine, nor strong drink, and eat not any unclean thing: For, lo, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son; and no razor shall come on his head: for the child shall be a Nazarite unto God from the womb: and he shall begin to deliver Israel out of the hand of the Philistines. Then the woman came and told her husband, saying, A man of God came unto me, and his countenance was like the countenance of an angel of God, very terrible: but I asked him not whence he was, neither told me his name: but he said unto me, Behold, thou shalt conceive, and bear a son; and now drink no wine nor strong drink, neither eat any unclean thing: for the child shall be a Nazarite to God from the womb to the day of his death. Then Manoah intreated the LORD, and said, O my Lord, let the man of God which thou didst send come again unto us, and teach us what we shall do unto the child that shall be born. And God hearkened to the voice of Manoah; and the angel of God came again unto the woman as she sat in the field: but Manoah her husband was not with her. And the woman made haste, and ran, and shewed her husband, and said unto him, Behold, the man hath appeared unto me, that came unto me the other day. And Manoah arose, and went after his wife, and came to the man, and said unto him, Art thou the man that spakest unto the woman? And he said, I am. And Manoah said, Now let thy words come to pass. How shall we order the child, and how shall we do unto him? And the angel of the LORD said unto Manoah, Of all that I say unto the woman let her beware. She may not eat of any thing that cometh of the vine, neither let her drink wine or strong drink, nor eat any unclean thing: all that I commanded her let her observe. And Manoah said unto the angel of the LORD, I pray thee, let us detain thee, until we shall have made ready a kid for thee. And the angel of the LORD said unto Manoah, Thou thou detain me, I will not eat of thy bread: and if thou wilt offer a turn offering, thou must offer it unto the LORD. For Manoah knew not that he was an angel of the LORD. And Manoah said unto the angel of of the LORD, What is thy name, that when thy sayings come to pass we may do thee honour? And the angel of the LORD said unto him, Why askest thou thus after my name, seeing it is secret? So Manoah took a kid with a meat offering, and offered it upon a rock unto the LORD: and the angel did wondrously; and Manoah and his wife looked on. For it came to pass, when the flame went up toward heaven from off the altar, that the angel of the LORD ascended in the flame of the altar. And Manoah and his wife looked on it, and fell on their faces to the ground. But the angel of the LORD did no more appear to Manoah and to his wife. Then Manoah knew that he was an angel of the LORD. And Manoah said unto his wife, We shall surely die, because we have seen God. But his wife said unto him, If the LORD were pleased to kill us, he would not have received a burnt offering and a meat offering at our hands, neither would he have shewed us all these things, nor would as at this time have told us such things as these. And the woman bare a son, and called his name Samson: and the child grew, and the LORD blessed him. And the Spirit of the LORD began to move him at times in the camp of Dan between Zorah and Eshtaol” (Judges 13:1-25).

            I fully realize and understand the narratives of Samuel and Samson might not seem like they have any relevance and/or importance to what is before us in the New Testament gospel narrative which was written by Luke, however, we must needs recognize and understand that when the angel Gabriel appeared unto Zacharias in the Temple of the LORD beside the altar, he would proclaim the word of the LORD before and unto him concerning the conception and bringing forth of a son. When the angel Gabriel appeared unto Zacharias beside the altar there in the Temple of the LORD he would faithfully proclaim and declare unto him that his wife Elisabeth would indeed conceive and bring forth a son—and not only would she conceive and bring forth a son, but that son would be set apart, separated and sanctified before and unto the LORD. The angel Gabriel would indeed declare unto Zacharias that his wife Elisabeth would conceive and bring forth a son, however, when we think about and consider the words and language which he spoke unto Zacharias there beside the altar in the Temple of the Lord, the child would indeed be marked, set apart and separated as holy unto the LORD from the time of his birth. Oh we dare not and must not miss and lose sight of this, for it calls and draws our attention to the awesome and powerful truth concerning the birth of John the Baptist, and how John the Baptist would indeed bring great joy, great delight and great pleasure unto Zacharias and Elisabeth in their old age, however, this child would be conceived and brought forth into the world for more than simply their pleasure and their enjoyment. Oh we must needs realize, recognize and understand this, for it brings us to the place where we recognize and understand that this child would be born unto Zacharias and Elisabeth that the prophetic word of the LORD might be fulfilled—and not only that the prophetic word might be fulfilled, but also that what the angel Gabriel had spoken would be brought to pass. Oh it is truly something worth thinking about when you consider the words which are found within this portion of Scripture, for it calls and draws our attention to the incredibly awesome and powerful truth surrounding the birth of this and who and what manner of man he would be. It is important for us to realize, recognize and understand that this child was indeed ordained and appointed by the living and eternal  God for His divine plans and purposes, and these purposes would be far greater than the enjoyment, the delight and the pleasure of Zacharias and his wife Elisabeth.

            When we think about and consider the words and language which are found in the New Testament gospel narrative which was written by the beloved physician Luke we must needs realize and understand that when the angel Gabriel appeared unto Zacharias there beside the altar in the Temple of the LORD—not only would he reveal that Elisabeth would conceive a child in her old age and in her barrenness, but the angel Gabriel also revealed who and what manner of man this child would be. Not only this, but the angel Gabriel would in fact proclaim that this child would be separated, set apart and marked by the Spirit of the living God from the time of his birth. We must needs realize and understand this particular truth surrounding the birth of John the Baptist, for the words and language that is found within this portion and passage of Scripture is incredibly powerful when you take the time to consider how John the Baptist would indeed and would in fact be born unto Zacharias and Elisabeth, and how the child would in fact be set apart and sanctified by the Holy Spirit from before he would even be conceived within the womb. What I find to be truly astonishing and remarkable when you consider the words and language that is found within this passage is when you not only consider the words which the angel Gabriel spoke unto Zacharias, but also what took place when Mary came unto the hill country of Judaea after the angel Gabriel had also appeared unto her. If you read the words which are found within the New Testament gospel narrative written by Luke you will not only find the words which were spoken by the angel Gabriel concerning who and what manner of man this child would grow up to be, and not only will you find and discover how this man would be marked, separated and set apart by the living God for His divine purposes, but you will also find what might have been the precise moment when John the Baptist was filled with the Holy Ghost within the womb of Elisabeth. Consider if you will the following words and language which is found in the first chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative which was written by the Gentile physician Luke:

            “There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth. And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the LORD blameless. And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years. And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest’s office before God in the order of his course, according to the custom of the priest’s office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the Temple of the LORD> And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense. And there appeared unto him an angel of the LORD standing on the right side of the altar of incense. And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him. But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: 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 1:5-17).

            “And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda; and entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth. And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: and she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the LORD” (Luke 1:39-45).

            How absolutely wonderful and incredible the words are within these two passages, for the angel Gabriel would indeed and would in fact declare and proclaim unto Zacharias that the child which would be conceived within the womb of Elisabeth would indeed and would in fact bring them great joy, great delight, and great pleasure, however, with that joy, delight and pleasure would come the divine purposes and plans of the living God. Oh how absolutely necessary it is for us to realize and understand the truth concerning that which the living and eternal God might very well give us for us to enjoy, for us to delight in, and for us to have great pleasure in, and how that enjoyment and pleasure is entirely and altogether secondary to the divine plans and purposes of the living God. The LORD would indeed open and unlock the womb of Elisabeth and allow her to conceive and bring forth a son, and that son would in fact bring them great delight, great pleasure, and great joy, however, greater than that delight and pleasure would be the divine plans and purposes of the living and eternal God. The child would bring delight, joy and pleasure to the hearts and souls of Zacharias and Elisabeth, and there would be many who would rejoice at this child which would be born unto them, however, there would be something far greater than the joy and delight of Zacharias and Elisabeth—namely, the pleasure and purposes of the living God. Perhaps one of the greatest questions we must ask ourselves is whether or not we are truly aware of the pleasures and purposes of the living God within our lives. Oh it might very well be true the living and eternal God might have indeed given us something which might indeed bring us great joy, great delight, and great pleasure, and yet what we must needs realize and understand is the tremendous truth surrounding the pleasure(s) and purpose(s) of the living and eternal God. The living and eternal God would indeed grant unto Zacharias and Elisabeth a child in their old age, however, that child would fulfill the pleasures and purposes of the living God, and would ultimately be born for His divine purposes and pleasures more than simply their own personal delights, pleasures and joy.

            As you come to the third chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative which was written by the beloved physician Luke you will find the beginning of the narrative and account of John the Baptist. We know from the final verse of the first chapter that after John the Baptist had been born unto Zacharias and Elisabeth he would grow and would wax strong in spirit, and would be in the deserts till the day of his shewing unto Israel. The child John would indeed grow and would wax strong in the spirit, however, the child would spend a considerable amount of time in the desert until the day and time of his shewing unto Israel. It is when we come to the third chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative which was written by the Gentile physician Luke that we truly begin to see and encounter the divine purposes and pleasures of the living God for and with this child. We know who and what manner of man this child would indeed grow up to be based on what the angel Gabriel would proclaim and declare unto Zacharias beside the altar in the Temple of the LORD, however, it is when we come to the third chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by Luke we begin to see the purpose for which John was conceived and brought forth into the world. It is as you begin reading with and from the first verse in the third chapter you will find the political context surrounding the beginning of the ministry of John the Baptist, as well as the religious context surrounding his manifestation and showing unto Israel. In the opening verses of the third chapter we discover that Tiberius Caesar would be ruler over Rome, Pontius Pilate would be governor over Judaea, Herd would be tetrarch of Galilee, Herod’s brother Philip would be tetrarch of Ituraea and of the region of Trachonitis, and Lysanias the tetrarch of Abilene. What we also learn and discover and that Annas and Caiaphas would be the high priests which would minister in the Temple of the LORD during those days and at that time. Thus in the opening verses of the third chapter we are not only brought face to face with the political context surrounding the showing and manifestation of John the Baptist, but we also see the religious context surrounding his showing and his manifestation unto the house of Israel. What’s more, is that it is at this time where we first learn of Herod who would play a pivotal and crucial role in the life of John the Baptist, and Pilate who would play a crucial role in the life of Jesus the Christ.

            Upon reading the words which are found within the opening verses of the third chapter you will find that it was during the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar while Pontius Pilate was governor over Judaea, while Herod was tetrarch over Galilee, and while Annas and Ciaphas were high priests in Jerusalem the word of the Lord would indeed come unto John the Baptist in the wilderness. We must not miss and lose sight of that which is found within the opening verses of this particular portion of Scripture, for the words which we find here in this passage begins to provide us with the context surrounding the purpose for which John the Baptist, the son of Zacharias would indeed and would in fact be born. In the second verse of the third chapter we learn and discover that the word of the Lord would come unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness, and as a direct result of the word of the Lord coming unto him he would come into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. OH please don’t miss and lose sight of what is found within these verses, for not only do we discover the word of the Lord beginning to be manifested during those days, but we also find the word of the Lord beginning to be proclaimed once more after four-hundred years of silence. The final prophetic voice which would prophesy prior to the four-hundred years of silence would indeed by Malachi, and now here we find John the Baptist being the first prophetic voice which would appear in the midst of the land in more than four centuries. Oh pause and consider how absolutely incredible this would have been, for the people which were living during those days were undoubtedly used to not hearing or receiving any word from the Lord and would have relied solely on that which the teachers of the Law, the scribes, the Pharisees, the chief priests, and even the high priests would indeed speak unto them. There would be a period of time when the only instruction those in Judaea, those in Jerusalem and those in Galilee would hear and receive would proceed and come from the chief priests, the scribes, the teachers of the Law, and the Pharisees.

            When John the Baptist, the son of Zacharias would begin to emerge from the deserts and from the wilderness he would emerge having heard directly from the LORD, and having received the word of the Lord which would have been spoken unto him. If there is one thing we must learn and understand when considering the words found in this passage of Scripture is how John the Baptist would not merely emerge from the deserts and the wilderness with his own words and his own message, but he would emerge with a word from the LORD. The LORD would appear unto John the Baptist there in the midst of the wilderness, and the time would come when John the Baptist would emerge from the deserts and from the wilderness and would come into all the region round about the Jordan. There at the Jordan—perhaps even in the same place where the children of Israel had crossed during the days of Joshua when he led them into the land of Canaan beyond the Jordan, and perhaps even in the very same place where Elijah and Elisha had smitten the waters with the mantle—John the Baptist would faithfully proclaim the word of the LORD. Oh we have a great need to recognize and understand this, for it draws and calls our attention the fact that at this moment we begin to see and understand the reason and the purpose for which John the Baptist would indeed be born. It would be fifteen years into the reign of Tiberius Caesar the word of the LORD would come unto John as he was dwelling in the deserts and the wilderness, and he would come unto the region round about the Jordan River preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. Oh what a tremendous truth surrounds this particular narrative and account, for after four-hundred years of silence the word of the Lord would indeed come unto John the son of Zacharias, and that word would be a word of repentance as John would call the people of Israel unto and into a place of repentance before and unto the LORD. IT would be during those days the word of the LORD would indeed and would in fact come unto John the Baptist—a word which he would bring unto the region round about Jordan as he would not only preach and proclaim baptism of repentance for the remission of sins, but would indeed and would in fact call men and women unto repentance for the kingdom of heaven was at hand.

            It is truly something absolutely remarkable when you consider the words found in the third chapter of the New Testament gospel narrative written by Luke, for what you will find is the word of the Lord coming unto John the son of Zacharias—the first time the word of the Lord would be manifested in the earth in four centuries. After nearly four centuries of a famine in the earth for the word of the Lord the word would once more return unto the land of Judaea and Galilee, and it would come through one who was born of a barren woman, and one who dwelt in the deserts and wilderness until the time came for his showing. We dare not and must not miss and lose sight of what is found within this portion of Scripture, for what is presented here before us is a truly awesome and powerful picture of the Lord beginning to restore the word of the Lord in the midst of the earth. What’s more, is that not only did the living and eternal God begin to restore the word of the Lord in the midst of the earth, but that word would be one that was centered around repentance. There is a great need to recognize and understand this powerful need for repentance—particularly and especially when you consider some of the language which the LORD would speak unto His people just prior to the four hundred years of silence. There is not a doubt in my mind that the message which John the son of Zacharias brought unto the land of Judaea and Galilee was a profound continuation of that which the prophet Malachi had prophesied four centuries earlier. There is not a doubt in my mind that if you want to truly understand the nature of this preaching and message of repentance which was spoken by John the Baptist you must needs turn and direct your attention to the words which are found in the first three chapters of the prophetic book of Malachi. There is not a doubt in my mind that the words and language which is found within these chapters brings us face to face with some of the same issues which John the Baptist would call men and women to repentance of during those days and during that generation. We know from the gospel narratives that John the Baptist would come preaching a baptism of repentance unto the remission of sins, and it is with that in mind that we must also understand some of the same issues which undoubtedly plagued that generation and were still lingering and festering when John the Baptist stepped on to the scene. Oh with this mind I invite you to consider some of the grievances the living God had with the people of Israel after they had returned unto the land after seventy years of captivity and exile, and after they had been settled within that land:

            “A son honoureth his father, and a servant his master: If then I be a father, where is mine honour? And if I be a master, where is my fear? Saith the Lord of hosts unto you, O priests, that despise my name. And ye say, Wherein have we despised thy name? Ye offer polluted bread upon mine altar; and ye say, Wherein have we polluted thee? IN that ye say, The table of the LORD is contemptible. And if ye offer the blind for sacrifice, is it not evil? And if ye offer the lame and sick, is it not evil? Offer it now unto thy governor; will he be pleased with thee, or accept thy person? Saith the LORD of hosts. And now, I pray you, beseech God that he will be gracious unto us: This hath been by your means: Will he regard your persons? Saith the LORD of hosts. Who is there even among you that would shut the doors for nought? Neither do ye kindle fire on mine altar for nought. I have no pleasure in you, saith the LORD of hosts, neither will I accept an offering at your hand. For from the rising of the sun even unto the going down of the same my name shall be great among the Gentiles: and in every place incense shall be offered unto my name, and a pure offering: for my name shall be great among the heathen, saith the LORD of hosts” (Malachi 1:6-11).

            “But ye have profaned it, in that ye say, The table of the LORD is polluted; and the fruit thereof, even his meat, is contemptible. Ye said also, Behold, what a weariness is it! And ye have snuffed at it, saith the LORD of hosts: and ye brought that which was torn, and the lame, and the sick; thus ye brought an offering: Should I accept this of your hand? Saith the LORD> But cursed be the deceiver, which hath in his flock a male, and voweth, and sacrificeth unto the LORD a corrupt thing: For I am a great King, saith the LORD of hosts, and my name is dreadful among the heathen” (Malachi 1:12-14).

            “And now, O ye priests, this commandment is for you. If ye will not hear, and if ye will not lay it to heart, to give glory unto my name, saith the LORD of hosts, I will even send a curse upon you, and I will curse your blessings: Yea, I have cursed them already, because ye do not lay it to heart. Behold, I will corrupt your seed, and spread dung upon your faces, even the dung of your solemn feasts; and one shall take you away with it. And ye shall know that I have sent this commandment unto you, that my covenant might be with Levi, saith the LORD of hosts. My covenant was with him of life and peace; and I gave them to him for the fear wherewith he feared me, and was afraid before my name. The law of truth was in his mouth, and iniquity was not found in his lips: he walked with me in peace and equity, and did turn many away from iniquity. For the priest’s lips should keep knowledge, and they should seek the law at his mouth: for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts. But ye have departed out of the way; ye have caused many to stumble at the law; ye have corrupted the covenant of Levi, saith the LORD of hosts. Therefore have I also made you contemptible and base before all the people, according as ye have not kept my ways, but have been partial in the law” (Malachi 2:1-9).

            “Have we not all one father? Hath not one God created us? Why do we deal treacherously every man against his brother, by profaning the covenant of our fathers? Judah hath dealt treacherously, and an abomination is committed in Israel and in Jerusalem; for Judah hath profaned the holiness of the LORD which he loved, and hath married the daughter of a strange god. The LORD will cut off the man that doeth this, the master and the scholar, out of the tabernacles of Jacob, and him that offereth an offering unto the LORD of hosts. And this have ye done again, covering the altar of the LORD with tears, with weeping, and with crying out, insomuch that he regardeth not the offering any more, or receith it with good will at your hand. Yet ye say, Wherefore? Because the LORD hath been witness between thee and the wife of thy youth, against whom thou hast dealt treacherously: yet is she thy companion, and the wife of thy covenant. And did not he make one? Yet had he the resideue of the spirit. And wherefore one? That he might seek a godly seed. Therefore take heed to your spirit, and let none deal treacherously against the wife of his youth. For the LORD, the God of Israel, saith that he hateth putting away: for one covereth violence with his garment, saith the LORD of hosts: therefore take heed to your spirit, that ye deal not treacherously” (Malachi 2:10-16).

            “Ye have wearied the LORD with your words. Yet ye say, Wherein have we wearied him? When ye say, Every one that doeth evil is good in the sight of the LORD, and he delighteth in them; or, Where is the God of judgment?” (Malachi 2:17).

            “Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from mine ordinances, and have not kept them. Return unto me, and I will return unto you, saith the LORD of hosts. But ye said, Wherein shall we return? Will a man rob God? Yet ye have robbed me. But ye say, Wherein have we robbed thee? In tithes and offerings. Ye are cursed with a curse: for ye have robbed me, even this whole nation. Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the LORD of hosts, If I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it. And I will rebuke the devourer for your sakes, and he shall not destroy the fruits of your ground; neither shall your vine cast her fruit before the time in the field, saith the LORD of hosts” (Malachi 3:7-11).

            “Your words have been stout against me, saith the LORD. Yet ye say, What have we spoken so much against thee? Ye have said, It is vain to serve God: And what profit is it that we have kept his ordinance, and that we have walked mournfully before the LORD of hosts? And now we call the proud happy; yea, they that work wickedness are set up; yea, they that tempt God are even delivered.” (Malachi 3:13-15).

            We would be incredibly wise to recognize and pay attention to the words which are found here in these passages of Scripture, for with these words we find the final prophetic voice which would appear in the land before four hundred years of silence indicting the priests and the people for their iniquities and transgressions. You cannot read the words found within these chapters and not see that from the priests to the people all were guilty before the LORD and all had committed iniquity, transgression and wickedness before Him in His sight. The words and language which are found in this portion of Scripture are such which are incredibly challenging—particularly and especially when you consider the fact that within this prophetic narrative we not only find the language of returning, but we also find the language of one who would come as a refiner’s fire and as a fuller’s soap. There is within this prophetic book and its many indictments against the priests and the people a powerful invitation to return unto the LORD—and not only a return unto the LORD, but in their returning the LORD would indeed and would in fact return unto them. It would during those days when the offerings of the LORD were polluted and defiled and when the tithes and offerings were being robbed and stolen by the people. It would be during those days when the people would consider it a weariness and vanity to walk with and worship the living God, and would even join themselves together to the daughter of a strange god. What’s more, is that it would be during these days when divorce would run rampant in the midst of the land—divorce which is that thing which the LORD abhors and hates. These words and this language must be strongly and carefully considered, for when we come to the days when John the Baptist would be publicly manifested and revealed in the land of Judaea and Galilee in the region round about the Jordan River, we find him preaching baptism of repentance unto and for the remission of sins. Oh we must needs acknowledge and understand this, for it forces us to recognize that when John the Baptist emerged on to the scene the people—including the priests, the elders of the people, the scribes, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, and the religious system—were walking in ways which were not pleasing in the sight of the LORD.

            We know from the emphatic and powerful declarations John the Baptist made that he was not the Messiah and that he was merely the forerunner of the Messiah. With this being said he would bring unto the people—not only a powerful message of repentance, but also a powerful invitation unto baptism. What we find within this portion of Scripture is truly remarkable and astounding when you consider it, for we find John the Baptist calling those who would come unto him a generation of vipers and call upon them to bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and not to boast themselves in being of the lineage of Abraham. What’s more, is John the Baptist would also declare unto those who would come unto him that the axe was laid unto the root of the trees: and every tree which did not bring forth good fruit was hewn down and cast into the fire. These words are such which provide a powerful context—particularly and especially when you consider the prophetic message Malachi brought unto the people of Israel in his generation, for Malachi would not only indict the people and priests for their transgressions, but he would also call them to return unto the LORD. It would be this call to return which would be echoed by other prophets such as Jeremiah and Joel—both of who would emphatically and powerfully call the people to return unto the LORD with all their hearts, with fasting, with weeping and with mourning. What we must needs understand is that at the very heart of this returning is the message which John the Baptist would indeed preach unto those during his generation—from the priests, to the publicans, to the people, to the soldiers. You cannot read the gospel narratives which were written and not find John the Baptist calling upon men and women to repent—and not only repent, but also repent for the kingdom of heaven was at hand. Furthermore, John the Baptist would bring more than simply a call to repentance, for he would also bring forth a powerful invitation to baptism. It would be baptism which would be an outward demonstration, manifestation and expression of an inward reality and of a heart that was turning once more to God in repentance.

            As I prepare to bring this writing to a close I find it absolutely remarkable and astounding that when you read the narrative and account of John the Baptist which Luke would write, you will find Luke presenting a powerful picture of publicans, of the people, and of the centurions and soldiers coming unto John in response to his message. I am absolutely and completely convinced that what is presented before us in verses ten through fourteen are incredibly necessary for us to think about and consider, for the words we find here in this passage bring us face to face with the tremendous truth surrounding those who would come unto John essentially asking them what they ought to do, how they ought to live, and how they needed to respond to the words which he would preach. Scripture does not make it all clear how many actually came out to the baptism of John, nor how many would come out to hear him preach the word of the LORD as he called men and women unto repentance, however, we can most certainly say that there a good number of those present during that generation who would come unto John the Baptist to hear his words and to be baptized in water unto repentance for the remission of sins. That which we find in verses ten through fourteen are absolutely captivating and challenging, for within these verses we find an incredibly powerful picture of publicans, of the people, and even of the soldiers coming unto John—and not only coming unto John, but asking a very specific question. If and as you read the words found within these verses you will find that the publicans, the people, and the soldiers would come unto John and ask him point blank what they then ought to do in response to his preaching and in response to baptism unto repentance for the remission of sins. When hearing the people ask him what they ought to do John would respond by instructing those which had two coats to give unto those who had none, and those who had meat to give unto those which had none. When speaking unto the publicans John would instruct them to exact no more than that which is appointed unto them, thus instructing them not to extort the people, and thus abuse and misuse them. In speaking to the soldiers John the Baptist would instruct them to do violence to no man, nor accuse any falsely, and to be content with their wages and not complain.

If there is one thing I find so incredibly unique and powerful about this particular set of verses is there is one particular group of people mentioned here who you will not find coming unto John asking what they ought to do. Oh it was indeed true this people came unto John the Baptist out of curiosity wondering if he was the Messiah and the Christ, however, they would not ask, nor even wonder among themselves what they themselves ought to do. As I bring this writing to a close I am absolutely and completely convinced that there is within this particular portion of Scripture a tremendous challenge in the people who seem to be present at the baptism but absent when it comes to repentance. PRESENT AT THE EVENT, ABSENT IN REPENTANCE! If and as you read the four gospel narratives you will find that the chief priests, the Pharisees and certain of those in the religious system and community would indeed come unto John curious as to whether or not he was the Messiah and the Christ who was to come, however, what you will not find is any of the religious asking John what they ought to do. Pause for a moment and think about the fact that the people asked what they ought to do, the publicans asked what they ought to do, but nowhere will you find the priests asking what they ought to do. How incredibly damning and indicting this particular truth truly is, for of all those who would not come unto John asking what they ought to do you will find the priests at the very heart and center of them all. Nowhere in any of the gospels will you find the priests, the chief priests, the scribes, the elders of the people, the teachers of the Law, the Pharisees, the Sadducees, or any other members of the religious community coming unto John the Baptist inquiring what they ought to do and how they should live during those days.

            I am absolutely and completely convinced that there is a tremendous indictment found within the days of John the Baptist—and not only within the days of John the Baptist, but also during the days when Jesus Himself would be publicly manifested in the midst of Judaea, Galilee and Jerusalem—for during those days you will find the priests still seemingly at odds with the living and eternal God. Oh there was an extensive and elaborate religious system that was in place during those days—one that extended beyond simply the priests which were present during the days of Malachi. This religious system not only consisted of the priests and chief priests, but also of scribes, of elders, of teachers of the Law, of Pharisees, of Sadducees, and the like. What we find within the four gospel narratives is that nowhere in any of these gospels do you find the religious system or community coming unto John the way the people, the publicans and the soldiers did asking what they ought to do so. Nowhere in any of the four gospels will you find the religious system and community coming unto John the Baptist asking what they ought to do, and the answer and reason for this is perhaps best explained in the parable which Jesus spoke concerning the publican and the priest, and how the publican would not even dare lift his eyes up unto the living God, but would instead beat upon his breast and ask for mercy as he viewed himself as a sinner. The priest, however, would brag and boast of his righteousness and how he fasted and tithed often, as well as thanking God that he was not like the publican who was present there in his midst. In all reality, it would be self-righteousness that would keep the priests, the scribes, the elders, the teachers, the Pharisees, the Sadducees and the like from coming unto John the Baptist—and not only keep them from coming unto John the Baptist asking what they ought to do, but would also cause them to condemn Jesus for eating and drinking with publicans and sinners. There is a great need for us to recognize and pay attention to the words found in this portion of Scripture, for they call our attention to the fact that those who were religious and those who were self-righteous in their own eyes and sight would not come unto John the Baptist asking what they ought to do and how they ought to live. This takes on an entirely different meaning when you consider the fact that Jesus would emphatically declare that He did not come to call the righteous, but sinners unto repentance.

            I conclude this writing with an incredibly powerful declaration concerning John the Baptist, and how during the days of John the Baptist you will find the priests and the Pharisees curiously and perhaps even cautiously approaching and dealing with John the Baptist as they wondered whether or not he might indeed be the Messiah and the Christ. John would indeed and emphatically declare and proclaim unto them that he was not the Messiah, nor was he the Christ, and they would press him for an answer as to who he was that they might bring back report to those who had sent them, and even unto the religious system and community. The religious system and community wanted to know whether or not John the Baptist was the Messiah, and when he point blank declared unto them he was not the Messiah they would proceed to ask him why he then baptized in water. To this John would emphatically declare that he came baptizing in water, however, there was one mightier than he who would come and baptize with fire and with the Holy Ghost. The religious system cared only whether or not John the Baptist was the Messiah, and there is not a single place within any of the four gospels where you find the religious system and establishment coming unto John the Baptist and asking what they ought to do in response to his preaching. In all reality this would not only be a continuation of what Malachi cried out against within his generation, but it would also be a tremendous precursor to what would take place during the ministry of Jesus and the tremendous conflict that would in fact ensue between the religious system and the kingdom of heaven.

WHEN THE RELIGIOUS SYSTEM AND THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN COLLIDE! WHEN THE RELIGIOUS SYSTEM AND THE KINGDOM OF GOD CLASH! If there is one thing we must ask ourselves when reading the words found within this particular writing it is whether or not we are too “religious” and/or whether or not we are too “self-righteous” to come before the Lord in repentance. The chief priests, the scribes, the elders of the people, the teachers of the Law, the Pharisees, and the religious community not only would and could not come unto John the Baptist with the same humility and repentance as the publicans, the people and the soldiers, but they would also take their defiance, their hypocrisy, their self-righteousness, and their religious and pious mindset even further by attempting to accuse and condemn Jesus for eating and drinking with publicans and sinners. We must needs recognize and understand this, for it calls and draws our attention to the tremendous and incredible truth of whether or not we ourselves are too “holy,” are “too righteous,” and are too “religious” to come before the Lord Jesus in humility and repentance. Nowhere in the four gospels, and nowhere in this particular text will you find the priests coming unto John the Baptist asking what they ought to do, and it was for this very reason Jesus would declare that prostitutes, publicans, and the people would enter into the kingdom of heaven as opposed to the priests, the teachers, the scribes, the elders and the Pharisees. Oh that we would recognize and understand this disparity and dichotomy that would exist between the publicans, the prostitutes and the people and the Pharisees and the priests. Oh that we would not necessarily point the finger in judgment at the priests, the Pharisees, and other members of the religious system and community for their inability and unwillingness to come unto Jesus, but that we would turn our attention and our focus inward and truly ask ourselves if we are such who can return unto the LORD, and are such who can and will walk before the LORD in true and genuine repentance. Oh that the kingdom of heaven and the work of the Spirit would completely, utterly and entirely dispel and drive out any religious spirit and mindset within our hearts and lives, and that we would be a people who are ready, willing and able to walk in obedience, righteousness and faithfulness before the Lord our God.

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