Preparing the Way

MEMORY VERSE: “Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” —Matthew 3:3

MALACHI 3:1-4; MATTHEW 3:1-12; JOHN 1:6-8, 19-28

THIS week’s study takes up the ministry of John the Baptist, who, as the honorable servant of God, had the privilege of announcing the Savior of the world. As the last member of the “house of servants” John prepared the way for Jesus by declaring him to be the long-promised Messiah and King of Israel, who would select a bride class to be his joint-heirs in his kingdom.

John the Baptist realized the special nature of his office and that he was not eligible to be of the bride class that our Lord was about to select; however, he discharged his duties with a deep sense of humility, saying (Matt. 3:11), “He that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear.” And again (John 3:29), we note the humble attitude of this great man of God who proclaimed that “He that hath the bride is the bridegroom: but the friend of the bridegroom, which standeth and heareth Him, rejoiceth greatly because of the bridegroom’s voice: this my joy therefore is fulfilled.”

From his birth—he being six months older than Jesus—John had been specially prepared by God to accomplish the task that lay before him. Upon reaching the age of maturity he wasted no time in rendering his consecrated service to God, but began at once to proclaim the arrival of the world’s Savior. While engaged in this ministry be abstained from earthly comforts, subsisting on the plainest of foods and attired merely with a camel’s hair girdle about his loins. Therefore he succeeded in devoting his entire attention and strength to the mission that had been given him.

This mission began at exactly the right time to introduce the Lord Jesus to the Israelites, who had been waiting for centuries for the fulfillment of the promise given to Abraham that “in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.” (Gen. 22:18) He announced that God’s kingdom was to be established, and that sanctification of the hosts of Israel was necessary that they might be prepared for the long-awaited fulfillment of the promise given to Abraham. As a mark of that preparation water immersion symbolized the turning away from sin and the return to covenant relationship with God. Although many responded to the call to repentance only a few did so with the proper spirit of full devotion to God.

Among the Pharisees and Sadducees and other religious leaders of Israel were those who were not of the proper heart condition, and John, recognizing that they were full of pride and arrogance, spoke out against them and declared that their repentance was not genuine. As the offspring of vipers they could expect no special favors from God or any share in the kingdom simply because they happened to be the natural children of Abraham.

The Messiah came unto his own even as John proclaimed, but the Jewish people did not receive him. They learned, through bitter experience, that divine favor had been cut off from them, and the privilege of striving to become a part of the spiritual seed extended to the Gentiles. Nevertheless God has a plan for their full recovery to favor, which will come about through the establishment of the kingdom, in due time.

There is a clear distinction between those who received divine guidance in the years prior to Pentecost, who were often known as the friends of God, and those who lived after Pentecost who were called the sons of God. John’s mission was directed to the nation of Israel, telling them that their Messiah had indeed come; that the time for the preparation of the long-promised kingdom of God was at hand, and that if they, as a nation, desired to have a share in it in harmony with its regulations they should prepare themselves for it without delay.

Jesus prepared the way for this part of the divine program, and those who are faithful in their response to this invitation will be part of the mediatorship of the New Covenant which will bring blessings for all the families of the earth in that future millennial kingdom.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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