Good News for Us

KEY VERSE: “The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.” —Luke 3:4

SELECTED SCRIPTURE: Luke 3:2-4, 7-17

BY HEREDITY JOHN the Baptist was of the priestly tribe of Israel. His father, Zacharias, was himself a priest, of the family of Abla, or Abijah. Elisabeth, his mother, was of the daughters of Aaron. John’s birth was by the special overruling of God, which indicates the importance of the mission he was to perform. When John was eight days old he was duly presented at the Temple and circumcised, but after that we hear nothing of his activities until he offered himself to Israel as a servant of the Lord.

The chief ministry of John the Baptist was to prepare the people of Israel to receive their Messiah, who was Jesus. This mission had been prophesied concerning him. John preached a message of repentance to Israel, described in a prophecy of Malachi as the turning of the hearts of the fathers to the children and the hearts of the children to the fathers. Malachi refers to John as “Elijah.” (Mal. 3:1; 4:5) Evidently the reason this title is ascribed to him is because the Prophet Elijah also conducted a work of reformation in Israel.

However, we are not to understand that John the Baptist completely fulfilled this prophecy, although his ministry was conducted in keeping with it. It is true that John’s ministry led to the repentance of many in Israel, but the nation as a whole was not prepared to receive the Messiah. Nationally, John’s ministry was not successful. The proof of this is that when Jesus presented himself to the nation of Israel as king and Messiah, he was rejected. Jesus explained that to as many as received John the Baptist, implying a repentance and turning to God under the influence of his ministry, to them he was the foretold Elijah. (Matt. 17:12) This meant that John had accomplished an Elijah work of repentance and reformation in their lives.

Malachi mentions an alternative fulfillment which will be successful. It speaks of a worldwide reform which will be carried on during the Millennial Age by the greater antitypical Elijah, the Christ, who shall turn the hearts of the children to the fathers, and the fathers to the children. (Mal. 4:6) Jesus referred to this aspect of the Elijah type when he told his disciples that “the Elijah shall first come and restore all things.”—Matt. 17:11

John was the last of the prophets. One of his most significant prophecies was concerning the destruction of the Jewish nation. In this prophecy the repentant and faithful ones of Israel are likened to ‘wheat’. The unrepentant are symbolized by ‘chaff’, indicating that which was of no immediate value to the Lord.

John knew that he was to be supplanted by Jesus, whose presence he announced. He explained to his disciples that Jesus must increase, while he would decrease. John knew that he was not to become one of the disciples of Jesus and share in the blessings of the new dispensation. He referred to Jesus as the Bridegroom, and himself as the ‘friend’ of the bridegroom, and expressed his joy over this friendship.

John was imprisoned for his rebuke of Herod. While languishing in prison he began to wonder if, after all, Jesus truly was the Messiah. He sent messengers to Jesus to ask him about it, and Jesus’ reply was simply that he should be reminded of the mighty works he was performing, and that the poor were having the Gospel preached to them. The prophets of Israel had foretold that the Messiah would do all these things, particularly during his glorious kingdom here upon the earth, for which we daily pray.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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