Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Preparing the Way of the Lord

And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High;
For you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him,
To give his people the knowledge of salvation
Through the forgiveness of their sins,
Because of the tender mercy of our God,
By which the rising sun will come to us from heaven
To shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death,
To guide our feet into the path of peace."
(Luke 1:76-79 NIV)
In this final portion of Zechariah’s prayer, he prophesies over his son, John. John is not the one who brings salvation to the people of God and sets them free. Nor is he the “rising sun” who comes to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness. In short, he is not the Messiah — but he is the forerunner of Messiah. He is “A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
    make straight paths for him.
Every valley shall be filled in,
    every mountain and hill made low.
The crooked roads shall become straight,
    the rough ways smooth.
And all people will see God’s salvation.’”
(Luke 3:4-6 NIV, quoting Isaiah 40:3-5)
John did not bring salvation but he brought the knowledge of salvation, and of the forgiveness of sins. When he came of age, the word of God came to him and he went out into the wilderness of Judea to began his ministry (described in Luke 3:1-18 and also in Matthew 3:1-13). He came “preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins” (Luke 3:3) and turned many Jews back to the way of the Lord, as the angel who first appeared to Zechariah had said he would:
And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, “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 1:16-17)
This ministry of repentance was about the kingdom of God. “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” he said (Matthew 3:2). John the Baptist did not establish the kingdom of God but he prepared the way for the King, the Messiah, whose kingdom it is:
The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Messiah. John answered them all,

“I baptize you with water. But one who is more powerful than I will come, the straps of whose sandals I am not worthy to untie. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his barn, but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

And with many other words John exhorted the people and proclaimed the good news to them. (Luke 3:15-18 NIV)
It was through the baptism of John that Jesus of Nazareth was revealed to be Messiah. When Jesus was baptized by John, the Holy Spirit descended upon Him like a dove, and the voice of the Father said, “You are My beloved Son; in You I am well pleased” (Luke 3:30). This picked up important Old Testament language and showed Jesus to be the Son of God spoken of in Psalm 2 and the divinely appointed Servant in Isaiah 42. This explicitly identified Jesus as the Messiah, and therefore as King (see Reigning King and Well Pleasing Servant).

John’s role as forerunner, then, is a very important, for he prepares the way by announcing that the kingdom of God is near and bears witness to King Jesus. Today, as followers of King Jesus, we have a similar role, declaring this good news to the nations and calling everyone to faith in Him. In this Advent season, we give witness to the first coming of Jesus into the world even as we watch for His return, when the kingdom of God is fully revealed.

Let Earth Receive Her King
Let Earth Receive Her King
Advent, Christmas and the Kingdom of God
by Jeff Doles

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Available in paperback and Kindle (Amazon), epub (Google and iTunes) and PDF.

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