Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Voice in the Wilderness

To the people of the covenant it was a dark time indeed. There had been no word from the Lord for four hundred years. Their land had been overrun by empire after empire. The Romans were demanding strict loyalty. The strong people of Galilee and Judea were not accustomed to answering to anyone. In vain they looked for the coming of the Messiah to set right their wrongs, deliver them from their bonds, and restore the glory of Israel. All their hope lay in the national glory of Israel. However, God had a different picture. From the time of Solomon, His people had continuously disregarded His commands and put their trust in a national government rather than their Lord of hosts. They had disregarded and killed His true prophets and pleased themselves with false prophets. They had become so idolatrous that they assumed that anything that Israel did was the will of Yahweh. They were wrong. Yahweh had chosen them to bless all nations, not to build up their own little empire to feel good about themselves. Yahweh had blessed them, but when they left Him in their desire to be more like the other nations He disciplined them as a true Father. But they had never learned their lesson. They still looked for a national Messiah. Israel had felt glorious in the rebellion of the Maccabees because they had won back their independence. But God didn’t want them to be independent; He wanted them to depend on Him. After the rule of Maccabees, Rome had descended on Palestine with a heavy hand. And again Israel was looking for their Messiah, another Judas Maccabeus.

But God wasn’t finished with Israel yet. He had a Son to raise upon this dark world. The words of Isaiah the prophet ring true: “The people who walk in darkness will see a great light; those who live in a dark land, the light will shine on them.” (Isaiah 9:1 NASB) And so it did. Out of the wilderness came another prophet declaring that the Kingdom of God was near and that all most repent. John said that to be children of Abraham wasn’t enough. He proclaimed that their tree of security in the election of God was being cut down for lack of fruit. Only true repentance could continue to guarantee the blessings of God’s election. John instructed those who had to give to those who did not have. He commanded soldiers to do no violence. But John was not the Deliverer, he was only His forerunner. Jesus’ baptism by John was blessed by the Father, and John, once he knew the identity of Jesus, uttered that timeless proclamation of servanthood, “He must increase, but I must decrease.” (For the story of John see John 1, 3 and Luke 1, 3.)

Are we today willing to yield to another? How often do we want to just take all the glory? Also, are we willing to accept that God will work in His way, not in the way we expect of Him? This was the problem of many of the devout Jews and as a result they still wait for their Messiah. But Jesus came for all, not just the Israelite.

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