By Ray Luck
Pastor, Oak Grove Baptist Church, Athens
Years ago I was serving a church in another state as associate pastor. One Wednesday I was in charge of the service and before the service someone came in and said there was a man sitting on the steps in front of the Fellowship Hall. I went out greeted the man and discovered he was from another country and had enrolled at Pensacola Christian College.
Before arriving at the school he decided to travel through the Southeast by hitching rides and attending different churches. I invited him to attend the service and then, as being led by the Lord, I invited him to stay the night at our home. Once arriving at the house we served him food and then proceeded to talk about spiritual things well into the evening. The next morning after breakfast I took him to the Interstate where he caught a ride to his next destination. I have never seen or heard from him again. I sometimes wonder if he was perhaps an angel who came to my wife and me at a time in our life when we needed a special Word from the Lord.
The lesson for Dec. 6 focuses on a messenger sent by God to His people to prepare the way of the coming Messiah. In Handel’s “Messiah” the first recitative and chorus is Isaiah 40:1-5 which focuses on the one “… crying in the wilderness: prepare the Way of the Lord … .”
That one was John the Baptist who many thought was Elijah returning to the earth because of the verse in Malachi 4:5: “Behold I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord.”
For 400 years God had been silent, but then John burst on the scene preaching a message that stunned many and convicted others. John, Jesus’ cousin, was six months older and they began their ministry about the same time with John beginning a little before Jesus.
John challenged the religious leaders of the day with a message that was in their face, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2). He was also a rugged man dressing in a manner similar to Elijah. This led many to believe that he truly was Elijah. John baptized many who came confessing their sins. He challenged the Pharisees and Sadducees calling them a “… brood of vipers …” because they misled and deceived the people. He warned the people that if they were not bearing good fruit they would be cut down and thrown into the fire.
However his most important task was to prepare the way of the Lord Jesus Christ, the long awaited Messiah. John felt unworthy to unlatch the sandals on Jesus’ feet. John said that he baptized with water, but Jesus would baptize with the Holy Spirit (referring to Pentecost) and fire (referring to Jesus’ second coming).
John the Baptist played a key role in God’s plan of redemption. Sometimes we may feel insignificant in the Kingdom, but no matter what God will honor what we do in obedience to Him in the Kingdom, great or small. As the song says, “Little is much when God is in it.”