Loving and faithful God, help me to serve you in ways that please you and bring you glory.
Read LUKE 3:1-20
John the Baptist Prepares the Way
3 In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Traconitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene— 2 during the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the wilderness. 3 He went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. 4 As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet:
“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.
5 Every valley shall be filled in,
every mountain and hill made low.
The crooked roads shall become straight,
the rough ways smooth.
6 And all people will see God’s salvation.’”[a]
7 John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 9 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire.”
10 “What should we do then?” the crowd asked.
11 John answered, “Anyone who has two shirts should share with the one who has none, and anyone who has food should do the same.”
12 Even tax collectors came to be baptized. “Teacher,” they asked, “what should we do?”
13 “Don’t collect any more than you are required to,” he told them.
14 Then some soldiers asked him, “And what should we do?”
He replied, “Don’t extort money and don’t accuse people falsely—be content with your pay.”
15 The people were waiting expectantly and were all wondering in their hearts if John might possibly be the Messiah. 16 John answered them all, “I baptize you with[b] 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[c] the Holy Spirit and fire. 17 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.” 18 And with many other words John exhorted the people and proclaimed the good news to them.
19 But when John rebuked Herod the tetrarch because of his marriage to Herodias, his brother’s wife, and all the other evil things he had done, 20 Herod added this to them all: He locked John up in prison.
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
God of desert places, open our hearts to the beauty and opportunity found in the wilderness.
Today’s passage focuses on the role of John the Baptist, who sets the scene for Jesus’ coming ministry. John has grown up in a rural area and Luke emphasizes his connection to the wilderness (vs 2–4).1 It was not uncommon for prophets to use the isolation of uninhabited desert places to cultivate a deeper spiritual life, separate from and uninfluenced by economic and political powers as well as hypocritical religious leaders. They could then prophesy, with personal authority and God’s power, against such systems and institutions. John’s message is as rugged and uncompromising as his environment, focused on God’s judgment and the need for repentance.
The phrase ‘in the wilderness’ refers back to Isaiah,2 as quoted in verses 4–6, and to Abraham’s and Moses’ encounters with God in the wilderness. The wilderness has been a crucial part of the journey of God’s people throughout Scripture and throughout history. In fact, it is the place in which the prophetic message is formed and birthed, for it prepares the way for God to move in and through his people. John’s experience in the wilderness prepares him for his prophetic ministry (v 2), which in turn prepares the way for the life and ministry of Jesus the Messiah (vs 15–17). This time in the desert allows John to recognize Jesus and his coming baptism with the Holy Spirit and with fire. The harshness of the wilderness, with its stripping back, heat and scarcity, is often the place where we find God.
Personally, I’ve been in a painful wilderness season. My family has had COVID-19 and two of us are still ill with long Covid. Isolation has exacerbated this time of stripping away. Yet I sense God’s Spirit deepening things in me and can see ways he is using this redemptively.
If you are in a similar desert season, embrace it and allow it to prepare the way in your heart.
Gracious God, when I find myself in wilderness places, let me feel your presence and trust your faithfulness.
Last Updated on July 11, 2023 by kingstar