John The Baptist Prepares The Way (Part 1) – Bible Study #9

Based on Luke 3:1-6

Luke dates the events in this chapter in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar. If we follow the list of Roman emperors in Britannica.com, this would be the year 29 AD (maybe 29 to 30 AD). [Reading about Tiberius Caesar here in Luke was exciting to me because, while studying the book of Revelation, I concluded that the Lord’s ascension happened during the reign of Tiberus Caesar: this passage supported my conclusion.]

When the word of God came to John the Baptist, John the Baptist was in the wilderness. This detail could indicate that John had withdrawn from society to spend time in prayer. In the Bible, as I pointed out in my book on prayer, prophets often received revelation in answer to their prayer lives (lives dedicated to prayer).

John may have been following the example of Moses, who met God at the burning bush, away from society. John may have also been following the example of Elijah, who met God in a cave in Horeb. Later, the Lord himself would spend time in the wilderness being tempted by the Devil, fasting, and pressumably praying.

The expression “the word of the Lord came” is an expression used often in the Old Testament (the Tanach). Sometimes, as in Genesis 15:1, the Word of the Lord appeared to involve a visible manifestation (a vision) of God. Was this John’s experience?

Having received revelation, John began to preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. Baptism was a symbol of repentance in order to receive forgiveness of sins. Forgiveness would be granted by God on the basis of repentance, and the act of baptism symbolized that the person was being washed from their sins as they turned to God.

Even in a religious society, people still needed to repent of their sins: it is possible to be culturally religious, yet spiritually dead.

Luke relates these events (John’s ministry) to Isaiah 40:3-5. What John was doing was in conformity to Isaiah 40:3-5.

Now, if we read Isaiah 40:3-5, we read about a voice (someone) proclaiming that the earth should prepare to receive God, whose glory will be revealed to humanity. The preceding verses (Isaiah 40:1-2) indicate that this revelation includes salvation (the forgiveness of iniquity), and the rest of the chapter appears to rebuke Israel for its idolatry. Isaiah 40:10 appears to indicate that there will be a reward (maybe for both good deeds and bad), and Isaiah 40:11 appears to indicate that there will be mercy.

Isaiah 40, then, appears to offer both comfort (remember that Simeon was waiting for the consolation of Israel) and rebuke.

What the passage does not say is how the prophecy would be fulfilled. Apart from revelation or some particular theological perspective, it woudl have been impossible for Luke (or anyone) to see John as the fulfillment of Isaiah 40:3-5. It is through great spiritual insight that Luke is able to discern that the ministry of John the Bapitst was a fulfillment of Isaiah 40:3-5. The original audience would have only expected, like Simeon, that there would be a time of consolation for Israel.

Questions for Reflection

  • How is your prayer life? Are you spending enough time in prayer to “connect” with God?
  • As you read the Bible and listen to your pastor at church, is God speaking to you?
  • Have you truly repented of your sins to truly follow God and Jesus Christ, or are you only culturally religious?

Prayer Focus

  • Confess your sins and superficiality to God, and ask Him to forgive you and lead you in the paths of righteousness.
  • Praise God because He is merciful and forgives sins.
  • Thank God for those who preach and teach His word.
  • Ask God to give you more understanding of spiritual matters, His word, and His will.

Reminders

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