Today’s Reading: Matthew 2:13-3:6 (additional reading: Psalm 2:1-12 & Proverbs 1:7-9 )
John Baptist was a strange kind of preacher if you compare him to our preachers today. Modern day preachers wear suits, while John the Baptist wore camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist. His diet was to eat locust and honey, his pulpit, well he didn’t have a pulpit. He walked around the Jordan River shouting out his message. He preached in a remote place where few went unless they were looking for John the Baptist. His style, well while modern day preachers like to tell stories and a lot of jokes to make the audience feel comfortable and speak for at least 20 minutes. John didn’t tell any stories and he never made a joke. As a matter of fact, his message was serious. He didn’t speak long but in a few minutes he was hard hitting. John’s style was to beat you up from head to toe in a short amount of time.
In the minds of the Jews at this time, the wilderness represented a hostile and ominous place. It is the place of hunger, thirst, death, outlaws, and demons. It is home for dangerous creatures—scorpions and snakes. The wilderness was considered an area of primal chaos or as cursed by God. John the Baptist went into this dark region to do battle with the forces of evil. Where is the wilderness today?
For some, it may be found in the board rooms of companies where the bottom line is making a profit—no matter the moral or human cost. For others it is in schools where kids are under great pressure from other kids to conform and become the kind of people they never thought, nor desired to be. For some, the wilderness may be found in the media. Others may find the wilderness to be in their own homes—where family squabbles are the norm and chaos runs rampant. Still others may be lost in the wilderness of materialism where money is king and perhaps others find wilderness to be in the feeding of their lusts and desires, where they find themselves lost and unsatisfied, but so addicted that they crave more and more of the same. Where is the primary arena where you are having it out with Satan?Where do you find your relationship with Jesus Christ to be most vulnerable?
When John the Baptist shows up in the “wilderness of Judea”, he came with a message – “REPENT”, ‘Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’” Repentance comes from the Greek word metanoia which means a decisive turning, change of mind, to change one’s mind completely. John’s message of “Repent” is a message of hope! This message tells us that we don’t have to remain like we are! We don’t have to remain in the scary and lonely wilderness! We don’t have to be held captive by our failures, our past, our inadequacies, our temptations, our sins, our fears! We can repent! We can get rid of all this mess! We can start over!
Maybe yesterday you made a New Year’s resolution, to live try and improve some part of your life, yet one day later have already failed. Well take John’s advice – don’t try to fix things by your own strength, but repent, and allow God to help you make the crooked roads straight.