Humble Beginnings: John the Baptist
“Remember the instruction of Moses My servant, the statutes and ordinances I commanded him at Horeb for all Israel. Look, I am going to send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome Day of the Lord comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers. Otherwise, I will come and strike the land with a curse” – Malachi 4:4-6
A prophecy was given 400 years before it was fulfilled. A prophet would come and restore families. He would declare the Lord’s coming. It wouldn’t be Elijah himself, but someone bold and confident like him. One that the people would respect.
“Do not be afraid Zechariah,
because your prayer has been heard.
Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son,
and you will name him John.
There will be joy and delight for you,
and many will rejoice at his birth.
For he will be great in the sight of the Lord
and he will never drink wine or beer.
He will be filled with the Holy Spirit
while still in his mother’s womb.
He will turn many of the sons of Israel
to the Lord their God.
And he will go before Him
in the spirit and the power of Elijah,
to turn the hearts of fathers
to their children
and the disobedient to the understanding
of the righteous,
to make ready for the Lord
a prepared people.” – Luke 1:13-17
John’s birth was surrounded by miracles, prophesies, songs, and wonder. Something was different and special about this child. He had a name that was different than his family’s lineage. He stood apart. His father was mute and deaf throughout the whole pregnancy until he declared his name would be John at his birth. John’s mother Elizabeth was too old to give birth according to human biological standards. The world hadn’t seen anything profound from the Lord for centuries. Now this special child, filled with the Holy Spirit, entered the world and all eyes were on him.
This doesn’t exactly sound like humble beginnings. This is more like a parade proceeding down the streets with loud tambourines and trumpets. This child’s life was publicly declared as powerful and set apart. So, you might ask, how did I get humble beginnings from this?
After the noise and celebrations of John’s birth were over, Luke stated:
“The child grew up and became spiritually strong, and he was in the wilderness until the day of his public appearance to Israel.” – Luke 1:80
John’s entire upbringing took place in the wilderness. He was sheltered from the culture of the rebellious Israelites. His father protected him and taught him everything he knew about the Scriptures. He was an Israeli priest, so he knew them well. The Spirit helped John grow spiritually, understanding His Word well above the maturity of his age. Life was quiet while he trained in the wilderness.
Then, “… God’s word came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness. He went into all the vicinity of the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” Luke 3:2-3
John stored up the Lord’s teaching and leading in the wilderness and waited for His word before starting his ministry. He, like many of the others before him, knew the Father’s voice over the enemy’s. He knew when to act and what to say, and at what time.
Because of John’s patience in the wilderness throughout his childhood, he was strong and ready to step out and lead the Israelites when the appointed time had come. He was courageous and not afraid to say what he needed to. Like Elijah, he was bold in his speech, even willing to call crowds of people, “Brood of vipers!” Luke 3:7
John served well and did as he was prophesied to do. He led the way and prepared many of the people’s hearts to listen and receive what Jesus had come to say. Hearts were repentant and softened by John’s ministry, which led to forgiveness of sins and people committing themselves to a relationship with the Messiah, Jesus Christ.
Because of John’s effective and obedient ministry, Jesus honoured him:
“This is the one it is written about:
Look, I am sending My messenger ahead of You;
he will prepare Your way before You.
‘I assure you: Among those born of women no one greater than John the Baptist has appeared, but the least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. … For all the prophets and the Law prophesied until John; if you’re willing to accept it, he is the Elijah who is to come. Anyone who has ears should listen!” – Matthew 11:10-11, 13-15
Jesus declared that John the Baptist was the greatest among men. He was the Elijah prophesied about in Malachi. Another fulfillment in Scripture had come about. John’s patient and humble beginnings led to an incredible ministry leading people to the greatest Leader of all. John is now part of the “large cloud of witnesses surrounding us.” – Hebrews 12:1
We are being cheered on to be patient, humble, and to listen to the Lord’s leading in our lives so that when it is our time to be exalted into the callings God has for us, we may remain humble and obedient to our positions for Him. Remember that it is the Lord we’re serving in all seasons of our lives. It is not for our own pride or accolades, but His alone.