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Prepared Places: Announcing the Birth of the King

                                                                                                      

 

REVIEW:

·        We are following our trend of asking ‘who, what, when, where, why, and how, questions…

·        Last post we asked the question ‘What if the Star Had Not Appeared?’

·        And what we were trying to do in our rather meager way was to highlight those innocent children that Herod slaughtered.

·        In your mind, maybe those children are overlooked but not in God’s mind.

·        God issued a prophecy many centuries beforehand about these children and immortalized them in that every Christmas season as we read encounter the events of the birth of Jesus, we also encounter these children.

·        These children could literally be looked at as the first martyr’s of the church.

·        These children lives were taken – the end result being that the child Jesus could escape and subsequently give his life for all of you.

·        I am telling you that these children are important and you are going to meet them in heaven along with their parents.

·        Today we are going to look at events surrounding the ‘Announcement of the King’ by looking at some things that surround the life of John the Baptist.

 

The King’s Announcement

Matthew 3:1–3 (ESV)

1 In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, 2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” 3 For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.’ ”

 

o   Let us center up on the proclamation ministry of John the Baptist. Look at this phrase in verse one, ‘in the wilderness’.

§  That phrase is integral in understanding John. You cannot understand him or his ministry without it.

§  Look how many times that phrase is used in connection to John.

 

Luke 1:80 (ESV)

80 And the child grew and became strong in spirit, and he was in the wilderness until the day of his public appearance to Israel.

                         

Luke 3:2 (ESV)

2 during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness.

 

John 1:23 (ESV)

23 He said, “I am the voice of one crying out in the wilderness, ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as the prophet Isaiah said.”

 

Matthew 3:1 (ESV)

1 In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea,

 

·        In order to understand who John the Baptist is, let us time travel back to the period called ’The 400 Silent Years’.

·        This period was called ‘The Silent Years’ because during that time there was no ‘Word from God’ that was recorded.

o   I believe that means ‘no official Word’ – no ‘recorded Word’

o   Now, I do not know that that means that God was not individually dealing with people.

§  God is always speaking.

o   400 years is a HUGH amount of time. This is a huge gap!

o   If we went back 400 years from today, we would be…

§   riding horses

§  chasing people with swords and spears.

§  talking Elizabethan English

§  without TV

§  without electricity

§  without cars

§  my goodness no cell phones

§  No Macy’s Day Parade! gasp!

§  And, how about this, NO AMERICA!

 

·        Note, that right before those 400 years began, (400 BC) all of these books of the Bible were being written –

o   1 & 2 Chronicles

o   Obadiah

o   Ezra

o   Joel

o   Malachi

 

·        The book of Malachi – the final book of the Old Testament – the last thing God has officially to say – ends with these words.

 

Malachi 4:5–6 (ESV)

5 “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. 6 And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.”

 

·        So, you have all these books of the Bible being recorded AND THEN the lights go out!!!

 

·        But, just because the lights are out does not mean human history does not march on.

·        What happened during this time?

·        It is interesting that while the lights are out (and we are into this 400 year period), the following changes take place:

o   The godly priesthood depicted by Ezra and seen in Nehemiah disintegrates from a spiritual position into a political position.

o   Synagogues arise in the absence of the Temple.

o   Politically, two World powers are completely overthrown

§  Persia, in charge of the world scene at the end of the OT is gone taken over by Greece and Greece is taken over by Rome during these 400 years.

o   The Apocrypha books are written during this time period (about 15 books)

§  Isn’t that interesting? God is not saying anything so people make up stuff. Just like the nature of the flesh!

§  The Apocrypha books are accepted as scripture by the Catholics and by eastern orthodox Christians

·        Wisdom of Solomon     

·         Ecclesiasticus

·         Tobit

·         I Esdras 

·        I Maccabees     

·        II Maccabees  

·        Judith    

·        Baruch   

·         Letter of Jeremiah

·        II Esdras

·         Additions to Esther      

·        Prayer of Azariah* 

·        Suzanna (Daniel 13)     

·        Bel & the Dragon (Daniel 14)

·        Prayer of Manasseh

§  The Apocrypha books have no spiritual value – they are NOT scripture – they are not the inspired Word of the Living God – The only little value they have are that they are historical documents (because they were written in that time period they tell us from a historical standpoint some things about that time period).

o   Jewish religious factions arose

§  The Pharisees

§  The Sadducees

§  The Zealots (an extreme wing of the Pharisees)

 

Mark 3:18 (ESV)

18 Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Zealot,

 

§  The Herodians

·        The Herodians were wealthy, politically influential Jews who supported Herod Antipas (or any descendant of Herod the Great) as ruler over Palestine (Judea and Samaria were under Roman governors at this time.)[1]

 

Matthew 22:16 (ESV)

16 And they sent their disciples to him, along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are true and teach the way of God truthfully, and you do not care about anyone’s opinion, for you are not swayed by appearances.

 

§  The Essenes

·        The Essenes were thought to be the dwellers at Qumran where the Dead Sea Scrolls were discovered.

o   The Dead Sea Scrolls are a collection of 972 texts discovered between 1946 and 1956 that consist of biblical manuscripts from what is now known as the Hebrew Bible and extra-biblical documents found on the northwest shore of the Dead Sea, from which they derive their name.

·        They were strict ascetics

·        Required a long probationary period and ritual baptisms of those wishing to join

·        Were extremely self-disciplined

·        Rejected worldly pleasures as evil

·        Does any of this sound like John the Baptist?

 

The Idea of the Wilderness

·        What is the wilderness?

o   Physically, the ‘wilderness’ is a wild, uncultivated area of land, frequently interchangeable with the “desert”.

·        Now when we, as believers, look at the wilderness, we have a tendency to wax eloquent.

·        We think, ‘Man nothing good could can come out of the wilderness.

o   We often think of the wilderness as a bad place.

o   A place where people get lost spiritually.

o   We use that context metaphorically when we are going through tests and trials. We say, “Man, am I in the wilderness.”

o   But the wilderness was none of those things for John.

o   For John, the wilderness was a good place not a bad place.

o   The wilderness was a significant part of John’s purpose.

o   The wilderness was prepared for him and he was prepared for it.

·        But let us go back to this verse

 

Luke 3:2 (ESV)

2 during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John the son of Zechariah in the wilderness.

 

o   Ask yourself this question, ‘What if John decided to go live in the city?’

o   Sometimes we think, it does not matter what we do. God is good and it will all just turn out right after a while.

§  Yes it will turn out BUT, it may be a long while – a really long while!!!

o   It is so important in life be in the right place.

§  The right place is a place prepared by God for you.

§  For John it was the wilderness. What about you?

§  The right place will be the place where your  purpose is fulfilled and your heart is satisfied.

§  Some believers are frustrated and, in some cases it is not anything more than they are simply in the wrong place.

o   Look at this familiar story

 

1 Kings 17:1–4 (ESV)

1 Now Elijah the Tishbite, of Tishbe in Gilead, said to Ahab, “As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, before whom I stand, there shall be neither dew nor rain these years, except by my word.” 2 And the word of the LORD came to him: 3 “Depart from here and turn eastward and hide yourself by the brook Cherith, which is east of the Jordan. 4 You shall drink from the brook, and I have commanded the ravens to feed you there.”

 

o   Where was Elijah’s provision?

o   Where was his answer to the famine he was facing?

o   It was in a place called ‘there’.

o   Where is your victory? 

o   Where is your purpose?

§  It is in a place called ‘there’!

o   Notice that there are other rivers and brooks mentioned in the Bible.

§  Named Rivers:

·        Abana

·        Ahava

·        Chebar

·        Euphrates

·        Gihon

·        Gozan

·        Hiddekel (Tigris)

·        Jabbok

·        Jordan

·        Kishon

·        Nile

·        Pharpar

·        Pishon

·        Ulai.

§  Named Brooks

·        Arabah

·        Besor

·        Cherith

·        Kanah

·        Kidron

·        Kishon

·        Willows

·        Zered.

·        Gaash

§  Elijah could have gone, ‘on his own’ to any of these waterways – but where were the ravens? Where was the provision?

·        They were all at Cherith.

 

·        Let us look at an incident from the life of Paul

 

Acts 9:3–6 (ESV)

3 Now as he went on his way, he approached Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven shone around him. 4 And falling to the ground he heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?” 5 And he said, “Who are you, Lord?” And he said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. 6 But rise and enter the city, and you will be told what you are to do.”

 

·        Isn’t this fascinating?

o   Paul has this phenomenal vision.

o   Jesus is talking to him straight up!

o   Yet, the Lord says to Paul, ‘Go into the city and it will be told you what you must do.’

o   Why does Paul have to go into the city?

o   Why didn’t the Lord just tell him right then – He is talking straight up to him???

o   Damascus was a prepared place for Paul.

o   And there are prepared places for you.

§  You go to those places and there is direction for you.

§  Why does it work that way?

§  I have no idea!!! But it does.

§  That is why asking people to pray for you in these areas does not work!

·        It does not work by praying

·        It works by arising and ‘going there’!

 

Conclusion:

John the Baptist was able to fulfill his purpose as the fore-runner for Jesus because John was in the right place!

 


[1] Smith, M. A. E., Swann, J., Butler, T. C., Church, C. L., & Dockery, D. S. (1993). Holman book of biblical charts, maps, and reconstructions (90). Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

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