From: Su Min
Subject: A Voice In The Wilderness
Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.Today we look at Matt 3:1-4
Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not his benefits.
He forgives all my sins and heals all my diseases;
he redeems my life from the pit and crowns me with love and compassion.
He satisfies my desires with good things,
so that my youth is renewed like the eagle's. (Psalm 103:1-5).
The gospel writer Matthew jumps from the return of Jesus from Egypt to Nazareth in Matt 2:23 to a time about 3 decades later, in the next verse, in Matt 3:1 where he describes those days when John the Baptist came, preaching in the desert of Judea as a prelude to the start of teaching in Capernaum by Jesus (Matt 4:12). Matthew goes on to identify an old testament prophecy from Isaiah 40:3."..the voice of him that crieth out in the wilderness.." is an apt description for those of us who bring the message of salvation to a world that does not want to hear, that is too busy to hear, that is too self centred to hear.
(We recall that Matthew has referred to many other OT prophecies already:
a virgin will conceive, and give birth to a son and will call him Emmanuel:
out of Bethlehem will come ruler who will be a shepherd of my people Israel:
out of Egypt I called my son:
a voice weeping in Ramah, Rachel weeping for her children:)
We read more about John the Baptist in the gospel of Luke: His birth to ageing and barren Elizabeth and Zechariah was foretold by the angel Gabriel (Luke 1:5-23). John himself leapt within his mother's womb at 6 months pregnancy at the presence of Mary (Luke 1:41). John's ministry is detailed in Luke 3:1-19. John was to gruesomely lose his head (Matt 14:1-12).
But, for now, we learn of John the Baptist coming to preach in the desert of Judea. John, born to Elizabeth, the cousin (kinswoman) of Mary, mother of Jesus, is also around 30 years old. He grew up in the wilderness of the Judean desert (Luke 1:80), a barren wasteland that extends along the west coast of the Dead Sea. We had the privilege of travelling along this area on our way to Masada during our holy Land pilgrimage March 1994. The stark desert was punctuated by green plantations of lush vegetation, bringing to fruit God's promise in Isaiah 35:1 The desert and the parched land will be glad; the wilderness will rejoice and blossom.
And blossom it does. True to His word, God's promise comes true. It required the creation of the modern nation of Israel. It required vigilant Israeli security and irrigation, and agricultural skills. But it happened. It happened because God promised it.
But in the days of John the Baptist it was a hostile barren land. The image we have of John is that of an ascetic hermit, fed on locusts and wild honey, clothed in camel hair, with a leather belt around his waist. His message was clear: "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near (Matt 3:2)". His message was a forerunner for Jesus. When Jesus began to teach, His message was "Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near (Matt 4:17)".
Repent. Strong's concordance 3340: metanoeo: to think differently, reconsider, feel compunction, repent, a change of mind, more than just a change of opinion: requires a complete change of attitude regarding our own supposed goodness and self sufficiency to a God' inspired vision of our sinfulness and our complete dependence on God. There is a sense of urgency for this decision: We have only the span of our life time to make this decision. If we wait till we are dead it is too late. Luke 16:19-31 records how the rich man who died was too late to repent. There is a sense of urgency. It takes 10 seconds or less for us to decide to sin, and begin to take the first step along the slippery path that descends so far away from God. 10 seconds or less was all it took for King David to lust for Bathsheba, wife of Uriah the Hittite (2 Sam 11:2-3). 10 seconds or less was all it took for prodigal son to say "Father give me my share of the estate". 10 seconds or less was all it took for Judas to decide to go and betray Jesus (Mark 14:10).
10 seconds is all it takes to decide to go wrong. Yet 10 seconds is all it takes to go right. There is an urgency to decide. There is an urgency to make the right choice. It only takes 10 seconds for us to yield ourselves to the Lordship of Jesus to say, Yes Jesus, I cannot depend on my own strength, I confess I am sinful, I cannot reach heaven on my own. I need your saving grace. Save me Jesus. I accept your Lordship in my life.
If you confess with your mouth "Jesus is Lord" and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved (Rom 10:9).
Repent. Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand. This was the call of John the Baptist (Matt 3:2). This was the call of Jesus the Christ (Matt 4:17). Do you hear. Will you respond? Will you repent?
Let us close in prayer.
Abba Father, thank you for your lesson today.
Encapsulated in four verses Matt 3: 1-4 you have laid out a universal truth that speaks to us today as much as it did 2000 years ago.
Thank you for your continuous love and your continued efforts to call us back to you.
"Repent" you say to us, Father.
We hear and obey, for your kingdom is at hand.
In the name of Jesus.
For any comments or enquiries please write to Dr. Lim Su Min
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