Tuesday, June 10, 2014
“In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea, And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:1,2 KJV).
Why is John the Baptist “preaching in the wilderness?”
God only gave one religion in all of human history. Given at Mount Sinai through Moses for him to teach it to Israel, Judaism was a system of 613 laws (listed throughout Exodus through Deuteronomy). The Mosaic Law was a very severe system, and God gave it to thoroughly demonstrate that Israel, in her own strength and through her own efforts, could never become His people. He would have to make them His people.
Alas, Israel never got the message that she was a sinful nation that needed God’s salvation: she still believed she could do everything God commanded. Eventually, her religious leaders added more and more laws, so that when we come to Jesus’s earthly ministry, Judaism was no longer pure. Paul even called it the “Jews’ religion” (Galatians 1:14)—it was not God’s religion anymore because sinful Israel had corrupted it.
The Lord Jesus remarked about Israel’s spiritual condition in His day: “Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do. And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition” (Mark 7:6-9).
Does this sound familiar? Sure it does! “Tradition” is still readily accepted instead of Scripture; patristic (church fathers) writings, denominational creeds, papal encyclicals, church council decrees, and myriads of other volumes mean everything in Christendom, but the Holy Scriptures mean almost nothing (unless a verse can bolster the denomination, and then it is ripped out of context and quoted!).
We begin to see that John the Baptist’s ministry in the “wilderness” (today’s Scripture) was God’s method to ensure doctrinal purity….