Wednesday, June 11, 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?”
John the Baptist’s father Zacharias was a Levitical priest (Luke 1:5ff.), so John should have followed his father in serving in Israel’s Temple twice a year. Yet, the Bible never says John ever served as a Temple priest. Instead, Scripture says of young John, “And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his shewing unto Israel” (Luke 1:80). In fact, today’s Scripture says that John the Baptist, now about age 30, began his ministry in the wilderness. In order to understand John’s peculiar ministry, we need to be mindful of the spiritual condition of the Temple.
The Tabernacle—from King Solomon onward, the Temple—was the hub of Israel’s religious system: there, her priests served JEHOVAH, the Ark of the Covenant rested, and her male Jews visited three times a year. That building was highly important because it was the place where JEHOVAH manifested Himself to Israel: hence, it was called “the house of the LORD” (Exodus 23:19 et. al) and “the house of God” (Ezra 3:8 et al.). Jesus Christ called it “my house” (Matthew 21:13) and “my Father’s house” (John 2:16).
However, Israel’s religious leadership defiled JEHOVAH’S pure Temple, and thus His nation, in various ways. According to Malachi 1:8, her priests offered in it sick and lame animals (which God forbade in Deuteronomy 15:21)—a main theme of Malachi’s message is Israel’s corrupt priesthood. Micah 3:11 spoke about Israel’s priests who taught for “hire.” Isaiah 29:13 (which Jesus quoted to describe the apostasy in His own day; Mark 7:6,7) mentioned how the Jews “have removed their heart far from [JEHOVAH], and their fear toward [Him] is taught by the precept of men.” Religious tradition was venerated, and God’s Word (the Old Testament scrolls) was largely ignored. Sound familiar?
So, God the Father had sent John into the wilderness to call Israel away from the apostate Temple….