But the angel said to him, “Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. (Luke 1:13-16 ESV)
Before he was born, John the Baptist was already chosen by God to be “the prophet of the Most High.” His duty would be to preach the good news of salvation and the forgiveness of sins. His public exhortations prepared the way of the Lord because they primed the hearts of Israel so they would be ready to welcome and receive Jesus. John’s sermons were essentially the opening act to the Messiah.
What I found interesting is that he was a bit harsh in his delivery. He yelled, “You brood a vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” It certainly was an attention-getter, and maybe that was his intent? Sometimes the hardest hearts have to be softened with even harder words. Whatever the case, the people were drawn to him and asked him more questions. They yearned to be baptized by him and live in repentance, evidence that he served his purpose by turning people back to the Lord.
Have you ever thought about who prepared your heart? How many messengers and sermons did it take before you accepted Jesus as your Lord? Now that is always a fun exercise because when you write down the names of people who ever prayed or spoke to you about God, you’ll probably discover that the Lord used them in gentle and subtle ways. There may have been a few hard hitters like John in your life, but the cumulative efforts of your influencers nudged you closer to Jesus.
That’s what I like about the story about John. He was handpicked by God hundreds of years before he was born to deliver an important message. I wonder if the Lord, also in the same way, selected our special messengers and appointed a time for them to meet us? What a fascinating and even mind-blowing thought, that God would arrange these divine appointments before we ever existed! Dwell on that for a little while.