The Message of John The Baptist: Matthew 4:1-9
“1) Now in those days John the Baptist *came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, 2) “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” 3) For this is the one referred to by Isaiah the prophet when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make ready the way of the Lord, Make His paths straight!’ ”” Matthew 3:1-3
John came as a forerunner to Jesus. His message and ministry focused on a call to repentance. John was a revivalist. He was preparing Israel to welcome the Messiah.
His ministry was most likely based on 2 Chronicles 7:13-14; “13) If I shut up the heavens so that there is no rain, or if I command the locust to devour the land, or if I send pestilence among My people, 14) and My people who are called by My name humble themselves and pray and seek My face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land.” He was calling Israel to return to God.
These verses unpack God’s universal principles for revival. They apply to the nation of Israel and to every individual. God honored these principles for the gentile city of Nineveh at the preaching of Jonah and He will honor then for any nation today that repents and begins to seek Him.
As people openly repented of their sins and turned to God, John baptized them in the Jordan River. Personal repentance proceeded baptism.
The word repentance includes regret accompanied by a change of heart toward God. It involves a change of moral direction from sin and toward righteousness. It includes a change of mind regarding sin. It embraces biblical holiness based on the Word and ways of God and rejects worldliness.
His message likely leaned heavily on Isaiah 55:6-13. It is important to quote these verses at this point:
“6) Seek the Lord while He may be found; Call upon Him while He is near. 7) Let the wicked forsake his way And the unrighteous man his thoughts; And let him return to the Lord, And He will have compassion on him, And to our God, For He will abundantly pardon. “8) For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,” declares the Lord. 9) For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways And My thoughts than your thoughts. 10 “For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven, And do not return there without watering the earth And making it bear and sprout, And furnishing seed to the sower and bread to the eater; 11) So will My word be which goes forth from My mouth; It will not return to Me empty, Without accomplishing what I desire, And without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it. 12) For you will go out with joy And be led forth with peace; The mountains and the hills will break forth into shouts of joy before you, And all the trees of the field will clap their hands. 13) Instead of the thorn bush the cypress will come up, And instead of the nettle the myrtle will come up, And it will be a memorial to the Lord, For an everlasting sign which will not be cut off.”
An awesome awareness of the holiness of God always accompanies revival. When people humble themselves and turn from their wicked ways to seek God, He always responds. He listens to repentant prayers, forgives sin and heals the land. As many people turn to God, revival gains momentum and turns into national awakening. This was Johns message to Israel.
John was calling Israel back to God. He was preparing them to welcome Jesus at His first coming. The same message of revival will be relevant for the church before the second return of Christ. The Spirit of God is even now preparing the bride for the coming of the groom. The call to repentance and holiness is being stressed around the world.
The gospel is at the heart of this message. Placing faith in Jesus Christ involves repentance. (See Acts 26:19-20) It increases the conscious awareness that the kingdom of heaven is at hand. The gospel invites people to receive Jesus Christ and turn from their own sinful ways.
Daily Bible Commentary By Terry Baxter: Cofounder of GoServ Global