“On Your Mark”
The Way Up is Down (Chapter 1 Verses 6-7)
The dress John wore marked him out as a prophet (Zechariah 13.4), the rough hairy garment was the usual dress. The prophet Elijah fore-shadowed John the Baptist in his stern preaching of repentance (Malachi 4.5; Mark 9.11-12; Luke 1.17). This is a missing element in preaching today, repentance I mean. When was the last time you heard a good full-blown sermon on repentance that was applied directly to everyone present? A while ago? But that is the gospel fore-runner, without repentance can there be no forgiveness, salvation? John the Baptist’s dress, eating habits, dwelling place and his preaching, his whole being was a sermon on repentance. It was a challenge to all who made food and drink, houses and clothing, and much other such material concerns their primary concern in life (Matthew 6.33). When people came to hear John in the desert they left their luxurious lifestyles behind and were reminded for a time at least how little man really needs in this world, and of higher, greater, loftier, eternal matters. The message John preached included one who was coming v7, the Lord Jesus. Like any true preacher of God’s word, never pointing to himself, or any other, only the Lord Jesus, the mighty to save (John 1.29). Why? Because of the preacher, John is a mere man, the preacher has no power to save, to change, alter the course of someone’s life or eternal destiny. But one more powerful than John comes, the Son of God v1, with the power, forgive, to cleanse, to heal, and to save.
But do you notice how John takes a back seat here? The humility of John is a mark of his holiness, his greatness. The very purpose of John’s life is to exalt, to magnify Christ, but that is what you would expect a man full of the Holy Spirit to do, is it not? Because that is the office and work of the Holy Spirit (John 16.14). But is not John’s attitude of humility a refreshing one in a day when such arrogance abounds? People who think they have the answer to all, they pontificate about the origins of the human race, they boast proudly about their scientific achievements, enlightened, so sure, so powerful, yet still pathetically bound by addictions, unable to break the power of lust in their hearts. One does wonder why they have so many problems, they know so much. But God admires, smiles upon humility (Isaiah 66.2). Unless this, our own generation humbles itself, God will have to do it for them (Matthew 23.12). John had the attitude of his Saviour v7 cf. Mark 10.45. In the attitude of the servant bowing to untie the sandals, John demonstrates his understanding of the greatness of the coming One, the Messiah, the Son of God. Worship him today. Jesus I mean.
(© James R Hamilton, written September 1996)