We read in Matthew 3:1-3: “Now in those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” 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!’”
In the Gospel of Luke we see that John was to: “…go on before the Lord to prepare His ways; To give to His people the knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins…” (Luke 1:76-77 NASB).
John was to prepare the hearts of the people for the arrival of Jesus. The Jews were waiting on the promised Savior to come and free them from the oppressive rule of the Roman government. Their idea of salvation was political.
Many Israelites had come to believe that they had a special place in God’s heart simply because they were born Israelites. Therefore, it mattered very little to them whether or not they were truly worshiping God in their hearts. The Israelites believed that, even though they had repeatedly disobeyed God, worshiped other gods, and had become cold in their hearts toward the one true God, they were still under His protection. They believed that they could live as they pleased and still be blessed by God.
John was sent to show them that obedience to God was nothing to take lightly. He was to preach that salvation was not earthly deliverance from political oppression, but deliverance from the penalty and power of sin through repentance. His was not a popular message.
Nor is it a popular message today in America. Many, who call themselves ‘Christian’, think that merely by living in America they are assured of automatic blessings from God, even if they ignore, disobey, reject, and even blaspheme Him. They believe that He will protect and bless them simply because they live in a “Christian” nation. However, God never promised favor to people based on their ethnicity or location of residence. God always requires repentance for one to receive His saving grace (II Corinthians 7:10; II Timothy 2:25; Hebrews 6:1; II Peter 3:9).
John the Baptist brought a message to the Jewish nation about true repentance and salvation that America, even American Christians, would do well to heed:
1. He preached that people do not have a relationship with God just because they are born in a certain land or are descended from a certain lineage. One must have a heart committed to God.
2. He preached that just knowing about God is not enough. In order to be forgiven of our sin one must know God. There must be an honest love for Him and a desire to honor, worship, obey, and please Him because of who He is.
3. He preached that a relationship with God does not guarantee the political direction of a nation. The Romans continued to rule over the Israelites even after Jesus had come and died on the cross; even after many Jews believed in Him and became His followers.
John’s message to the Israelites is the same message that American Christians need to hear and heed today:
Salvation is deliverance from the power and penalty of sin.
Salvation brings us into a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.
Salvation has nothing directly to do with politics.
Salvation means laying your life at the feet of Jesus in complete gratitude for the debt He paid for you.
The temple, which was the center of Jewish worship, was destroyed roughly 35 years after that nation, for the most part, rejected Jesus Christ.
What does the future of America look like if we reject Jesus Christ?
Article by Robert Driskell
*All Scripture is from the New American Standard Bible