Grateful For That Voice In The Wilderness

“In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, ‘Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!’” (Matthew 3:1-2)

The immortal words of John the Baptist, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand,” had a great deal to do with my own salvation. I heard those words just a few days before I was saved in 1991, proclaimed from the back of pickup truck by a couple of teenagers running down an old country road near Charlotte, North Carolina.

I later learned that what I thought was a childish prank was actually a word from the Lord. God had instructed them to put a loudspeaker on the back of their pickup and ride through the countryside, repeating the same warning that John the Baptist once uttered. That voice spooked me for two days, until I gave my heart to Jesus.

The Bible tells us that John the Baptist was a little different from the mainstream Jew of his day. He lived in the wilderness, clothed himself in camel’s skins, and ate a diet that mainly included locusts and wild honey. The truth is he looked and acted more like a 1960’s hippie than a preacher.

But that’s not all. Apparently, John the Baptist took a special vow sometime around the age of 14. This vow, known as a Nazarite vow, was for people who wanted to devote themselves exclusively to God. It could be taken for as little as 30 days or as long as a lifetime, and it was always voluntary, with one exception: Parents could take it for their young children, making them Nazarites for life. (Numbers 6)

The Nazarite vow included three unusual restrictions: The hair could not be cut and the beard could not be shaved; wine and strong drink could never be tasted; and touching a dead body was taboo.

But John the Baptist wasn’t as weird as we might think. He was just devoted to God and willing to live without the trappings of privilege and wealth, even if it meant that he might stand out.

And stand out he did. People traveled for days to see him, not in the towns, but out in the wilderness around the towns he frequented. In fact, history records that in just fifteen months of active preaching, John baptized more than 100,000 believers, including Jesus.

He was one of the most charismatic preachers of all-time and then some, which is why John MacArthur once wrote: “He was the valedictorian of the prophets. The most dynamic, articulate, confrontational, and powerful spokesman God had ever called. As the last prophet, he would not only announce that the Messiah was coming, but that he has arrived.”

If that’s not enough, listen to what Jesus said of him: “Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist.” (Matthew 11:11)

We need more men and women like John the Baptist. Men and women much like those two teenagers I described. Godly people, who are not ashamed of the Gospel, willing to carry on the tradition that John the Baptist started.

They’re out there if you look closely, in our modern-day wilderness, among the lost, pointing the way to Jesus.

Share on Facebook