Last post, I sought to explain John the Baptist from out of Luke chapters 1 and 3 as primarily one who was sent of God after a prophesied 420 year period of silence from heaven, since the end of Malachi’s ministry about 425 BC. We must also add another 30 years until John enters his ministry, and Israel had not heard from their God in more than 450 years? We noted that John’s ministry primarily revolved around the issue of #6, repentance, as one of The 10 Essential Elements of The Real New Testament Message, but that he also touched upon no fewer than 6 others; those being #2 sin 3:3, #3 judgment 3:7,9+17, #4 the Savior 3:6, #8 the New Birth 3:3+16, #9 New Life 3:9, and #10 the Kingdom 3:17. All just in chapter 3, verses 1 thru 20! But, before we move on, it would be good if we touched on one other very important matter as it concerned John the Baptist, and that is what we read in 3:4 thru 6.
While Luke is writing principally for a Greek readership, he inserts a quote from out of Israel’s Bible and their prophet Isaiah; specifically chapter 40, and verses 3 thru 5. It is worthwhile to see it. There are two things to note. First, the expressions in Isaiah and Luke, ‘prepare the way,’ ‘make straight,’ ‘every valley filled in,’ or ‘raised up,’ ‘every mountain and hill made low,’ ‘rough ground made level,’ or ‘smooth,’ etc., are all expressions of that which I have made much of already. These are all ways of saying #6, repent! The call to repentance here is so strong in Luke 3, that we can count it no fewer than at least 8 times. And, then, of course, the entire record of the peoples’ responses in verses 10 thru 14 is precisely that which John was calling for, repentance.
Beyond that, is something even more important and striking, and for that we return to Isaiah 40:3-5. Chapter 40 of Isaiah is the breaking or turning point of his lengthy 66 chapter book. The first 39 chapters were much about God’s coming judgment upon unfaithful Israel, which took place first upon Israel to the north, and later upon Judah in the south. We see this theme commence with the very first verses of the prophet. But, beginning with chapter 40, we see the heart of God, as it turns back toward His people Israel. And though His intent is to afflict them harshly; afterwards, He is going to return unto them, and so the rest of Isaiah’s prophecy opens with words of comfort. This is the context in which we find verses 3 thru 5 of chapter 40. With all of this context in mind, now read them again. The coming of the Lord here is for their good and comfort, and they must ready themselves for it with repentance. The verses before and after make this plain.
Here’s the point: No one reading Isaiah 40 would have thought this was pointing to Jesus. The passage in Isaiah is pointing to ‘the LORD,’ in all caps. The LORD in all caps is the English substitute for the proper Name of God! The voice calling in the wilderness was to prepare the people of Israel for the coming of their God unto them! Yet, in Matthew 3:3, Mark 1:2+3, and here, in Luke 3; they are all employing Isaiah’s prophecy to refer to the coming of Jesus the Messiah. The only logical inference every reader is to conclude from this is that Jesus is God; God come in human flesh. It’s what the Book is all about!
Harold F Crowell