Have you ever felt like someone was giving you the silent treatment? One moment you’re communicating and it seems like everything is ok in the relationship. Then after a while they stop calling. The texts and Facebook messages start to drop off. Then you're left to wonder how did you and this person become so distant. Or has it ever felt like that Person was God? Have you ever had a time in your life when He seemed silent? As you enter into the early part of the first century, this is how the Jewish people were feeling. There had not been a word from the Lord in about 400 years. This time period between the Old and New Testaments is often called the silent years, because no voice of a prophet speaking God’s word was heard since the return from exile and rebuilding of Jerusalem. However just because God seems silent doesn’t mean He’s not active. Already Jesus, the Messiah was born into the world. He was called Immanuel, “God with us.” Sometimes we don’t realize that when He seems silent He is actually right there with us. And now He’s about to break the silence.
He raises up a man with a simple, yet strange diet of locusts and wild honey. He dresses in camels hair with a leather belt around his waist. His clothing is intentionally intended to draw the mind back to the clothing of the old testament prophets, especially as the scriptures described Elijah. In direct fulfillment of the prophet Isaiah, his voice was heard crying out in the wilderness of Judea. His message was intended to prepare the way for the coming Messiah. As the Old testament closes, Malachi prophesied of one coming like Elijah to “turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers.” This meant his message was to bring about a change of heart that would bring about relational reconciliation. This was the message of John the Baptist. Can you hear his voice piercing through the Judean air like a relentless dagger to the heart of the nation with a message you can sum up in one penetrating word…REPENT!
After 400 years of silence, with no prophetic voice in the land, this is the message God had for His people as they awaited the arrival of their Messiah. And yet I wonder if we can hear that same prophetic voice coming from the wilderness of Judea down through the centuries to 2016, right to our hearts. Today, in Matthew 3, I believe God has a threefold message of repentance for us who are awaiting the second arrival of our King.
To the Jews of the first century, his message is both startling and exciting. Startling because he was asking Jews, who saw themselves as the chosen people of God, recipients of the promises of Abraham, the remnant, to repent and be baptized. This was something they were familiar with, but for those that converted to Judaism, not for those who were born and raised in it. However the announcement of the kingdom excited the hopes of the already anticipated Messiah. The Jews were tired of the Romans ruling over them and welcomed the idea of a coming king to crush the Romans, subjecting all other nations of the world to his reign and thus elevating them to international greatest. They loved the idea of making Israel great again. Yet what the people, and not even John the Baptist, fully understood was that their coming King was about to establish His Kingdom in the most unexpected way.
I don’t know about you, but this scene reminds me of some people I know. So I wonder if we can hear his voice crying out today…
Repent! …in light of the coming Kingdom.
You and I are living on the brink of the establishment of Christ’s everlasting Kingdom. But, you may say, “Wait a minute CJ. We just read John announcing the arrival of the Kingdom in his day. So which is it? Has the Kingdom come or is it coming? The answer is: Yes.
You see, to understand the message of the Kingdom that both John and Jesus preached, you have to understand how someone in the first century heard it. The word good news or gospel had a military context. If you were apart of a kingdom and the King or general went out to battle the enemy kingdom and won the victory, a messenger would run from the scene of battle and deliver the “good news” that the king has won. Now if you heard this message and you were apart of the enemy kingdom, another military term would be used. You would be called to repent, which means to “turn around” or “about face.” So the listeners of John and Jesus, when they heard the gospel of the Kingdom, it was an announcement that the reign of the conquering King has arrived! The King is here! They were to repent or turn from the defeated kingdom of darkness (the devil’s kingdom) and submit themselves to the Lordship of Jesus, the Savior King. His Kingdom has been established on the earth and is extended through His people and will unite with His heavenly Kingdom of glory at His soon second coming! This was the meaning behind the gospel of the Kingdom. You enter this Kingdom by repenting, by faith accepting His grace and submitting to the King's authority as His disciple.
Closely linked with repentance is confession of sin. People came from all over confessing and repenting from sin. Confession is bringing your sin out into the open before God. It is specific. Now hear this…you must be aware that there is a problem in order to confess it. The problem that many of us have is that we aren’t even aware of how critical our problem is. Thus the Holy Spirit has to hit home the conscience with conviction in order to lead you to confess and repent or have a change of heart.
Friends, when the Spirit moves you to confess a specific sin or a posture of rebellion against God, do not delay! Confess and repent immediately! Put away the sin that is blocking your relationship with God and submit yourself to Christ. You may have come to Christ, in repentance, at your baptism or some time in the past. But how many of you know that you have to come to Jesus daily! Every day of your life, come to Jesus in confession and repentance from sin. Repentance should be a daily part of your devotional life in Christ. Don’t stop. You’ve got to keep coming to Christ.
“CJ” Claypole S. Cousins Jr. is simply a man who is in love with Jesus. His passion is to live, preach and teach the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In addition to preaching and teaching, CJ also loves to sing and write about Jesus. He also serves as the pastor for Grow Groups and RPCtv at Restoration Praise Center SDA Church.