John did not fully understand the nature of the Messiah's kingdom. He looked for Israel to be delivered from her national foes; but the coming of a King in righteousness, and the establishment of Israel as a holy nation, was the great object of his hope. Thus he believed would be accomplished the prophecy give at his birth,--
"To remember His holy covenant;. . . .
That we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies
Might serve Him without fear,
In holiness and righteousness before Him, all the days of our life?
He saw his people deceived, self-satisfied, and asleep in their sins. He longed to rouse them to a holier life. The message that God had given him to bear was designed to startle them from their lethargy, and cause them to tremble because of their great wickedness. Before the seed of the gospel could find lodgment, the soil of the heart must be broken up. Before they would seek healing from Jesus, they must be awakened to their danger from the wounds of sin.
God does not send messages to flatter the sinner. He delivers no message of peace to lull the unsanctified into fatal security. He lays heavy burdens upon the conscience of the wrong doer, and pierces the soul with arrows of conviction. The ministering angels present to him the fearful judgments of God to deepen the sense of need, and prompt the cry, 'what must I do to be saved?' Then the hand that humbled in the dust, lifts up the penitent. The voice that has rebuked sin, and put to shame pride and ambition, inquires with tenderest sympathy, 'What wilt thou that I should do unto thee?'
When the ministry of John began, the nation was in a state of excitement and discontent verging on revolution. At the removal of Archelaus, Judea had been brought directly under the control of Rome. The tyranny and extortion of the Roman governors, and their determined efforts to introduce the heathen symbols and customs, kindled revolt, which had been quenched in the blood of thousands of the bravest of Israel. All this intensified the national hatred against Rome, and increased the longing to be freed from her power.
Amid discord and strife, a voice was heard from the wilderness, voice startling and stern, yet full of hope: 'Repent ye; for the kingdom of heaven is at hand," With a new, strange power it moved the people. Prophets had foretold the coming of Christ as an event far in the future but here was an announcement that it was at hand. John's singular appearance carried the minds of his hearers back to the ancient seers. In his manner and dress he resembled the prophet Elijah. With the spirit and power of Elijah he denounced the national corruption, and rebuked the prevailing sins. His words were plain, pointed, and convincing. Many believed him to be one of the prophets risen from the dead. The whole nation was stirred. Multitudes flocked to the wilderness.
John proclaimed the coming of the Messiah, and called the people to repentance. As a symbol of cleansing from sin, he baptized them in the waters of the Jordan. Thus by a significant object lesson he declared that those who claimed to be the chosen people of God were defiled by sin, and that without purification of heart and life they could have no part in the Messiah's kingdom.
(This message is for us today too. We must repent of our sins and be converted in order to be saved. The second coming of Jesus is at hand and we must be ready. We are reading about the first coming when Jesus came as a babe in the manger, and John was getting the people ready to accept Him as their Lord and Savior. Now we are looking forward to His second coming as our Lord and Savior to put an end to this wicked world and create a new earth where all is peace and safety and we will reign with Jesus forever. Let's put away our sin and get ready to meet Him when He comes in all His glory. Remember the text; Philippians 1:6 'Being confident of this very thing, that He which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ.' And also 1 Thessalonians 5: 23,24 'And the very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is he that calleth you, who also will do it.' Let's let Him do it for us by confessing and repenting of our sins and He will take care of the rest but we must be willing to serve Him with our whole heart. Are you ready? Am I?
Grandma Joan.) These thoughts were taken from chapter 10 of the Desire of Ages.