February 25, 2024 | Doug Sauder
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“A voice of one calling: ‘In the wilderness prepare the way for the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God.’”—Isaiah 40:3 (NIV)
“Then an angel of the Lord appeared to him, standing at the right side of the altar of incense. When Zechariah saw him, he was startled and was gripped with fear. But the angel said to him: ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah; your prayer has been heard. Your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you are to call him John. He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord. He is never to take wine or other fermented drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit even before he is born. He will bring back many of the people of Israel to the Lord their God. And he will go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the parents to their children and the disobedient to the wisdom of the righteous—to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.’”—Luke 1:11–17 (NIV)
In our world today, we’ve lost sight of the importance of forerunners. Because of technology, social media, and the news, we don’t need people to act as forerunners in the same way. Before all of this, people would have to physically go from place to place with news and information to deliver it!
I think about movies that depict older times or wars and there’s always a person in charge of relaying information. They come rushing into a room with the news of a battle or anticipated attack. They leave rushing to go tell someone that a prestigious person is coming into town or to their house. Without these people, no one would be prepared for the arrival of whoever or whatever is coming!
In Scripture, there’s a person who’s known to be a forerunner for Christ. It’s his very own cousin, John the Baptist! John’s father, Zechariah, was a priest in the temple when one day an angel appeared to him in the holy place where Zechariah was burning incense to the Lord. This angel told Zechariah he and Elizabeth, his wife, would have a son. Not just any son, but a son who would fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah 40:3.
John and Jesus were only about six months apart, but John started his ministry before Jesus as a way to prepare the people in Israel for Jesus to start His! He did this by speaking truthfully, being filled and led by the Spirit, and bringing many people back to the Lord in authentic devotion and repentance. He lived a simple life in the wilderness, boldly called out the hypocrisy of religious leaders and the apathy of Jewish people, and urged people to “repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near” (Matthew 3:2 NIV).
In Luke 1:17, the angel says that John will “go on before the Lord, in the spirit and power of Elijah.” This is significant because Elijah is another example in Scripture of what a forerunner does. Elijah lived in a time where the Israelites worshiped the pagan god Baal. They were living in disobedience and evil, and God used Elijah not only to convict the people of their sin but to expose how their false gods were not nearly as powerful or worthy compared to the one true God, Yahweh, of Israel! Elijah struggled with delivering this message because of the resistance he met, but he also continually clung to God and inspired revival!
The beautiful examples of both Elijah and John the Baptist remind us that God has been trying to prepare His people for the arrival of Christ for a long time! He’s always used messengers to remind His people to keep Him in His rightful place as King of their hearts. We still need to be reminded of this today!
The common theme of these forerunners is that they each preached a message of repentance and pointed to God. To repent means to turn from one’s sin and wrongdoing and turn towards God with the desire to receive forgiveness and be cleansed. We need to repent daily as a practice of turning from our sin and selfishness and truly making God the center of our affections and devotion.
The coming of Jesus made this message even more important because His sacrifice made a way for us to be in a personal and intimate relationship with God like never before! Now, through Christ, we get to have the Holy Spirit dwell within us which means God is truly always with us! Because of this beautiful news, we can continue to preach the message of those forerunners in our lives because others need to know the good news of Immanuel, God with us. His kingdom is here, yet we still await its completion—and that’s the news we get to be forerunners for today. Christ has come, and He’s coming again!
Pause: How did the message of John the Baptist prepare the way for Christ? What about his message was important for the people to know before Jesus started His ministry?
Practice: Being bold about our faith and pointing to Jesus with our actions is not always easy. Today, challenge yourself to point someone else to Christ through your words and deeds.
Pray: Heavenly Father, thank You for being so intentional with Your plan! You always put people in our lives who can redirect us to Yourself. Thank You for the work and example of Elijah and John the Baptist. Thank You for Jesus and that His work on the cross and through the resurrection have guaranteed us access to You, redemption and forgiveness, and the gift of becoming a new creation in You! I pray today that You help me to carry this message with the same boldness and fervor as Elijah and John. Amen.
Samy Rodriguez has been serving with the Calvary writing team since 2020 as a senior at Calvary Christian Academy. Before going to study communications, biblical studies, and intercultural studies at Palm Beach Atlantic University, she interned with the Calvary Communications Team and was a student leader in HSM (High School Ministry). She is passionate about communicating God’s Word and looks forward to continuing to serve in ministry after college.