The Testimony of John the Baptist: The Voice of One Crying

 •  7 min. read  •  grade level: 7
"The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness' (Isa. 40) is an evident allusion to John the Baptist who was "sent from God" to bear witness of the True Light and prepare a way for the Messiah. In the midst of his testimony he was slain. Messiah too came, and in the midst of His testimony He was slain. Master and servant, they were both cut off by wicked hands. Thus God's work was, as far as man could see, nipped in the bud; and hence the world is yet in misrule and confusion, in sin and misery. When God really fulfills for the earth what He has at heart, there will be the manifest power of ordered blessing to His glory.
But look up, not down, and read in the risen and glorified Christ the proof to faith that the cross, the very thing that seemed the total ruin of all the counsels of God, is in truth their sold basis and justification by which He is and will be forever glorified. The cross of the Lord Jesus is the triumph of grace, as the resurrection and ascension are its righteous answer; but it is a triumph known only to faith. The world sees not heaven opened nor Him glorified there; it saw in the cross One who suffered to death.
In the Acts of the Apostles man's rejection of Christ is constantly contrasted with God's raising Him from the dead. There we see that man and God are in complete opposition. The cross is thus looked at in the light not of God's purposes, but of man's wickedness. In the epistles the truth chiefly insisted on is the cross, not so much as the extreme point of all man has done against God, but as the deepest exercise of the grace that God feels toward guilty man. Not that love was created by the cross; it was in God before the coming of Christ, and because of it He sent His Son. The propitiation is the fruit of God's grace, not its cause. Propitiation vindicates it, judging and putting aside all the sin on man's part, which otherwise would have proved an insurmountable barrier. But the love was on God's part from everlasting. We must bear this in mind on looking at propitiation, which indeed is the strongest possible proof of His love, while it equally proves His holiness and necessary judgment of our sins.
John's testimony was a call to repentance in view of Messiah's advent; his baptism therefore was a confession both of sins and of Him who should come after himself. It was "The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Prepare ye the way of Jehovah, make straight in the desert a highway for our God." (Isa. 40:33The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God. (Isaiah 40:3); J.N.D. Trans.) It was not the person nor the work of Israel's hope in power. For Israel as a whole was blind and deaf; the testimony was interrupted, the Messiah refused. There was therefore but a partial application, the people's unbelief thus intercepting and breaking off the thread of God's ways, while His counsels abide irrefragable and accomplished, through their unbelief, in the cross as they never else could have been. The way of Jehovah was not yet prepared, nor was there a straight highway in the desert for God. Man was put in his responsibility and heard the cry, only to sin; by-and-by God will make all good in grace by His own power. Then "Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain: and the glory of the LORD [Jehovah] shall be revealed, and all flesh [not Israel only] shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD [Jehovah) hath spoken it." vv. 4, 5.
Thus plainly we have, as far as its scope goes, the sure purpose of God. Every difficulty, depths, heights, rough or crooked, all must disappear; for God yet means to make this earth the scene of His glory. A most blessed prospect it is, that the sin, misery, and weakness of man, the groaning of all creation around, the wiles and power and presence of Satan must vanish and give place, not to the revealed grace of God in Christ, which has shone (we know) in the despised Nazarene, but to the revealed glory of Jehovah, when all flesh shall see it together. It cannot refer to the day of the judgment of the dead, because it will not be "all flesh" nor any flesh whatever, but the dead raised before the great white throne. But here it is a question of man living in his natural body on the earth. The Jew was apt to overlook the judgment of the dead at the end of all dispensations; the Gentile is just as negligent as to the judgment of the quick, though it be confessed in the commonest symbols of Christendom. As infidelity increases, the rejection of this truth is perhaps more complete now than ever s:nce the gospel was preached to the Gentiles.
In the dark ages people at least believed enough to be panic-struck from time to time; but now Christians are accounted fanatics if they testify of these coming judgments. But nonetheless God will cut short the course of this world, and the glory of Jehovah shall be revealed so that all flesh shall see it together. This John the Baptist had to announce; only the first word committed to him, and already accomplished in its measure, was the preparing the way of Jehovah.
"The voice said, Cry. And he said, What shall I cry?" Here follows the substance of John the Baptist's testimony, though it may be still more repentance, a work wrought in their souls by the Word of God applied by the Holy Spirit, as manifest in the end of this age. "All flesh is as grass"; it is man morally and universally. "And all the goodliness thereof is as the flower of the field" (v. 6). Could a man use this to think well of himself? Verse 7 cuts down all boasting—"The grass withereth, the flower fadeth; because the spirit [or breath] or the LORD [Jehovah) bloweth upon it." Not its beauty but its frailty God refers to. The moment you have God's testing its character, if it were only by the breath of His nostrils, all flesh comes to nothing; and this too in Israel, not in Gentiles only; "surely the people is grass." Nor is this all; He utters its sentence again and again. The reason for the first repetition seems to be the emphatic judgment of "the people"; this is, the Jews. The second is particularly connected with the resource for faith. "The grass withereth, the flower fadeth; but the word of our God shall stand forever." v. 8.
Thus the reception of the Messiah and His reign over Israel by-and-by are conditioned by their repentance, a work wrought in their souls by the Word of God applied by the Holy Spirit, as Nicodemus had to learn from our Lord in John 3—so the Christian proves yet more profoundly under the gospel, and receives eternal life in the Son of God—so much the Jew in due time for the future world kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ. These two truths are of no less importance at the present moment, as we know how Peter used them for the Christian Jews from the first. They will be urgently needed when God begins to work in the Jews once more, when they painfully learn, feel, and prove the utter worthlessness of man as he is in divine things. Even now the men of the world are making no small strides, but they will do greater things. And the devil will mature and display his plans as they have never been witnessed in the world before. What then will be the security of faith? "The word of our God shall stand forever."
It may seem a weak thing to confide in for eternity; but in truth it is more stable than heaven and earth. So in 2 Tim. 3 the Apostle, anticipating the ruin of Christendom, casts the man of God on this unfailing resource.