First, go hear Pastor Mark Driscoll teach about John the Baptizer in his Luke series.
I'll wait. It is awesome. I listened to it three times yesterday, and I am not guaranteeing I got it all. I got something more each time.
The Bible spends a lot of time on John the Baptizer's miraculous birth---born to elderly parents as an answer to prayer complete with the angel Gabriel chastizing John's dad, and pronouncing him mute for nine months. I have always chuckled at that part because it means John's dad had to go home from his once-in-a lifetime priestly duties, home to Elizabeth, John's mom, and woo her without words. Audible words, anyway---hopefully she knew how to read, because she is given the content of whatall Gabriel said. God names her baby. And God says: John will be filled with the Holy Spirit from the womb. Her baby will leap when Mary, the Mother of Jesus comes to visit. And John's dad will speak again, as promised, as soon as John is circumsized on the eighth day, and put the nosy neighbors to silence when he backs up Elizabeth with, Yes, his name is John.
John the Baptizer is like Elijah the promised prophet, and forerunner or herald of the King. Except, this King of Kings has to go to the cross first.
And so all of John's life, all of John's ministry is spent preaching, teaching, and warning of the coming of the Messiah. Repent. Get ready! He gets to proclaim Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world---but didn't John know all the lambs up until now, died? Did John think Jesus's throat would be cut? And then He would rise again?
What did John know from Isaiah and Jeremiah? What did John know about the Messiah from the Old Testament Scriptures?
When John is thrown in prison for his preaching about God's righteousness---a message the current rulers don't like as they were guilty of adultery, John sends his disciples to ask specific questions. And they do. Remember the part where John was filled with the Holy Spirit from the womb? I have to believe now that John is asking questions the Holy Spirit directed him. And they must have seemed strange.
Jesus answers--go tell John that the blind see, the deaf hear, the lame walk, the lepers are healed...and not to be offended.
Jesus quotes Isaiah--the very verses and sermons John has been preaching?
But, in context, what else did John see? What else in the contest of the Isaiah verses comforted John? Did John see Jesus' first and second coming? Did John understand that the Savior must die on the cross? Did John take comfort from the fact that Jesus is coming back to set everything right? And did John see that to rescue from prison, some must be IN prison? to rescue those trapped in caves, some must be trapped in caves?
Here is a list of the verses Jesus quotes from Isaiah. read them alone, and then read them in context:
Isaiah 8:14, 15
Isaiah 42:7, 18, 19
Was the mystery of what Jesus came to do hidden from John? Was John sitting in prison expecting to be rescued?
Pastor Mark Driscoll points out that the Christian life for us means:
You should do ______________________.
You cannot do ____________ (because we are sinners, flawed and in need of Jesus).
Jesus did. He will send the HS, so by the HS's power, you can __________________.
John the Baptizer was told to trust. Trust in Jesus who was in control and knew what He was doing. In Isaiah 29:22 John was promised that in a future day it will all make sense. Did that comfort John? Isaiah also mentions unfulfilled dreams---dreams so real you wake up tasting the food and having your thirst quenched, only to wake up and realize it was a dream. Was John comforted when these verses told him that he would be blind, he would stagger, but wait. Even though the eyes of the seer are shut... for a time.
In Isaiah 35, verses 5 and 6, the eyes of the blind are opened, the lame leap like deer, and the tongue of the mute speak...but the rest of the verse: the "waters break forth" is future! Marsh land appearing from this water, and a special highway, a Highway of Holiness: future!
What did John think of Isaiah 42:2 where Jesus will not cry out nor even break a "bruised reed" compared to the majesty of Jesus as Creator in verse 5 and following? How can that be the same person unless it is two different advents, two different times, two different missions?
Isaiah 42:5 also reminds us why we should reject abortion: God gives breath to people. breath and spirit.
And what does a true warrior look like? See Isaiah 42:13 and following.
Good warriors are zealous, shouting, prevailing against enemies. His enemies.
I tremble for Israel because it does not look good for them right before Jesus comes back. Jesus will rescue them at the last minute. But, the seven years of the tribulation will reduce their numbers, and many will be killed for their faith, and Isaiah 42:22 says the remnant is plundered, despoiled, trapped in caves, hidden away in prisons. prey and spoil. They are hopeless and helpless, and only God can rescue them. And He will.
Prisons are no barrier to God. Nor caves.
The Spirit of the Lord God is upon me, because the Lord has anointed me to bring good news to the afflicted, He has sent me to bind up the broken hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives and freedom to the prisoners...to comfort all who mourn.
The poor you will have with you always, Jesus said. And right before He comes back, there will also be many broken hearted, captives, prisoners, people mourning loved ones. Jesus is the Light of the World. He calls us in righteousness. He insists on righteousness. He insists we speak out against unrighteousness, even if it lands us in prison, even if it means they cut off our head because they don't like our warnings... We do our job, be it housewife or warrior, as unto the Lord.
Isaiah 26---TRUST in the Lord! The steadfast of mind you will keep in perfect peace because he trusts in you. Trust in the Lord forever, for in God the Lord we have an everlasting Rock. ...the was of the righteous is smooth... vs 8 we have waited for you eagerly, your name, even your memory is the desire of our souls. vs 11, 12 O Lord your hand is lifted up yet they do not see it. They see your zeal for the people and are put to shame; indeed fire will devour your enemies. Lord you will establish peace for us, since you have performed for us all oru works.
When, like John, you are sitting in prison and your mission seems to be fading, and you feel like you have been through labor pains only to give birth to the wind, that is when John is told in Isaiah 26:19 your dead will live, their corpses will rise, you who lie in the dust, awake and shout for joy, for your dew is as the dew of the dawn and the earth will give birth to the departed spirits... Isaiah 29:18 speaks of a sudden deliverance with an earthquake, thunder, and loud noise. Is Jesus telling John through the context in Isaiah: be patient. wait. Is it not yet just a little while? The "deaf and blind" are sandwiched into a second advent passage where even more good things are promised---but where afflicted and needy are waiting verse 20 for the ruthless will come to an end and the scorner will be finished indeed all who are intent on doing evil will be cut off. Had this been John's sermon to the adulterers?? the very sermon that got him thrown in prison?
Isaiah 29---in the future...they will sanctify My Name, and stand in awe of the God of Israel. Those who err in mind will know the truth and those who criticize will accept instruction. Someday, maybe not here, but in heaven, it will all make sense.