Bible Stories

WILDERNESS CRY

Chapter 2

“Behold, I send My messenger, and he will prepare the way before  Me.”

                                                                                    MALACHI 3:1


The sun shined brightly against the cornflower blue sky glistening like diamonds on the water beneath. John waded through the Jordan grabbing handfuls of water and yelling at the top of his lungs, “Repent! Repent for the kingdom of God is at hand!” his voice echoed as he walked along the shore opposite of the town of Bethany. His hair was long and stringy, his clothes were made up of camel’s hair and a wide leather belt. He chose to live in the wilderness away from everyone else, and as for his choice of food, he ate locust and wild honey.

As John traveled along the river bank, many people came to him confessing their sins and being baptized. One day some Pharisees and Saducees approached him to question his actions. When he saw them coming he cried out, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?” John knew how they treated the people and how they used their position among the people for their own selfish gain. “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not say ‘we have Abraham as our father,” John reached down and picked up a rock and continued, “I say to you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. The ax is already at the root of the trees and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire!” Then he turned to the people standing along the shore, by this time a large crowd had gathered because they heard him preaching. Some people in the crowd began to cry out. “What do we need to do?” “If you have two tunics, give one to him who does not have one. The same goes to those who have plenty to eat. Give to those who have none. Share what you have with him.” While he was speaking, some tax collectors’ came into the water and asked, “Teacher, what must we do?” “When you take taxes, take only what is required by law. ” “What should we do?” A soldier cried out. John looked at them as he walked toward the edge of the river and said, “Do not extort money nor accuse anybody falsely, be content with your pay.” One by one the people started to come into the river to be baptized.

As time passed some Priest and Levites who where sent by the Jews in Jerusalem began to question him about who he was. “Who are you?” The crowd became silent. “Are you the Christ?” “No, I am not the Christ,” he responded. “Well, then, are you Elijah?” another questioned him. “I am not!” “Then are you the Prophet that Moses spoke off?” John looked up at them and answered, “No!” “We were sent from Jerusalem to find out who you are. So please tell us, What do you say about yourself?” the Jews continued.

“I am not the Christ, Elijah, or the Prophet Moses spoke of. I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness make the way for the Lord.” John replied as he resumed baptizing the people. “Then why are you baptizing if you are not the Christ?” John turned to the people standing in front of him who came to be baptized and proclaimed, “There is one coming who is more powerful than I. The straps on his sandals I am not worthy to bend down and untie.” Baptizing the man who came to him, he continued, “I baptize you with water but when He comes,  the One who is called the Christ, he will baptize you with the Holy Spirit. When he raised  the man out of the water he looked  into the crowd and saw Jesus coming toward him. He watched as Jesus came into the water and said, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world! This is the one in whom I said that would come whose sandal straps I am not worthy to untie. Turning his gaze toward the Jewish leaders he answered “This is the reason I came baptizing with water that He might be revealed to Israel.”

John looked at Jesus who was standing in front of him and said, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” “Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness,” Jesus replied. John took hold of Jesus and baptized him. As Jesus came up out of the water the sky above them opened up like a giant curtain being parted and the Holy Spirit came down and rested upon Jesus with the gentleness of a dove in flight. Then the ground shook as God spoke from heaven saying, “This is My Son in whom I love. With him I am well pleased.” 

** “I saw the Spirit come down from heaven as a dove and remain on Him. I would not have known him, except the one who sent me to baptize with water told me, ‘ The man on whom you see the Spirit come down and remain is he who will baptize with the Holy Spirit. I have seen and I testify that this is the Son of God.”

                                                                                                                                                         – John the Baptist  (John 1:32-34 NIV)

DEVOTIONAL

Before the water was changed to wine. Before the blind man could see , the deaf hear and the dead raised. John, who was called “the Baptist”, was preaching along the banks of the Jordan River. People from all walks of life came from the surrounding countryside to hear him. Among them where Jews and Gentiles, tax collectors and soldiers, Pharisees and scribes. As he walked along the river he proclaimed the people needed to repent for the kingdom of God was at hand.

DID YOU KNOW???

There is so much to talk about concerning the things we read about in this story. For instance:

  •  Did you know it was the duty of a slave to untie the sandals of the one entering the house? This is what John referred to when he said he was not worthy to untie Jesus’ sandals.
  • The clothing John wore was the same type of clothes worn by Elijah in his day. The camels hair was quite effective in keeping the hot desert sun out, while maintaining warmth in the winter.
  • The Israelites would offer up a sacrificial lamb during  Passover. Here, John is calling Jesus that “Lamb” that would take away the sins of the world. Jesus, as the “Lamb of God”, totally removes sin, whereas the animal sacrifice only covered it. Each year the Israelites had to offer up sacrifices. Jesus is our “Lamb” that was sacrificed for our sins once and for all.

THEN & NOW

Let’s compare some of the ways they baptized then to the way it is now.

THEN

  •  The priest would go through a ceremonial washing before they  would offer up sacrifices.
  •  Israelites were baptized as an outward sign of the change within.
  • New converts were baptized after they were circumcised.

NOW

  •  Baptism takes place after a person receives Jesus as Savior and Lord.
  •  Baptism by itself is not a means of salvation.
  •  Is symbolic of the death (going down under the water),burial(under the water) and                                                         resurrection (coming up out of the water) of Jesus.

John was commissioned by God to proclaim repentance and preach about the kingdom of God. He identified himself as being the “one crying in the wilderness” that is found in Isaiah 40:3-5:

3 “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: prepare the way of the Lord; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. 4 Every valley shall be exalted and every mountain and hill brought low; and the rough places smooth; 5 The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together; for the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”

                                                                      ISAIAH 40:3-5 (NKJV)

In Isaiahs’ day the kings and people of royalty would send servants on ahead of them to make a path for them to travel on, or clean up the existing one. This included smoothing out all the bumps and filling all the holes in the road. There is a story that was told by the Greeks of such an event. A queen named Shammu-ramat the mother of king Adad-nirari III, who reigned  from 810 to 783, came to a mountainous region that would be treacherous to climb, so she ordered her servants to level the hill and fill the hollows. I guess she was not in any big hurry!

John went ahead of Jesus to prepare the way for Him. Today we are commissioned to go and share what God has done and prepare for Jesus’ return.

 

 

DESERT STORM

Chapter 3

Heat waves rose off the sun bleached rock as the wind swirled the fine limestone dust through the air. Sweat dripping from his brow, Jesus climbed the jagged rock and sat upon it looking out into the wilderness that had been his home for the past forty days. The lack of food and water began to take its toll on him. His hair mangled and full of sand, his hands and feet dry and cut from the rocks. His lips cracked and his skin badly burnt from the scorching heat of the sun.

“Just look at you ,” came a voice from behind.

“How long will you put up with this?” Satan probed as he came around to stand in front of Jesus. Like a snake coiling to strike its victim, Satan stared at Jesus with the intent of  causing him to sin. Intense hatred for God and all He created filled his heart and nothing gave him more pleasure than to destroy the one thing God loved the most. Out of all the things God created, He loved humans and even created them in His likeness.

“I know you are hungry. You have been here a long time and yet you haven’t eaten anything!” he continued as if to be concerned for Jesus’ welfare. Reaching down he picked up a rock and held it out in front of Jesus’ face.

“If you are Gods’ Son as you say you are then turning this stone into bread would be no problem for you.”

Only the sound of the wind could be heard as Jesus sat and stared out into the desert. Drawing closer to him Satan repeated his enticing question,

“If you are the Son of God, turn this stone into bread.” Jesus pulled himself up and leaned on a big rock next to them. Wincing in pain from the lack of nourishment, he responded,

“Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.”

“Come with me I have something to show you!” Satan demanded as he grabbed Jesus by the arm and swept them away to the highest part of the temple. The people below went about their business unaware of the conflict going on above them. Releasing Jesus’ arm, Satan Challenged,

“If you are the Son of God throw yourself off this platform! For it is written, ‘the angels shall bare you up in their wings lest you dash your foot on a stone.” Steadying himself with what strength he had left Jesus answered

“ It is also written, ‘You shall not tempt the Lord your God.’

Satan paused for a moment to think of anything he had not tempted Jesus with. A sly smile returned to his face as he swept them away once again. For his final temptation, and one he was certain Jesus would fall for, Satan took him to a very high mountain.

“Look, if you will, at all these kingdoms. See their riches….their power…their people? All of this is mine and I will give it to you Jesus if you will only worship me!” Anger rose inside him at the outrageous offer the devil had made.

“Get yourself away from me Satan! It is written, ‘You shall worship the Lord your God and Him only shall you serve.’”  Jesus commanded.

With that being said Satan vanished leaving Jesus in the wilderness alone once again. As he sat against a rock to shield himself from the sun, angels appeared with food and water and ministered to Jesus there.

No weapon that is formed against you shall prosper, and every tongue that shall rise against you in judgement you shall show to be in the wrong. This [peace, righteousness, security, triumph over opposition] is the heritage of the servants of the Lord [those in whom the ideal Servant of the Lord is reproduced]; this is the righteousness or the vindication which they obtain from Me [this is that which I impart to them as their justification].

                                                                                                                              –GOD ISAIAH  54:17  (Amplified Bible)

                                                                                                                                                                                                                 

 

 

{THE BEST IS YET TO COME}

CHAPTER 4

“Mary! I am so glad you could make it.” The bride exclaimed as they embraced. “Is Jesus and his disciples coming?” “Yes, he said he would be here. So, show me your new home,” Mary added as they walked toward the house through the crowded streets. It could not have been a better day for a wedding feast. Just about the whole town of Cana turned out for the festivities and with the wedding ceremony complete the invited guest sat down to dine. The finest foods where set before them as well as all the wine they wanted. After eating, some of the guest began to dance along with the newly weds. Laughter filled the air as the guest enjoyed the celebration. “We have a problem,” one of the servants said holding an empty container. “What is wrong?” another servant questioned him. “We have ran out of wine and the feast is not over yet!” he explained. “What are we going to do?” exclaimed the servant next to him. Overhearing the conversation, Mary leaned over to Jesus and said, “They have ran out of wine. Why don’t you help them?” “Woman what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour is not yet come.” he responded. “Excuse me sir,” Mary said as she waved down one of the servants. “I could not help overhearing your conversation. Is it true that you are out of wine?” she probed. “Yes we are!” he responded. “Well let me introduce you to someone.” Mary said, as she turned toward Jesus and continued. “This is Jesus and he can help you with the situation you are in. Do whatever he tells you to do.” She directed the servant. “Bring out more wine!” the head master commanded. “Sir, will you help us?” the servant asked Jesus. As Jesus looked up from the place were he was sitting, he saw six big water pots that where used for washing. “You see those water pots over there by that wall?” he questioned the servant. “Yes sir.” “Go and fill them to the brim with water,” he commanded. The servant went and gathered the others and they filled the pots to the brim with water. “What does this got to do with wine?” one of them asked as they poured the water in. “Just do it!” he said sternly. After the water pots where filled the servant returned to Jesus. “I have done what you told me to do.”  “Good, now draw some out and take it to the head master,” responded Jesus. Hesitantly the servant left Jesus and went to the pots, to draw out water. “The head master said he needs more wine for the guest now!” exclaimed another servant. There was no time for the servant to rationalize what Jesus had told him to do, so he dipped the cup into the pot and turned to go to the head master. His hands trembled as sweat beaded on his brow at the thought of how the head master was going to react to the water. As he was walking, he looked down at the cup in his hand. “How can this be?” he exclaimed to himself. “It’s about time you got here with that wine!” the head master retorted as he took the cup from the servant and drank it. The servants who helped fill the pots stood speechless as he took a drink from the cup they knew had water in it “This is some of the best wine I have ever tasted!” He said as he looked at the servants. “What!” the servant standing next to the pots exclaimed as she turned and looked into the pots. To her amazement, the water they had poured somehow transformed into wine. The other servants gathered around the pots to see this miracle for themselves. “Don’t just stand there! Serve it to our guest!” The headmaster ordered as he came up behind them. Immediately they filled their pitchers and began pouring the wine for the guest, the servant that asked Jesus for help stared at Him and wondered, “Who is this man?  How did he turn the water to wine?”

As the feast continued, the head master approached the groom. “Sir can I have a word with you?” “Sure is everything all right?” asked the groom. “Oh yes sir,” he responded. “However I just wanted to let you know how good the wine is. Usually the best is served first, then we serve the less expensive wine when the guests have had their fill, but you have saved the best for last!” And it is some of the best wine I have ever tasted!” he added. With that being said the two men laughed and returned to the celebration.

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