Fellowship at Cross Creek
The Story of Sin…
Part VII: The Son Fulfills the Father’s Prophecy:
Preaching the Knowledge of Salvation by the Forgiveness of Sins…
By Joseph M. Cross
It’s been perhaps thirty years since the angel first told Joseph that Mary was pregnant with a child conceived by the Spirit of God and that when the child is born Joseph is to name the child YAH-Saves because he will save the people from their sins. Just weeks before this announcement, the angel Gabriel had told a priest named Zacharias that incredibly his elderly wife, Elizabeth, who happened to be an older cousin of Mary, was also pregnant and that the child she would bear would fulfill certain OT prophecies pertaining to the Lord’s deliverance and salvation (from sin). When Zacharias questioned Gabriel how this could be, Zacharias’ voice was stricken. Finally, when his son, John, was born, Zacharias’ silence was broken and, inspired by God, he uttered this prophecy concerning his son John:
“And you, child (John the Baptist), will be called the prophet of the Most High (God); For you will go on BEFORE THE LORD TO PREPARE HIS WAYS (Mal 3:1; Is. 40:3); to give to His people the knowledge of salvation by the forgiveness of their sins.”
Now thirty years later, Zacharias’ son, John, has grown up, and he is fulfilling the prophecy uttered by his father.
Here is the Gospel of Mark’s account:
Mark 1:1 (Also see Matt. 3:1ff) The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. 2 As it is written in Isaiah the prophet:
“BEHOLD, I SEND MY MESSENGER AHEAD OF YOU,
WHO WILL PREPARE YOUR WAY (Mal. 3:1);
3 THE VOICE OF ONE CRYING IN THE WILDERNESS,
‘MAKE READY THE WAY OF THE LORD,
MAKE HIS PATHS STRAIGHT’ ” (Is. 40:3).
(In setting up the opening scene of Mark’s gospel concerning the life, person and purpose of YAH-Saves, Mark quotes, just in more detail, the two OT passages that John’s father Zacharias’ was referencing in his prophecy concerning John’s birth thirty years earlier…Malachi 3:1 and Isaiah 40:3. Christ’s apostle, Matthew, quoting just Isaiah 40, goes further in his gospel of Christ’s life to tie the seven hundred year old plus prophecy to John the Baptist:
Now in those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” For this is the one referred to by Isaiah the prophet when he said:
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness, ‘Make ready the way of the Lord, Make His paths straight!’”
These two prophesies now set the stage for Mark’s narrative of Jesus’ life, beginning with the messenger who will prepare the way for the Lord …)
Mark 1:4 John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.
(Baptism means immersion and is serving as an outward symbol of the purification of one’s heart, thus the convicted sinner is, in essence, repenting or turning back from his orientation of having been away from God. In repentance, the sinner now turns back towards God, presumably by faith, because God has still not arrived on the scene, at least as described within the OT prophecies that both Zacharias [Luke 1:76-77] and Mark are referencing. Thus in baptism, the sinner is symbolically having his former sins of disbelief and doubt in God, as well as, the corresponding actions or sins related to that doubt and disbelief, washed away; he is being ritually or outwardly cleansed in order to demonstrate publicly that his renewed faith or trust in God, and the resulting lifestyle that comes through that faith and trust, is what is cleansing the sinner’s heart and mind.)
Mark 1:5 And all the country of Judea was going out to him, and all the people of Jerusalem; and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, confessing their sins.
(Confessing or agreeing with that fact that he or she had not been faithful to God…probably had not even thought much about God to begin with, but instead, as with most of the world, had just been living or surviving. Note: I’m not prepared to commit to a meaning that repentance being witnessed here has much to do with a fidelity to the OT or Mosaic Law and its accompanying temple sacrifices. At least, not yet. While some in the crowd that were being baptized might have thought, felt and meant this, the prophets had been clear on this matter for quite some time. Here is but one of those passages from the prophet Micah, a contemporary of the prophet Isaiah…
With what shall I come to the Lord
and bow myself before the God on high?
Shall I come to Him with burnt offerings,
with yearling calves?
Does the Lord take delight in thousands of rams,
in ten thousand rivers of oil?
Shall I present my firstborn for my rebellious acts,
the fruit of my body for the sin of my soul?
He has told you, O man, what is good;
and what does the Lord require of you
but to do justice, to love kindness,
and to walk humbly with your God? Micah 6:6-8.
In addition, several hundred years before Micah’s prophecy, listen to the cries of a repentant King David after his adultery with Bathsheba had been exposed and the infant son born to that adulterous relationship now lay dying…
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me away from Your presence and do not take Your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of Your salvation and sustain me with a willing spirit. Then I will teach transgressors Your ways, and sinners will be converted to You. Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, the God of my salvation; Then my tongue will joyfully sing of Your righteousness. O Lord, open my lips, that my mouth may declare Your praise. For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You are not pleased with burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; A broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise. Ps. 51:10ff.
The theme of God’s desire of man’s moral obedience over imitation ritual or sacrifice is repeated again and again throughout the pages of Scripture [also see 1 Sam. 15; Ps. 40; Is. 1; Jer. 6, 7; Amos 5; Heb. 10].
1:6 John was clothed with camel’s hair and wore a leather belt around his waist, and his diet was locusts and wild honey. 7 And he was preaching, and saying, “After me One is coming who is mightier than I, and I am not fit to stoop down and untie the thong of His sandals. 8 “I baptized you with water; but He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit.”
In other words, John makes it clear. My job is only to help prepare you and your hearts for the Lord’s coming.
But note: in addition to a personal repentance, confession of sins and a Spiritual preparation for the LORD’s imminent coming and salvation being proclaimed within John’s preaching, at the same time, there is something else going on here that is embedded in both John’s preaching and the nation’s anticipation…
Let’s leap back in time, some seven centuries before Zacharias, Jesus and John and more closely examine just one of Zacharias, Matthew and Mark’s references…Isaiah 40.
Comfort my people; her warfare has ended; her sins removed; she has received double for all her sins…
Over seven hundred years before the angel’s command to Joseph to not break off his engagement to Mary, Zacharias’ inspired declaration at the birth of his son, John, or the gospel-writers’ Matthew and Mark identifying John as the fulfillment of these ancient words, the OT prophet Isaiah proclaimed these prophetic words of comfort…
Is. 40:1 “Comfort, O comfort My people,” says your God.
2 “Speak kindly to Jerusalem;
And call out to her, that her warfare has ended,
That her iniquity has been removed,
That she has received of the Lord’s hand
double for all her sins.”
(What sins? What warfare and what double [payment] for all hers sins?)
3 A voice is calling,
“Clear the way for the Lord in the wilderness;
Make smooth in the desert a highway for our God.
(Here is Zacharias’ prophecy and Mark’s description of John’s purpose…)
4 “Let every valley be lifted up,
And every mountain and hill be made low;
And let the rough ground become a plain,
And the rugged terrain a broad valley;
(We are building a Spiritual super highway by which to welcome the LORD’s coming…)
5 Then the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
And all flesh will see it together;
For the mouth of the Lord has spoken.”
(What has just been said will happen…God will appear!)
6 A voice says, “Call out.”
Then he answered, “What shall I call out?”
(The answer to the prophet’s question…)
All flesh is grass, and all its loveliness is like the flower of the field.
7 The grass withers, the flower fades,
When the breath of the Lord blows upon it;
Surely the people are grass.
8 The grass withers, the flower fades,
But the word of our God stands forever.
(In other words, because, just as in Gen. 1, God’s words or decrees and actions are one in the same—when God spoke, creation came into existence…what is about to be said here about God’s words or decrees, both generally and specifically, will be accomplished. In other words, what is being said here will NOT NOT be accomplished. Thus, God, in some form or fashion, is planning on returning and being made manifest to his people. He will appear, and when He does, the time for God’s people paying double for all her sins will be finished…over. The people of God’s time of discipline, or their Spiritual timeout, is about to be over. Thus, for this reason, Israel should be consoled or comforted. There will be NO more paying for past crimes or sins…all sins will be forgiven…atoned for…or made amends for. Why? Because we all make mistakes…we all sin, and to NEVER be released from those sins is a dreadful burden to have to bear.
So what past crimes or sins or injustices is Isaiah referring to here?
Well, to understand that, we will have to go back even further in time. The history of Israel is a long history. Fortunately, we have it recorded in Scripture so that we can go back and examine just what was expected and what went wrong. But first, let’s finish the prophet’s joyful message to God’s people…)
9 Get yourself up on a high mountain,
O Zion, bearer of good news,
Lift up your voice mightily,
O Jerusalem, bearer of good news;
Lift it up, do not fear.
Say to the cities of Judah,
“Here is your God!”
10 Behold, the Lord God will come with might,
With His arm ruling for Him.
Behold, His reward is with Him
And His recompense before Him.
11 Like a shepherd He will tend His flock,
In His arm He will gather the lambs
And carry them in His bosom;
He will gently lead the nursing ewes.
Thus like a shepherd, which lovingly cares for his flock, God will care for his people AGAIN. But what had God’s people done that was so wrong in the first place or why had this Spiritual timeout…or receiving double for all her sins…taken place in the first place?
To answer that question, we must go back further in time to begin with…
Next time…Why, as the prophet Isaiah declares 700 years before Zacharias’ prophecy and Yah-Saves and John’s births were God’s people needing to be comforted by the fact that the time for God’s people paying double for all her sins was now over? What had God’s people done that was so bad to pay double for all her sins? And why had it taken over seven hundred years before this ancient prophecy was even being referenced and referenced to John the Baptist?