The Voice of One Crying in the Wilderness - John 1:19-24

Philip Rockey, CT

And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou? And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ. ...I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness (John 1:19-24).

John the Baptist as the forerunner of the Lord Jesus Christ knew what it was to live in a wilderness scene carrying a message that was not only unique, but also rejected by the vast majority of those who heard it. He knew what it was to spend the cold nights alone with the wild beasts around him and the cold, biting criticism of the priests and Levites ringing in his ears. Day after day he faithfully told out the message of the coming Messiah, the Deliverer for Israel while the people moved on with their busy lives, indifferent to the claims of Christ.

How often is this repeated throughout the Word of God? Men and women standing alone for God, hated and rejected by the unconverted and sadly, even unsupported by those professing godliness. Picture yourself in Joseph's shoes and understand what it means to be a voice of one crying in the wilderness. Here was a young man eagerly obeying the will of his father but his own brothers could not speak peaceably to him and had taken him by force to be sold into a foreign country. There as a slave he had served faithfully, standing for the truths he had been taught as a child and holding firm to his convictions. It would have been so easy to just forget all the past and all the truths of God that he had been taught and become like the Egyptians. Instead, he held dear the truths he had "bought" (Prov. 23:23) and was willing to stand firm for God in a strange land. What was his "reward' for faithfulness? A prison cell. Imagine the questions that must have come into his mind and the discouragement that must have filled his heart. How could this be in God's plan when he had been given dreams that one day others would bow down to him?

The world we live in is a true 'wilderness" and we are called upon to stand true to God and to His Word (Romans 12: 1). We are surrounded by careless attitudes and haphazard Christianity and a form of godliness that is not being lived out in our daily lives. It is easy to sing the hymn "Take my life and let it be consecrated Lord to Thee," but in reality we live as if we meant "...let me be.' Are we more interested in fitting in with the crowds than raising our voices and standing true to God? We do well to lay to heart the warning given to the church at Laodicea, '...because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spew thee out of my mouth. Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing ... I counsel thee to buy of me gold tried in the fire...' (Rev. 3:16-17). Might the prayer of our hearts be 'Search me 0 God and try me...' (Psa. 139:23).

Did it really make any difference if Joseph held true to what he believed? Was there anyone there to notice if he had abandoned everything and become like the world around him? What if John had decided that he much preferred the comforts of home and acceptance by the religious leaders? That would have been the easy route to take but look at all that God had in store for faithfulness to Him. When there is so much to discourage and bring questions to our mind, we need to be reminded of God's faithfulness to His own. The Lord did not forget John as he sat in the prison. He sent His disciples with a word from the Lord to encourage his heart.

There in the dark and dismal dungeon where Joseph had been cast there shines the wonderful light of God's promise, 'But the Lord was with Joseph" (Gen. 39:21). Joseph did not know that one day he would sit on the throne and all the sorrow and sadness that had filled his life would one day be exchanged for a crown. This could have lightened the burden and weight of his circumstances. God had a purpose and a plan and Joseph was willing to stand for the truth and wait on God for each new day.

Think how different it would have been for him if he had abandoned all that he knew to be the truth and lived for his own selfish interests. Instead of "Joseph" there would have been another name. Instead of receiving a throne and a crown, he would have lived and died seeking his own interests and pleasures with a life wasted for eternity. We need to examine our own hearts in God's presence today. Are we willing to stand for the truth in spite of the opposition, or are we rather choosing our own interests above the will of God?

We are seeing an eroding of many of the truths that were plainly taught and held dear by past generations. Are the 'voices crying in the wilderness" getting fewer and fewer? Are we setting aside the call to separation because it is not the popular thing anymore? The voices that are still heard crying for a return to God and the Word of God are being silenced by a rising tide of worldliness and carelessness in the things of God. We seldom hear ministry on the truth of the woman's long hair. Has God's word changed just because so few think that it is important? Do we think that the Lord will just overlook our sin because "everyone is doing it now?" "He that saith, I know Him, and keepeth not His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him" (1 John 1:4).

God will always have a remnant for Himself; those that 'buy the truth and sell it not" (Prov. 23:23). Many today have never had convictions wrought by God within their own soul as to the truth of God's Word and gathering to the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ. They have not paid the price and they are selling themselves out to the world. Thank God for young men and women who have a hunger for the Word of God and a desire to uphold its truth in their lives.

There are still those like John the Baptist who will not let the voice of truth be silenced in spite of the opposition. There are shepherds in God's assemblies who are holding forth the truth of Scripture and are not swayed by changing times. The call is still going forth to "come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing" (2 Cor. 6:17). May God give us the grace to heed the voices that are crying and may He preserve each one of us unto His coming. "Thou hast a few names even in Sardis that have not defiled their garments ... they are worthy" (Rev. 3:4).

Are you wondering if it is worth it to hold fast? Do you feel that you are only a voice crying in the wilderness? Look at the words of the Lord Jesus Himself concerning John, "among them that are born of women there hath not risen a greater than John the Baptist' (Matt. 11:11). When you look at the record that we have of John the Baptist, there is nothing that would have warranted him a place in the history books of the world. Why then is he spoken of so highly in the record book of heaven? It is because of his faithfulness to God and to His word. God gave him a work and he did it faithfully. The commendation of the Lord Jesus in a coming day is worth everything. "Behold, I come quickly; hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown' (Rev. 3:11).

The assemblies today are weak and we are losing ground spiritually. There is a tremendous need for men and women of God who are willing to stand one hundred percent for the Word and God, and will put their all into the things of God. Elijah stood for God even when he thought he was all alone. Esther risked her life for the people of God when she could have taken the easy way out. Nehemiah rose up to restore the things of God when it wasn't popular. May the Lord revive in every heart a desire to serve Him faithfully and that we might be preserved until His coming. There is great reward promised in a soon coming day to him that overcometh (Rev. 3:5).