PEOPLE GET READY
Gracious God, at the beginning of this new year, open my spirit so that I may in faith grow more each day.
Read Matthew 3:1–12
John the Baptist Prepares the Way
3 In those days John the Baptist came, preaching in the wilderness of Judea 2 and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” 3 This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah:
“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
make straight paths for him.’”[a]
4 John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. 5 People went out to him from Jerusalem and all Judea and the whole region of the Jordan. 6 Confessing their sins, they were baptized by him in the Jordan River.
7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to where he was baptizing, he said to them: “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. 9 And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 10 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.
11 “I baptize you with[b] water for repentance. But after me comes one who is more powerful than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with[c] the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor, gathering his wheat into the barn and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”
New International Version (NIV)Holy Bible, New International Version®, NIV® Copyright ©1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
ReflectAs 2022 dawns, there is a sense of expectation. The new year offers a new start.
Lay your hopes and fears for 2022 before the Lord.
John’s audience knew hope and fear. Subject, once again, to a pagan emperor, they had waited 400 years for the prophet promised by Malachi (see Malachi 4:5). They were desperate to hear from God, longing for a new beginning.
John’s wilderness preaching stirred their hope (v 3), bringing to mind God’s promises to come in power to save his people (v 3; Isaiah 40:3–5; Malachi 3:1). John even dressed like the prophet Elijah (2 Kings 1:8).
John’s message, however, was sobering: God’s King is coming to judge (vs 10, 12; Malachi 3:2–4), so get ready. How do we get ready for our holy God? Quite simply – ‘repent’ (v 2). True repentance starts with the act of acknowledging and confessing our rebellion (v 6) and continues as we redirect our lives toward what matters to God (v 8). John understood that if the people were to be true citizens of heaven’s kingdom, they needed more than good resolutions or even symbolic water baptism (vs 8,11). Truly holy lives are only possible when we are bathed with God’s Holy Spirit. Only one person can do that (see John 14:16,17). Cue Jesus.
Spend time acknowledging and confessing your sin. Ask the Holy Spirit, given to you when you first believed (Ephesians 1:13), to equip you for the year ahead.
Lord, I am in awe of John the Baptist’s humility and courage. Use this portion of Your Word as a mirror for me, so that I might see myself as You do.