Chapter 2 Part 7 Providence of God
There are many ways that God in his providence guides and directs in the affairs of men and accomplishes his purposes. God's providence is not to be confused with his predestination. God predestinated his elect people to be conformed to the image of his son and unto the adoption of children and to obtain an inheritance. This is unalterably fixed in covenant before the foundation of the world and because of the characteristics and qualities of God cannot be changed. God also acts in providence in the affairs of men to guide them, to chastise them, and to accomplish his purposes in their lives and in fulfillment of prophecy. We see the providence of God in chapter 2 by the use of the star in the east and by the dreams that the wise men and Joseph had:
1. 2:2 "Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him."
2. 2:12 "And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way."
3. 2:13 "And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him."
4. 2:19 "But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeareth in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, 20 Saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and go into the land of Israel: for they are dead which sought the young child's life."
5. 2:22 "But when he heard that Archelaus did reign in Judaea in the room of his father Herod, he was afraid to go thither: notwithstanding, being warned of God in a dream, he turned aside into the parts of Galilee: 23 And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene."
While these are not the only ways in which God guides, direct, and interacts in the affairs of men, nor are they the most common ways, yet we see God's providence at work to accomplish his purposes especially as it pertains to the Christ child.
Matt. 3:1 "In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judaea." Part of the answer as to who John was is given to us in verse 3, "For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. 4 And the same John had his raiment of camel's hair, and a leathern girdle about his loins; and his meat was locusts and wild honey." Isaiah prophesied of one that was to come at the beginning of the gospel age and would declare, crying in the wilderness, "Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight." In this, John was the fulfillment of this Old Testament prophecy.
The birth of John was declared by the appearing of an angel to a Priest by the name of Zacharias. He and his wife Elizabeth were both old and stricken in years and childless: Lk.1:5 "There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth. 6 And they were both righteous before God, walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord blameless. 7 And they had no child, because that Elisabeth was barren, and they both were now well stricken in years.
8 And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest's office before God in the order of his course, 9 According to the custom of the priest's office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord. 10 And the whole multitude of the people were praying without at the time of incense. 11 And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense. 12 And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him. 13 But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John. 14 And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth. 15 For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb. 16 And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. 17 And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
18 And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years. 19 And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to show thee these glad tidings. 20 And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season.
21 And the people waited for Zacharias, and marvelled that he tarried so long in the temple. 22 And when he came out, he could not speak unto them: and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple: for he beckoned unto them, and remained speechless.
23 And it came to pass, that, as soon as the days of his ministration were accomplished, he departed to his own house. 24 And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived, and hid herself five months, saying, 25 Thus hath the Lord dealt with me in the days wherein he looked on me, to take away my reproach among men."
John being the son of a High Priest was by birth a priest.
In the scriptures, seven barren women each gave birth to a son in extraordinary circumstances. John was the seventh son born in this fashion.
The angel said unto Zacharias that John would drink neither wine nor strong drink. In the Old Testament, those who were under a vow to drink neither wine nor strong drink were called Nazarites. Num. 6:2 "Speak unto the children of Israel, and say unto them, When either man or woman shall separate themselves to vow a vow of a Nazarite, to separate themselves unto the LORD: 3 He shall separate himself from wine and strong drink, and shall drink no vinegar of wine, or vinegar of strong drink, neither shall he drink any liquor of grapes, nor eat moist grapes, or dried." Thus, John was under the vow of a Nazarite even from birth.
Next, the angel testified that John would come in the spirit and power of Elias. The name Elias was translated Elijah in the Old Testament. He was a great prophet in Israel who was the forerunner of even a greater prophet in Israel, Elisha. John, as a prophet, came in the spirit and power of Elijah and was the forerunner of an even greater prophet, the Lord Jesus Christ. As Elijah came in the Spirit of God and God blessed him to perform seven miracles in the Old Testament, John came in the Spirit and God blessed him to preach the gospel of the Kingdom of God in demonstration of Spirit and of power.
Before Elizabeth gave birth to John, John was filled with the Holy Spirit, giving evidence that he was born of the Spirit prior to his natural birth: Lk. 1:39 "And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda; 40 And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth. 41 And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost: 42 And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb. 43 And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? 44 For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy."
Zacharias, while filled with Holy Ghost prophesied of John after his birth, " And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways; To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins, Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us, To give light to them that sit in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace. Thus John was declared to be a prophet of the Highest and to be a forerunner of the Lord.
John was a messenger or witness sent from God. John 1:6 "There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. 7 The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. 8 He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light."
The Lord used John to usher in the gospel kingdom. Luke 16:16 "The law and the prophets were until John: since that time the kingdom of God is preached, and every man presseth into it."
In conclusion, John had many roles: he was a prophet, a priest, a messenger, a witness, a Nazarite, a forerunner of the Lord, and a gospel preacher.
Matt. 3:2 "And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." When John came preaching in the wilderness he exhorted the people to repent. Repent means a change of mind, followed by a change of action. Unfortunately, most people only see repentance in terms of turning from some wicked action to a right action. Repentance means much more than just turning from wickedness. In addition, to turning from wickedness, there is a need to turn from erroneously held beliefs and principles, and to turn from erroneous practices, and to turn from a law system when that law system is completed and a new system of worship is implemented.
Repentance is widely taught throughout the New Testament:
1. Matt. 4:17 "From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand."
2. Mk. 6:12 "And they went out, and preached that men should repent."
3. Acts 2:38 "Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost."
4. Acts 3:19 "Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord;"
5. Acts 26:19 "Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision: 20 But showed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judaea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance."
6. 2 Cor. 7:8 "For though I made you sorry with a letter, I do not repent, though I did repent: for I perceive that the same epistle hath made you sorry, though it were but for a season. 9 Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing. 10 For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death."
7. Rom. 2:4 "Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?"
In order to enter into God's visible and manifest church kingdom here on earth, repentance is a necessity. We need to repent of anything that would keep us from serving the Lord and worshipping him in Spirit and in truth. This would include any wicked lifestyle, any falsely held beliefs and practices, legalism, and false works systems.
When John said, "Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand," he was essentially telling the people that the law was coming to a close and a new covenant of worship and service was being implemented. He was calling upon the people to turn from legalism to worshipping God in the gospel Kingdom.