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Preparing the Way for a Savior: The Prophecy and Promise of John the Baptist

Updated: Feb 4

Isaiah was a prophet that lived in the eighth century b.c. and he spoke about what he saw concerning the kingdoms of Judah and Jerusalem during the days of the kings Uzziah, Jotham, Ahaz, and Hezekiah of Judah. But this article is not about the prophet, but one of his prophecies:

"The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; Make straight in the desert, A highway for our God. Every valley shall be exalted And every mountain and hill brought low; The crooked places shall be made straight And the rough places smooth; 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).

Roughly 700 years later, this prophecy would be fulfilled through the birth of a boy to Zacharias and Elizabeth. Zacharias was a priest, and his wife Elizabeth was a daughter of Aaron, and was old and barren. As was custom to the priesthood, Zacharias went into a temple for it was his turn to light the incense (Luke 1:9). The rest of the people were outside praying during the hour of the incense burning. He was alone in the temple while he burned the incense.

From the text in the Holy Bible, we know that at some point, he prayed for a child, because an angel of the Lord appears to Zacharias in the temple and tells Zacharias, “Do not be afraid, Zacharias for your prayer is heard; and your wife will bear you a son and you shall call his name John.” (Luke 1:13). The angel of the Lord continues to say that he will bring joy and happiness to the couple, and that he cannot "drink wine or strong drinks" (Luke 1:15) and that he will be “great in the sight of the Lord”(Luke 1:15) and “filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb.” (Luke 1:15). The angel also tells Zacharias that John “will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, ‘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.” (Luke 1:17).

Does the latter passage sound familiar to you? If so, great! If not, may I bring it to your attention? Malachi 4:5 says, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord. And he will turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers…” Wow! God calls Malachi to speak to Israel about their spiritual stupor and forgetting God and His love, and God uses Malachi to wake them up to turn them back to Him. This doesn’t exactly happen, but what Malachi does is prophecy the coming of John the Baptist, who is born by an older, barren woman that is married to a priest!

Despite being a priest, Zacharias was skeptical of the angel’s words, and asks how this can be. “I am Gabriel, who stands in the presence of God, and was sent to speak to you and bring you these glad tidings. But behold, you will be mute and not able to speak until the day these things take place, because you did not believe my words which will be fulfilled in their own time.” (Luke 1:19). And just like that, Zacharias became mute.

Western Wall
Photo Credit: Dylan Shaw on Unsplash. Western Wall in Jerusalem. It was constructed in 20 b.c. toward the later years of John the Baptist and Jesus Christ.

Now the people were still outside of the temple waiting for Zacharias and they were wondering what was taking him so long. When he came out to them, he could not speak to them. They assumed he had seen a vision because he was beckoning them, but still could not speak. Zacharias would stay at the temple until his services days concluded (it was customary to stay in the temple during the days of service). When Zacharias was done with his service, he returned home to Elizabeth. She then conceived John, and she praises God, but she also hides herself for five months.

Six months after Gabriel’s visit to Zacharias, the angel was sent to the city of Nazareth, and he announced the birth of Jesus Christ to Mary. Mary was a virgin and was betrothed to Joseph who was of the house of David. When Mary asked Gabriel, “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” Gabriel responds to Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God. Now indeed, Elizabeth your relative has also conceived a son in her old age; and this is now the sixth month for her who was called barren. For with God, nothing is impossible.” (Luke 1:35-37). Mary says may these things happen according to Gabriel’s word, and Gabriel departed from her.

The Holy Bible says that in that time, Mary arose to visit Elizabeth who was also her cousin. Therefore, John the Baptist, and Jesus Christ were second cousins. Hallelujah! When Mary greets Elizabeth, she tells Mary, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb; But why is this granted to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? For indeed, as soon as the voice of your greeting sounded in my ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy. Blessed is she who believed, for there will be fulfillment of those things which were told her from the Lord.” (Luke 1:42-45).

A few months later, John the Baptist is born, and he is circumcised within eight days of his birth as is the custom. Normally, he would have been named after his father, but Elizabeth said that the boy’s name is John. Her neighbors and relatives said that there was no one in the family named John, so they made signs to Zacharias and explained what the name was going to be. A writing tablet was given to him, and he wrote that, “His name is John.” (Luke 1:63). It is written in the Holy Bible that, “Immediately his mouth was opened, and his tongue loosed, and he spoke praising God.” (Luke 1:64). When this happened, fear came upon the people in the house and these things were discussed in parts of Judea. Those that heard these sayings were wondering the type of child that John the Baptist would be.

Zacharias then prophesied this:

“And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Highest;

For you will go before His ways, To give knowledge of salvation to His people By the remission of their sins, Through the tender mercy of our God, With which the Dayspring from on high has visited us; To give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, To guide our feet into the way of peace.” (Luke 1:76-79, full prophecy Luke 1: 68-79.)

The Holy Bible says that “So the child grew and became strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his manifestation to Israel.” (Luke 1:80). John the Baptist would fulfill this prophecy and would baptize people in water and telling them of their savior to come. The filling of the Holy Spirt guided John the Baptist. If you read the passages of his preaching in the Holy Bible, you will see that his messages were powerful. We know that this was because of the filling of the spirit and the power of Elijah, as prophesied by Malachi, and the filling of the Holy Spirit as discussed by Gabriel, the angel. Hallelujah!

You may be wondering about Mary. Jesus Christ was born later, and just like John the Baptist he would be filled with the Holy Spirit. However, Jesus Christ would also have the rest of God's spirits (Isaiah 11:2) because God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit are one. Jesus was circumcised on the eighth day of his birth, and He was brought to the temple in Jerusalem to be presented after Mary’s purification. A devout man named Simeon was in the temple and took Jesus Christ up, blessed God, and said:

“Lord, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, According to Your word; For my eyes have seen Your salvation Which You have prepared before the face of all peoples, A light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, And the glory of Your people Israel.” Luke 2:29-32

Brief Summary

To briefly summarize this article, John the Baptist was a prophet and the second cousin of Jesus Christ and was sent in the spirit and the power of Elijah (Malachi 4) to be the messenger ahead of Jesus Christ and to prepare His way (Isaiah 40). The angel Gabriel foretold of the birth of John the Baptist to Zacharias, and Jesus Christ was promised to Mary. Once they were born, both boys were circumcised on the eighth day as is custom.

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