1. ISRAEL’S CONDITION
a. What was the work of the messenger that God sent to prepare the way for the Lord’s first advent? Malachi 3:1–3.
b. What type of person was this messenger? Luke 1:13–17.
c. What was the condition of God’s people that they required such a messenger? Luke 5:37–39; Matthew 15:8, 9.
“The skin bottles which were used as vessels to contain the new wine, . . . Jesus presented [as] the condition of the Jewish leaders. . . . They thought their own righteousness all-sufficient, and did not desire that a new element should be brought into their religion.”—The Desire of Ages, pp. 278, 279. (emphasis added).
“The fig tree [which Jesus had cursed] withered away. This fruitless tree symbolized the condition of the Jewish nation at that time. Every opportunity and privilege were granted them.”—The Signs of the Times, May 23, 1900. (emphasis supplied).
2. JOHN THE BAPTIST, GOD’S MESSENGER
a. How did Jesus refer to John the Baptist? Matthew 11:9, 10, 13–15.
“It was believed also that before the Messiah’s advent, Elijah would personally appear. This expectation John met in his denial; but his words had a deeper meaning. Jesus afterward said, referring to John, ‘If ye are willing to receive it, this is Elijah, which is to come’ (Matthew 11:14, RV). John came in the spirit and power of Elijah, to do such a work as Elijah did. If the Jews had received him, it would have been accomplished for them. But they did not receive his message. To them he was not Elijah. He could not fulfill for them the mission he came to accomplish.”—The Desire of Ages, p. 135.
b. Who went out to listen to John the Baptist? Matthew 3:5, 6; 21:32; Luke 11:1.
c. Why were they attracted to John rather than to the teachers of their day? Matthew 3:1–3.
“With no elaborate arguments or fine-spun theories did John declare his message. Startling and stern yet full of hope, his voice was heard from the wilderness, ‘Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand’ (Matthew 3:2). With a new, strange power it moved the people. The whole nation was stirred. Multitudes flocked to the wilderness.”—Gospel Workers, p. 54.
d. Was John the Baptist afraid of speaking the truth? Matthew 14:3, 4.
“He looked upon the King in His beauty, and self was lost sight of. He beheld the majesty of holiness and knew himself to be inefficient and unworthy. It was God’s message that he was to declare. It was in God’s power and His righteousness that he was to stand. He was ready to go forth as Heaven’s messenger, unawed by the human, because he had looked upon the Divine. He could stand fearless in the presence of earthly monarchs, because with trembling he had bowed before the King of kings.”—Ibid.
3. HIS PREPARATION, THE WILDERNESS
a. In what ways did country living prepare John the Baptist for his mission? Isaiah 40:3–5; 30:15; Psalm 101:3.
“In the natural order of things, the son of Zacharias would have been educated for the priesthood. But the training of the rabbinical schools would have unfitted him for his work. God did not send him to the teachers of theology to learn how to interpret the Scriptures. He called him to the desert, that he might learn of nature and nature’s God. . . .
“Here his surroundings were favorable to habits of simplicity and self-denial. Uninterrupted by the clamor of the world, he could here study the lessons of nature, of revelation, and of Providence. The words of the angel to Zacharias had been often repeated to John by his God-fearing parents. From childhood his mission had been kept before him, and he had accepted the holy trust. To him the solitude of the desert was a welcome escape from society in which suspicion, unbelief, and impurity had become well-nigh all-pervading. He distrusted his own power to withstand temptation and shrank from constant contact with sin, lest he should lose the sense of its exceeding sinfulness.”—The Desire of Ages, pp. 101, 102.
b. In order to be ‘a workman approved of God’ what were John the Baptist’s primary sources for study, and what effect did these have on him? 2 Timothy 2:15; Psalm 19:1–3; Luke 1:80.
“John was not indolent. . . . Everything that surrounded him in his mountain home was to him a book of instruction, containing lessons of deepest importance in regard to the character, the benevolence, and the love of God.
“. . . Away from the busy world, whose cares and alluring pleasures would divert his mind and pervert his thoughts and imaginings, he was shut up with God and nature. Here he would not be influenced by evil surroundings, his understanding would not be blinded, nor his spirit become familiar with wickedness. In the calm retirement of the wilderness, John became strong in spirit. By his strictly temperate habits he secured to himself physical, mental, and moral health. His discernment was clear, his judgment correct.”—The Youth’s Instructor, January 7, 1897.
4. ONE FOCUS
a. What was John’s life focus? Acts 13:24. Like the apostle Paul, how did this focus affect the habits of his life in general? 1 Corinthians 9:27.
“A great work was before John, and in order for him to have a sound physical constitution and mental and moral power to do this work, he must control appetite and passion. John was to lead out as a reformer and by his abstemious life and plain dress rebuke the intemperate habits and the sinful extravagance of the people.”—The Review and Herald, January 7, 1873.
“But the life of John was not spent in idleness, in ascetic gloom, or in selfish isolation. From time to time he went forth to mingle with men; and he was ever an interested observer of what was passing in the world. From his quiet retreat he watched the unfolding of events. With vision illuminated by the divine Spirit he studied the characters of men, that he might understand how to reach their hearts with the message of heaven. The burden of his mission was upon him. In solitude, by meditation and prayer, he sought to gird up his soul for the lifework before him.”—The Desire of Ages, p. 102.
b. Describe the diet and dress of John the Baptist. Matthew 3:4; Luke 1:15. Why was this significant in John’s ministry?
“Dedicated to God as a Nazarite from his birth, [the son of Zacharias] made the vow his own in a life-long consecration.”—The Desire of Ages, p. 102.
“John was to go forth as Jehovah’s messenger to bring to men the light of God. He must give a new direction to their thoughts. He must impress them with the holiness of God’s requirements, and their need of His perfect righteousness. Such a messenger must be holy. He must be a temple for the indwelling Spirit of God. In order to fulfill his mission, he must have a sound physical constitution, and mental and spiritual strength. Therefore it would be necessary for him to control the appetites and passions. He must be able so to control all his powers that he could stand among men as unmoved by surrounding circumstances as the rocks and mountains of the wilderness.”—Ibid., p.100.
“So far from being lonely, gloomy, or morose, he enjoyed his life of simplicity and retirement, and his temperate habits kept all his senses unperverted.”—The Youth’s Instructor, January 7, 1897.
5. OUR MESSAGE TODAY
a. How do we know that the Elijah message did not culminate with John the Baptist, Christ’s forerunner? Malachi 4:5, 6. What is our message today? Acts 3:19; Isaiah 58:1.
“John was called to do a special work; he was to prepare the way of the Lord, to make straight His paths. . . . [Isaiah 40:3–5 quoted.] This is the very message that must be given to our people; we are near the end of time, and the message is, Clear the King’s highway; gather out the stones; raise up a standard for the people. The people must be awakened. It is no time now to cry peace and safety.”—The Review and Herald, February 18, 1890.
b. How can this message have an effect upon the church and the world today? Acts 22:15; Romans 10:13.
“We are under personal obligation to society to . . . exert an influence in favor of God’s law. We should let our light so shine that all may see that the sacred gospel is having an influence upon our hearts and lives, that we walk in obedience to its commandments and violate none of its principles. We are in a great degree accountable to the world for the souls of those around us. . . . Let the world see that we . . . desire them to share our blessings and privileges through the sanctification of the truth.”—Testimonies, vol. 4, p. 59.
PERSONAL REVIEW QUESTIONS
1. Under what condition are we considered God’s people today?
2. How was John’s message delivered to the people, and what was the result?
3. What are some of the benefits of living away from the cities?
4. Why was John temperate in all of his habits of life?
5. How does God want us to share the same message today?