“He will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth. And he will turn many Israelites to the Lord their God. He will be a man with the spirit and power of Elijah. He will prepare the people for the coming of the Lord. He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and he will cause those who are rebellious to accept the wisdom of the godly.”
Luke 1:15a-17 New Living Translation
Before God sent an angel to tell Mary and Joseph about the baby Mary would carry, God sent an angel to an elderly priest named Zachariah to deliver news that his long barren wife, Elizabeth, would have a baby that would be the forerunner sent to announce the arrival of the Messiah. It had long been the belief in the Jewish culture of the day that Elijah needed to return before the Messiah would come since he had been taken to Heaven without dying. The angel told Zachariah that this baby would have the spirit and power of Elijah with him. During His earthly ministry, Jesus would affirm that this baby, later known as John the Baptist, was the return of Elijah the people were expecting.
The expectation of a new Elijah harkened back to the time when Elijah was the prophet to challenge the idolatry in his day and call people back to the worship of Yahweh. John the Baptist would serve the same role in his day. His entire life was about calling Israel to turn away from its abandonment of Yahweh and return to a life that honors Him. The angel said His ministry would be three-fold:
- He would prepare the people for the coming of the Messiah: Jesus.
- He would reconnect the people of Israel with their ancient past.
- He would cause rebellious people to soften their hearts to the work of God again.
John would have a prominent role in God’s great plan to return people to right relationship with Him.
As we look at the world around us, we can see many ways that our culture is in rebellion against the ways of God. We can have the same call as John the Baptist did to call people to back into a relationship with their creator. The followers of Jesus have inherited the spiritual heritage of the nation of Israel as adopted children into the spiritual family of Abraham. This family and spiritual heritage carry on until this day. Those of us who follow Jesus have the same access to the spirit and power of Elijah to call others to join us as part of the family of God. We can prepare our neighbors for the coming of the Lord in their lives.
Father, we hear your call for the children who are rebellious and have wandered far from you. Send us, like John the Baptist, to prepare the way for you to enter the lives of our neighbors who have yet to know you.