This is a serialised version of a sermon preached as John the Baptist. Perhaps consider it a kind of ‘true confessions’ of that first eye-witness of the Lord.
Like I said, Jesus wasn’t what I was expecting. Not really.
Now, I may not have been to one of those fancy-pants Pharisee schools, but I’ve read the Torah. Lots. And as I read the sacred writings of my people, where God has spoken to us and made known his mind and plan for the world … well, I get the distinct impression that big things are about to happen. God-arriving-to-set-things-straight sized things.
That’s why I’m out here preaching repentance. We’re in a mess. This once-great nation of ours.
Sure, we’re the Israelites, the people that God rescued from slavery. The people God took to be his own. He made us a nation. Gave us a land. Showered us with good things. And gave us the privilege of serving him, making us part of his plan to save the world!
But we blew it. We forgot God. We got to the land and started acting like we could claim credit for everything he’d given us. Even though he sent us prophets to remind us and nudge us back to our roots, we just kept relying on ourselves and trying to live life our own way.
In fact, there were times when you could look at us and just think that we were no different from any other nation. Just as morally compromised. Just as confused about life and direction. About as inclined to give God the time of day as the Caananites!
Disgusting, isn’t it? It makes my stomach turn. It’s the same old, old tragic story. This is what’s become of the ‘great’ nation of Israel — God’s own bride, chosen and loved by him — paying him lip service. At best! (And you wonder why I’m telling people to repent?)
It’s just like the prophets said. God is profoundly upset with us. That’s why we’ve been judged.
Because we failed to repent, well … we’ve lost it all! And the nation’s come apart at the seams.
First, we had that civil war, leaving us with two kingdoms — a morally bankrupt but materially successful Northern kingdom. And a slightly less compromised and less significant Southern kingdom. But it wasn’t long after that before we weren’t so much sliding down the slippery slope of creeping worldliness and rebellion against God, as plummeting head-long into an abyss of idolatry, self-reliance and social dysfunction.
Then — as if things weren’t black enough — we were invaded, conquered and a deported. First the Assyrians wiped out the Northern kingdom. Then the Babylonians. They captured Jerusalem — God’s own city. They defiled the temple. And they carted most of us off into exile.
So. Yeah. So much for God’s blessed and privileged nation! Sure, by God’s mercy we’ve been restored. We’re back in the land. We’ve cut a few deals, scraped together the funds and kitted out a new temple that isn’t a total embarrassment. But we’re under the thumb of the Romans. We’ve got no sovereignty of our own. No independence. No say in world affairs. And (predictably enough) everyone’s pointing the finger at everyone else. No-one willing to call us to take responsibility. Before something worse happens.
Like I said, we’re hardly a beacon of God’s light in a dark world. Which is bad news if God’s about to arrive.