“His Name Is John” — Part Two
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“His Name Is John” — Part Two

From Series: A Study in Luke, Volume 1

Luke 1:76-80  (ID: 2061)

John the Baptist was the last in a long line of prophets, a messenger who would prepare the way for the prophesied Messiah. He did so by calling for repentance, because the people did not understand their need for a Savior. As Alistair Begg reminds us, we face the same desperate need as John’s hearers. The knowledge of our salvation in Jesus should therefore be the source of our greatest joy.


Sermon Transcript: Print

Luke chapter 1. And we read the words of Zechariah:

“‘And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him, to give his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the path of peace.’

“And the child grew and became strong in spirit; and he lived in the desert until he appeared publicly to Israel.”

Father, we pray that in these moments, as we turn our minds to the truth of your Word, we earnestly pray that the Spirit of God will be our teacher. As certainly as Zechariah could only see and say these things as a result of the ministry of the Holy Spirit in him, so we can neither see nor understand nor respond apart from the enabling of your Spirit. And so we look to you for this, and we humbly acknowledge our need in speaking and in hearing. We pray that through the study of the Word you will bring us from darkness to light. For Jesus’ sake we pray. Amen.

Well, as I say, for those of you who were not present this morning, we began to look at this section in Zechariah’s song, and we said that there were essentially two verses in the song that he’s singing—the first verse, which goes from 68 to 75, and then the second verse, which goes from 76 to 80. And in the first verse, Zechariah is magnifying God for his grace in the plan and purpose of redemption. And then, in this second segment, he turns to describe the part which his son, John the Baptist, was to have in the unfolding purpose of God.

The Designation

And it is noteworthy, as we mentioned this morning, that the father’s focus—namely, Zechariah’s focus—is not upon himself, nor is it even upon his child, in terms of his personality or his possibilities, but his focus is on the mighty works of God and the part which, clearly, God has given this son of his to play in the unfolding of redemption.

Will you notice, first of all, the designation there in the first half of verse 76? Look at how he is described: “And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High.” Now, this is a striking thing when you put yourself back into the context. This is a priest of Israel. Admittedly, he’s an elderly man—at least, he’s in the second half of his life. His wife is similar in age. They had never anticipated that they would become the recipients of the gift of a child, and now they have. And it’s the eighth day, and the custom of the law has been fulfilled, and presumably Zechariah—taking for a wee while his child out from the custody of his wife or from the custody of others who have been delighted to see him and wanted to hold him—as this elderly man, or increased-in-age gentleman, takes hold of his boy and he looks down into his face, as many fathers had done before and many have done since, what a staggering thing he says: “And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High.”

Now, let me remind you again that he could only see this and he could only say this on account of what Luke tells us in verse 67—namely, that he “was filled with the Holy Spirit” and he was speaking here a word of prophecy. And it was given him to understand that here in his arms, he was holding the one who was fulfilling the words of the prophet with which the Old Testament closes in Malachi chapter 3, where God, speaking through Malachi, says, “See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me.”[1] And through the intertestamental period, in all those years of silence, when the prophetic word had been silenced, mothers and fathers and children grew up reading the Old Testament, considering the promises of God. And those who were devout and were living in expectation would have said to one another with relative regularity, “I wonder when the Messiah will come?” And those who were schooled in the Scriptures would have said to those who were inquiring, “Well, there will be a messenger who comes first, and he will prepare the way of the Lord.”

And now, under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, Zechariah takes the baby in his arms, and he says, “You are he.” And the designation that he gives him is not a flight of fancy on the part of his father. It’s not a hope. It’s not a dream. It’s not “Oh, it would be wonderful if you were to become…” But it is a straightforward statement. John, this child in his arms, was to be the last, and in one sense the greatest, of all the prophets. For he is last in line before onto the stage of human history comes the one of whom all the prophets have spoken. And Jesus, of course, himself said of John the Baptist that he was a prophet—indeed, that he was more than a prophet. “What did you go out into the wilderness to see?” he asked the crowd around him later on, in Luke in chapter 7. Said, “Did you go to see a reed blown by the wind? What was it you went to see?” And he said, “And what did you hear? Well, you heard the word of God through the word of the prophet, and he himself is more than a prophet.”[2]

Preparation

Well, if the first half of the verse establishes John’s identity by means of this designation, the second half of the verse explains his activity. Explains his activity. And his activity is that of preparation. Preparation. “And you, my child, will be called a prophet of the Most High; for you will go on before the Lord to prepare the way for him.”

Now, I hope your Bibles are open, because I want to turn you to a number of references this evening. First of all, if you turn back to the prophecy of Isaiah and to chapter 40, you will find the Old Testament root for what is in the words of Zechariah here. Isaiah 40:3: “A voice of one calling.” What is he calling? Where is he calling? Well, the prophet tells us this voice is calling “in the desert.” And what is he calling?

      Prepare
 the way [of] the Lord;
make straight in the wilderness
 a highway for our God.

Every valley shall be raised up,
 every mountain and hill made low;
the rough ground shall become level,
 [and] the rugged places a plain.
And the glory of the Lord will be revealed,
 and all mankind together will see it.
         For the mouth of the Lord
          has spoken.

Now, this is the mouth of Isaiah that is speaking. But you remember we noted this morning the statement concerning the verbal inspiration of Scripture back there in verse 70, where Zechariah says, “And God said this through his holy prophets of long ago.”[3] And Isaiah, along with the others, was like a man, as we’ve said so often, standing on tiptoe and giving voice to the voice of God and wondering just how it would be and who it would be that would come and fulfill the prophetic word that he was speaking all these hundreds of years before the arrival of Jesus.

Now, the picture in Isaiah was a familiar picture. It was common practice in the day to construct a processional highway for the arrival of a civic dignitary. If a king was coming to town, if someone of worth was arriving, or if they were producing a pagan god that they were carrying on some kind of platform, then it was customary to actually designate a whole section of the existing highway or to create a completely new one and to declare it the way of the one who was to come. And that is how a number of ways were to get their names.

And the Lord’s way, as Isaiah prophesies it, is to be straight, it is to be level, and it is to be free of obstacles. And in the same way as people were to go before the civic dignitary of the time, making sure that that was exactly the case—because you don’t want to bring the king into town and have his chariots logjammed and stuck in mud and things falling all over the place—you have the preparatory one who goes and says, “Okay, it’s level. It’s straight. It is free from obstacles. Now, send him along the road.” Says Alec Motyer of the arrival of the one of whom Isaiah prophesies, “He will arrive without fail,” he will “travel without difficulty,” and he will “be undelayed by [any] hindrances.”[4]

And how is this to be? Well, this child of Zechariah and Elizabeth will be preparing the way for the people, will be preparing the way for the arrival of Christ and for the work of Christ. If you turn forward, sneak forward, to chapter 3 of Luke’s Gospel—and we’ll eventually get there—but when we find the ministry of John the Baptist hitting the streets, as it were, of the Judean areas, in verse 3, Luke tells us that John “went into all the country around the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” Now, it’s very important to understand that, and I’ll tell you why in just a moment. What was he doing? He was saying to the people, “You need to turn away from your sins.”

Now, he was doing this, then, as Luke tells us in verse 4, in accordance with the prophecy of Isaiah, which we have just seen in chapter 40. And it’s quoted there for you in Luke chapter 3. And John, verse 7, “said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him”—and this is quite an introduction to a baptism service, I think you would agree! Look at his introduction to the group who are coming out to be baptized: he says, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath?” Now, obviously, no one’s going to use that kind of designation this evening, but that is exactly what he was doing.

Now, why would he speak in such dramatic terms? Because he was preparing the way of the Lord. The Lord was coming to call whom? He was not coming to call the righteous, but he was coming to call sinners to repentance.[5] Therefore, it was a necessary work of preparation on the part of the one who would go before to let the people know the fact of their sinfulness, so that when the Lamb of God walks onto the stage of human history and the preparatory one turns and says, “[Behold], the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!”[6] the people would not be saying, “Well, why would anybody need that?” Because they had already been confronted with the fact of their sin in the work of John the Baptist. And that is what his father Zechariah is prophesying concerning him here in the second half of verse 76, back in Luke chapter 1. He is going to clear the way; he is going to clear the obstacles of religious pride.

These individuals to whom he referred as “a brood of vipers” in 3:7 were stuck on the fact that they were Abraham’s children. And as a result of the fact that they had a certain religious heritage, they were convinced of the fact that they were not in need of any form of repentance at all. They were also so stuck on their religious heritage that they had the notion that the kind of redemption they required was actually earthly and material. And John the Baptist labors hard to prepare the way for Christ by saying to them, “Your real predicament is not an earthly predicament. It’s not a material predicament. The real issue that you face,” he says to these folks, “is the fact of your alienation from God and the fact that you are corrupt and in your sins.” And the real enemies from whom they needed to be delivered were their spiritual enemies in sin.

Salvation

So then, designation: “a prophet of the Most High.” “You will go on before the Lord”: preparation. Verse 77: “to give his people the knowledge of salvation.” I’m just giving you the way that I have it in my notes here. I wrote the word down, designation, so that I wouldn’t forget that, and then I wrote the word preparation, because I saw that there, and then I just wrote down the word salvation, because the designation and the preparation are all about salvation.

“To give his people the knowledge of salvation.” In their worldly and political aspirations, the Jews had lost the knowledge of salvation, and they had substituted vain dreams and all kind of hopes in place of it. And so John’s task as the mouthpiece of God will be to bring to these people, notice, a “knowledge of salvation”: “to give his people the knowledge of salvation.”

Now, this knowledge is not a formal, academic kind of knowledge—like, whatever πr2 is, it is, you know, or 2πr, or whatever you do with those things. I haven’t the foggiest idea. My wife can take care of that for me. But I know that it means something. I haven’t a clue, really, what it means, and I wouldn’t know what to do with it if it jumped up and bit me. But I’m not too concerned. And now I’ve confessed my mathematical idiocy, but that’s all right. For me, all of that stuff was a kind of mere mental perception, and most of it was shadowy.

When he talks about a “knowledge of salvation,” he is not talking about mere mental perception, as when we know of something that we do not have. But he is talking of a knowledge of actual possession and experience. So, you talk to a young man, and he’s been reading some books about marriage, and he thinks he might get married, and he’s got his eye on one girl in particular, and then now he’s become an expert on it because he read a couple of books. And he has some mental perception of what’s involved in being married, but he’s never been married. He hasn’t, frankly, got a clue. He has it all rattling in his head, but there’s nothing in his heart, and it hasn’t really gone anywhere at all. On a certain day, if he follows through, then he will move from what is a mere mental perception to actual possession and to genuine experience. That is what he’s referring to here: “to give his people the knowledge of salvation.”

Incidentally, this is what distinguishes—in part, at least—the redeemed from the angelic host that serves the redeemed. People have asked me, you know, “Why did you call the book What Angels Wish They Knew? And what is it that angels wish they knew?” It is this: that they have a mental perception as to what is involved in salvation, but they have no experiential grasp of it. And one of our good friends sent me the hymn that I had in the back of my mind and could not find and could not bring to recall. And a fellow by the name of Johnson Oatman Jr. wrote this hymn, and as soon as I quote it, many of you will remember it:

There is singing up in heaven
Such as we have never known,
Where the angels sing the praises
Of the Lamb upon the throne.

It’s kind of archaic. It’s sort of 1930s. But anyway…

Where the angels sing the praises
Of the Lamb upon the throne.
Their sweet harps are ever tuneful,
And their voices always clear;
O that we might be more like them
While we serve the master here!

So far, so good. The angels are doing a great job singing. We should sing as good as the angels. Let’s follow their example.

Holy, holy, is what the angels sing.
And I expect to help them
Make the courts of heaven ring.
But when I sing redemption’s story,
They will fold their wings;
For angels never felt the joys
That our salvation brings.[7]

That’s the distinction. It’s the distinction that was present in the experience of Lydia in Acts 16, who was a worshipper of God and had a mental perception of God’s dealings with his people, but it was only when the Lord opened her heart to receive the message that what had been mental assent became personal faith.[8]

I’d like to issue a word of challenge at this point to some who are here, and all that you know of salvation is up here in your head. You may be creedally orthodox. If I ask you if you can say the creeds, you may be able to trot them out: “I believe in God the Father, the maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ his only Son, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was dead and buried,”[9] and all that kind of stuff. It’s all good stuff.

And I meet people from time to time, and they say to me, “Well, I just believe the same as you believe. I just don’t believe it in the same way that you believe it. Because after all, I know the creeds, I believe the creeds, I say the creeds.” Okay, fine. Thank you for sharing that. But the question is this: Do you have a knowledge of salvation—an experiential grasp of what God has done in Christ? Something that is not merely at arm’s length or written out in a book, but something which has been translated into a revolution within your own heart and mind, so that you could never, ever be the same again?

No man whose sins are not remitted can possibly know what salvation is.

Well, you say, “I don’t know. I mean, how does this knowledge of salvation come about?” Well, you needn’t be in any doubt. We’re told in the second half of verse 77. He “give[s] his people the knowledge of salvation.” How? “Through the forgiveness of their sins.” “Through the forgiveness of their sins.” This forgiveness, or remission, of sin is an objective act of God. And from that objective act of God there results a subjective knowledge in the life of the child of God—a knowledge of having been redeemed. So in order to have the knowledge, we have to have the remission.

Now, you only need to understand English to understand what I’m telling you. He “give[s] his people the knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of their sins.” Therefore, no man whose sins are not remitted can possibly know what salvation is. That’s why we have hosts and hosts of religious people, but they don’t know “the knowledge of salvation.” Nice people, sincere people, concerned individuals about humanity and about the Sermon on the Mount and about attending church and about doing their best and even about telling others of the importance of these things—but since they have no experience of their sins being forgiven, they have no knowledge of salvation.

Now, you see, this is what the prophet was on about in Jeremiah 31:33. I can read it for you. If you don’t want to scramble to it, I’ll gladly do that. If you want to turn and make sure it’s there, that’s fine as well. It’s always good to do. Jeremiah 31:33: “This is the covenant,” says God, “[that] I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord:

“I will put my law in their minds
 and [I will] write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
 and they will be my people.
[And] no longer will a man teach his neighbor,
 or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’
because they will all know me,
 from the least of them to the greatest,”
 declares the Lord.

Now, how will they “know me”? How? The “For,” the conjunction, gives the explanation there:

“[And] they will all know me,
 from the least … to the greatest,”
 declares the Lord.
“For I will forgive their wickedness
 and will remember their sins no more.”

Now, this phrase here, “[for] the forgiveness of sins,” is a fantastic phrase. It is one of the most glorious phrases in all of Scripture. It is two words alone in the Greek—a “knowledge of salvation through the forgiveness of … sins”—and the phrase is used to describe the setting away or the sending away of sin. For example, in Psalm 103:12, the psalmist speaks of it being put “as far as the east is from the west.” That’s infinity. Micah 7:19 speaks about our sins being buried in the deepest ocean, no possibility of them ever emerging again and start bouncing around that we might meet them someday when we’re out sailing on the sea of life. Isaiah 43 speaks of them being blotted out, as we noted, and remembered no more.[10]

Now, that is the experience of the forgiveness of sins. Do you know that? Have you ever had your sins forgiven? I’m not talking about going to a man and running through the list from last week and having him tell you, “Put so much in the box, and say this fifteen times, and do a novena to St. Jude.” I’m not talking about that for a moment. I know for a fact that many of you have done that. But such individuals, when I speak with them, never have an assurance of the forgiveness of their sins, and I’ll tell why I know: because they go back again. And they go back with the same sins. But a “knowledge of salvation” is “through the forgiveness of [our] sins.” And when God is no longer able to find our sins, we should indeed be very happy.

Now, that’s what he’s describing here. That’s what the writer of the Hebrews picks up in Hebrews 10, and he quotes it again. God says, “Their sins and [their] lawless [deeds] I will remember no more.”[11] That’s forgiveness.

You know that in your family life, don’t you? When you came and you confessed to your mom or your dad, and you were honest, and you were contrite, and you were sorry, and you gave it up, and you admitted it, and they said they forgave you, and then the first time you didn’t clean your bedroom, bam, it came right back out again: “And furthermore, that thing we were talking about last Tuesday, let’s just talk about that again while you’re here.” And we recognized in that moment: “She never forgave me my sins!” Well, maybe she did the best she could, for we do not have the capacity of forgetfulness that God has.

But here’s the deal: God forgives and wipes the record clean. The person who returns again and again—not in repentance over the experience of the ongoing dirtiness of life, for all of us sin all the time, and repentance is a continual expression of genuine believing faith. I’m not referring to that ongoing relationship with God. I am referring to the fact that there came a time in the individual’s life where they recognized that everything was stacked in the wrong direction: they were bereft; they were stuck; they were guilty; they were caught with a dagger in their hands; and they came before Christ, and they said, “O God, take all of this filthy, wretched, selfish mess and put it at the bottom of the ocean. I don’t ever want to see it again. Put it as far as the east is from the west. Press the Delete button on my file in your computer.” And in the strength of Christ, that’s exactly what he did.

Listen to this immense quote concerning the nature of forgiveness and justification:

Poor sinful man is justified before God, that is, absolved and declared free and exempt from all his sins, and from the sentence of well-deserved condemnation, and adopted into sonship and heirship of eternal life, without any merit or worth of our own, also without any preceding, present, or … subsequent works, out of pure grace, because of the sole merit, complete [achievement,] bitter suffering, death, and resurrection of our Lord [Jesus] Christ …, whose obedience is reckoned to us for [our] righteousness.[12]

Now, that quote simply makes clear what verse 78 underpins: that the ground of this salvation, the ground of this forgiveness, is in “the tender mercy of our God.”

And how has “the tender mercy of our God” been made known? Look at the second half of the verse: “by which the rising sun will come to us from heaven.” Read that in light of the Old Testament prophets—for example, what we considered in Malachi when we were opening these studies. Malachi 4:2: “But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings.” The Old Testament ends with the thought of the sun of righteousness appearing.

You go back into the prophecy of Isaiah, and you find it with frequency. For example, Isaiah chapter 9 and in the opening verses: “Nevertheless, there will be no more gloom for those who were in distress. In the past he humbled the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the future he will honor Galilee of the Gentiles, by way of the sea, [and] along the Jordan.” And how their spirits must have risen within them: “I wonder what this will mean?” And then verse 2:

The people walking in darkness
 have seen a great light;
on those living in the land of the shadow of death
 a light has dawned.

Fifty-one chapters later, in the sixtieth chapter of Isaiah, you have the exact same sentiment being reinforced:

Arise, [and] shine, for your light has come,
 and the glory of the Lord rises upon you.
See, darkness covers the earth
 and thick darkness is over the peoples,
but the Lord rises upon you
 and his glory appears over you.
[And] nations will come to your light,
 and kings to the brightness of your dawn.[13]

It’s a great book, the Bible, you know. It’s a great and wonderful and awesome book.

What is the prophet saying, six hundred years before Christ? He’s saying that Christ will come. And Zechariah prophesies of his child, and he says, “This wee boy, John, he’s going to be designated the prophet of the Most High, he is going to be the preparer of the way, he is going to be the one who sets forward the salvation which Christ himself will bring.” And the purpose of the visitation of this rising sun, as verse 79 tells us—and with this we finish—the purpose of this visitation of Christ is “to shine on those living in darkness and in the shadow of death” and “to guide our feet into the path of peace.”

It’s a wonderful metaphor here. The original metaphor is a picture of a party of travelers. The travelers are making their journey at a time where there is no electricity, there is no light, and they find themselves overtaken by the deepest darkness. It is pitch dark. They haven’t reached their destination. They’re stuck. And as they sit in that experience of the nether darkness, they are overwhelmed by it with a sense of foreboding. And they are feeling in themselves that at any moment a wild beast may come and ravage them, or enemies may come and overtake them. And as they sit in that experience of darkness, all of a sudden, piercing the darkness comes a shaft of light, and someone from without comes to them and says, “Here, let me guide you in the way back to your destination. Let me take you on the path of peace.” And the light leads them into safety.

Well, you don’t need to be brilliant to understand the metaphor, do you? His words are pointing to the awful darkness and misery that prevailed among mankind before the coming of Christ: powerless and panic-stricken and threatened and in deep darkness. And in the coming of Christ, a light was to shine. And he was to walk onto the stage of human history, and he was to say to those who were living “in the shadow of death,” to those who were living in the darkness of religious experience, to those who were so consumed with who they were and where they’d come from and what they’d been doing—in all of their darkness, Jesus said, “I am the light of the world. [And he who] follows me will [not] walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”[14]

And the wise men came out of the darkness, and they said, “We have seen a star in the east, and we are searching for him, and we have come to worship him.”[15] And tonight, wise men still search for him. “The fool ha[s] said in his heart, There is no God.”[16] If that’s what you are saying, then the Bible says not that you are mentally deficient but that you are morally stupid. Wise men seek him. And tonight, is there a better description of our contemporary culture and men and women at the end of the century? Those “living in darkness and in the shadow of death.”

That’s where we live. Notwithstanding all the external show and all the dynamic power that has been represented in the advances of the twentieth century, modern mankind manifests a deep weariness of life, an almost pathological pessimism, when you gaze beyond their eyes and into their souls—an all-embracing sense of futility which is pervasive in the lives of the teenage and early-twenties population in our nation tonight. They are not only fed up with politics; they are fed up with the relationships; they are fed up with science; they are fed up with church; they are, frankly, fed up with family; and they’re fed up with everything. And they are sitting in darkness and in the shadow of death. Now, what is the answer there? Some new political initiative? No, it is the power of the message of which John the Baptist came to be the forerunner.

As you know, I read the New York Times, and some of you do as well. And I noticed just on Friday that they finally sentenced a couple of kids for that dreadful murder that I mentioned probably twelve months ago, where a learning-disabled child who had stumbled on a group of apparent friends who were planning a getaway to Florida had given the impression that she might spill the beans. And they took a rope and put it round her neck, and they hanged it over a tree, and they pulled it until it was tight, and a sixteen-year-old girl took a large rock and bashed the fifteen-year-old disabled child’s face till it was beyond recognition. And then they went to McDonald’s, the crowd of them. And indeed, seven days elapsed before the fifteen-year-old girl was found hanging in the forest.

We’re living in the shadow of death. We’re living in the deepest darkness.

What a sorry, sorry story of the fifteen-year-old basketball player—bright student, wanted to be a pilot, one of a hundred boys making plans in a group of nine hundred, a good student, a Sunday-school boy. I wept when I read his mother’s comment. She said, “And every night, he came to me and took my face in his hands and said, ‘I love you, Mama. I love you.’” And as a result of his being the highest scorer in the basketball game and the animosity and the emptiness and the pain and the aggravation that was represented in what should have been simply another basketball game, the crowd chased him down the street, and someone hit him with a baseball bat on the head, and another youth dived on top of him and drove a knife into his chest twice. And before the ambulance reached the hospital, this wee boy was gone.

Now, please, surely we’re not going to buy all this claptrap about “We can educate our way out of it,” you know, or “We’re just coming up with something. It’s in the wings, and we’ll be bringing it in.” No, let us say tonight, “I want to be like John the Baptist. I want to get out here on the streets. I want to go and prepare the way of the Lord. I want to say to the people walking in darkness and in the shadow of death, ‘A light has come.’”

And I want to say, finally, to some of you tonight, for whom that designation fits far too perfectly than you ever want to admit—because you are just like Noël Coward. You say, “In what way?” He writes in his diary, “[My] Past depresses me, [my] Present bores me and [my] Future scares me to death.”[17] And a light has come.

So what would you do? You would say,

Just as I am, poor, wretched, blind,
Sight, riches, healing of the mind,
Yea, all I need in thee to find,
[Lord Jesus Christ,] I come.[18]

Father, will you write your Word into our hearts tonight, at whatever point we find ourselves on the continuum of doubt or faith? I pray for some who have come, for whom these words cut, and they wonder—that you will be gracious to them. For some who have come weary and worn and beaten down and thinking maybe what they need to do is get baptized. Maybe there’s something in this water; they get in there, and that’ll cure them. Then they find out it’s just tap water. There goes another possibility. Lord, I pray that you would speak into their hearts as they live in darkness. Shine your light. Teach us how sweet it is to trust in you, Lord Jesus, and to take you at your Word. For we pray in your powerful name. Amen.


[1] Malachi 3:1 (NIV 1984).

[2] Luke 7:24–28 (paraphrased). See also Matthew 11:9.

[3] Luke 1:70 (paraphrased).

[4] J. Alec Motyer, The Prophecy of Isaiah: An Introduction and Commentary (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1993), 300.

[5] See Luke 5:32; Mark 2:17.

[6] John 1:29 (NIV 1984).

[7] Johnson Oatman, “Holy, Holy, Is What the Angels Sing” (1897).

[8] See Acts 16:11–15.

[9] The Apostles’ Creed. Paraphrased.

[10] See Isaiah 43:25.

[11] Hebrews 10:17 (NIV 1984).

[12] Concordia Triglotta: The Symbolic Books of the Ev. Lutheran Church (St. Louis: Corcordia, 1921), 919, quoted in R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Luke’s Gospel 1–11, Commentary on the New Testament (Minneapolis: Augsburg Fortress, 1946), 111.

[13] Isaiah 60:1–3 (NIV 1984).

[14] John 8:12 (NIV 1984).

[15] Matthew 2:2 (paraphrased).

[16] Psalm 14:1 (KJV).

[17]“Bon Voyage,” in Star Quality: The Collected Stories of Noël Coward (New York: E. P. Dutton, 1987), 580.

[18] Charlotte Elliott, “Just As I Am” (1936).

Copyright © 2022, Alistair Begg. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations for sermons preached on or after November 6, 2011 are taken from The ESV® Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

For sermons preached before November 6, 2011, unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® (NIV®), copyright © 1973 1978 1984 by Biblica, Inc.TM Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

Alistair Begg
Alistair Begg is Senior Pastor at Parkside Church in Cleveland, Ohio, and the Bible teacher on Truth For Life, which is heard on the radio and online around the world.