God's ways are often surprising, yet He often graciously prepares us in one way or another to understand them. Through Isaiah, God declared that He would provide a "voice" before the appearance of the Messiah to alert the people that the day was approaching (Isaiah 40:3). The "voice" Isaiah was referring to was John the Baptist, who was sent by God to prepare the way for Jesus (see Matthew 3:3; Mark 1:3, Luke 3:4; and John 1:23). Isaiah included many details that would help the people during that time (and us!) to identify this messenger.
Bear in mind that John was not the voice - he was only a voice. His purpose was simply to point to the voice - Jesus Christ. When the priests and Levites questioned John as to whether or not he was the Christ or Elijah or "the Prophet," he emphatically stated that he was not, specifying that his role was to be a voice (John 1:19-23). At long last, John was able to make the announcement: "Look, the Lamb of God, who takes awy the sin of the world" (John 1:29).
John's voice implored people to turn from their sins and follow God (Matthew 3:1). This forerunner of Jesus realized that the people needed to be willing to listen to God in order to recognized God's Son for who he was. Sounds like something we need to be able to do too...
John was no ordinary prophet. He made his home in the desert, wearing rude clothing made of rough camel hair and eating locusts and wild honey (Mark 1:6). He may not have been the poster-child for Jesus that we were all hoping for - been when, really, has God operated in the realm of what we expect in this crazy world. What's even cooler (I think), is that John - this crazy man - didn't travel to meet the crowds - instead, the people came to him.
It would have been an easy task for John to establish his own following and give birth to his own movement - the people were following him around, asking questions, seeking answers...but he resisted his temptation, recognizing that his life's calling was simply to prepare people to open their lives and hearts to Jesus. Even when John's disciples argued with Jesus' disciples about which of the two was greater (thinking about this makes me chuckle...the disciples - like us - were so often too concerned with verbally 'proving' God, instead of just letting Him do the work and the proving!). Anyway - the two sets of disciples are arguing, and John allows no room for doubt, stating that "He must because greater, I must become less" (John 3:30). You see, John knew that once Jesus appeared on the scene, John's task was complete, and he was content to fade into the background.
God wants each of us to be a voice for him as well. Our purpose is to point people to Jesus rather than to demonstrate how good we are, or how committed we are. Wow - did you hear that?! Our purpose is to point people to Jesus rather than to demonstrate how good or how committed we are. And the message we call out is the same as John's - that God wants people to turn from their sin and give control of their lives to Jesus. We are called to be faithful to God wherever he places us - in the city, in the desert, in our schools, in our workplace, in the midst of a crowd of friends, in our secret quiet place.
But wait, there's more...we are called to be more than Jesus voice - He asks us to be his hands and feet as well. In our awesome Father's name, we are to feed the hungry, offer a cup of cold water to the thirsty, show hospitality to the stranger, clothe the needy, look after the needs of the sick, and visit those in prison (Matthew 26:34-46). (check out my friend Nicole's blog about this...I put a link at the bottom...) We are called to be Jesus' hands and feet - and too often I think we take a look at that responsibility and decide it's too difficult, it's too dirty, it's not for me. But the writer in Hebrews urged us to "keep on loving each other as brothers. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by doing so some people have entertained angels without knowing it" (Hebrews 13:1-2).
Don't think you have to do this alone! Ask God to reveal to you ways that you can be Jesus' voice, hands, and feet today...and every day.