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Wednesday, March 10, 2010
Anointed To Be Humble
[Part 1 - Anointing & Humility]
From Pilgrims Journal
Throughout history certain individuals have been called “Great.” Military and political leaders such as Alexander, Peter, Catherine, Lois, etc have all had this adjective appended to their names. Egyptian kings were known as Pharaoh which means “Great House.” The tyrant Herod, who built the last temple in Jerusalem and tried to kill the child Jesus, is still called “The Great.” Others who have been thought of as remarkable in achievement or character have also been given this title. Job was known as the greatest man in the East (Job 1:3). The Indian independence leader Gandhi is known as Mahatma which means “Great Soul.” Sport stars and entertainers are also given this label. The most famous American prizefighter, a man who betrayed his name, religion, country, and wives, is known worldwide today as “The Greatest.” Tragically the last words often shouted by terrorists and suicide bombers before they join their false prophet Mohammad in Hell is “Allah Akkbar.” This Arabic slogan can be translated as the fake god “Allah is the Greatest.”
Who Is The Greatest?
With so many famous and infamous names to choose from, people wonder as to which one is the greatest of all. Scholars and laymen alike have spent lifetimes studying the lives of noble and notable men. Some actually idolize or adore those great personages. Others argue about who is the greatest.
Yet there is no need for wonder or debate. The Son of God settled the issue forever when He declared that no one born of a woman is greater than John the Baptist. Jesus went on to qualify this declaration by stating that the least in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than John (Mat 11:11; Lk 7:28). This truth gives great comfort and encouragement to those who have been saved. Though they may not be considered great in this present evil world, the children of God know that in the world to come they will possess true and lasting greatness and glory. Even if hidden now, the work of grace done in the saints’ lives will shine throughout eternity. Like John, the child of God’s greatness is “in the sight of the Lord” (Lk 1:15).
On the other hand, because of the fact that the least saint of the Grace Dispensation is greater than the greatest ones of the Conscience or Law Periods, the study of the qualities of John the Baptist has often been overlooked or neglected. However, it is still worthwhile and profitable today to study and emulate the life, character and ministry of this greatest of prophets and men. In the Old Testament, God uses the lives of different individuals as parables to warn and teach us how to live our lives fit for heaven. From the New Testament we learn that there is no one greater than John. In this series we will study the qualities of this greatest man in history, as attested to by the One Who is above and beyond history, and whose greatness is past finding out: Jesus Christ!
Two outstanding qualities in the life of John the Baptist which we will examine first are his anointing and his humility.
These two characteristics are not often found together in the same person at the same time. The self confidence that comes from great talent does not seem to be compatible with the meekness of the truly humble. The anointing is manifest in a person through the gifts and graces that enable and equip them to accomplish great things. God sets them apart for special service. Gifted individuals often begin to see themselves as special and forget that everything they have was given by God. They often have an exaggerated sense of their own dignity, importance and worth.
Disappointed With The Anointed
The first and foremost example of this is the Anointed Cherub. Of all the angelic beings, he may have been created with the most beauty, ability and glory (Eze 28:13-17). As long as his eyes were on God, this individual was exalted above all others. When he looked to his own beauty he fell lower than all. Another sad and similar example is seen in Israel’s first anointed king, the tall Saul from the tribe of Benjamin. He was head and shoulders above all others in Israel, but in the beginning he was little in his own eyes. Though he was from the smallest tribe, God made him head over all the tribes of Israel (1Sam 15:17). As he got used to men obeying him, he stopped obeying God. He ended up desiring honor from men more than seeking the honor that comes from God alone.
The opposite of this is seen in the life of another Saul, also from the tribe of Benjamin. This Saul had great heritage and achievements to be proud of. Yet he counted all his gain as loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ. After salvation he even changed his name to Paul, which when translated means “little” (Phil 3:7). John was named by God Himself. His name means gift or favored of God. Though John was so gifted and special he was also so humble. Called “The Baptist” he confessed to Jesus, “I need to be baptized by you!” When he recognized that Jesus was the Messiah, (the perfect prophet, priest and king) his testimony was, “He must increase, I must decrease” (Jn 3:30). We New Testament saints must also have John’s type of ambition.
At first view, John’s anointing appears something of a mystery. The angel Gabriel declared that he would be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother’s womb (Lk 1:15). As an unborn babe, with no other way to communicate, John leapt for joy within the womb when Mary brought the unborn Lord Jesus near him. Nevertheless when we take the whole counsel of Scripture and not just one passage, things become clearer. We learn that even though John was filled with the Holy Sprit his whole life, he did not have the fullness of the Holy Spirit as promised by Jesus in the New Testament. “For the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified” (Jn 7:39).
In Old Testament times holy men spoke the word of God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit (2Pet 1:21). God breathed His word into them (2Tim 3:16). It was not until after the resurrection and ascension that the Holy Spirit was given unto mankind in fullness (Jn 15:26). This was the confession of John himself. He testified that Jesus was the one that would baptize with the Holy Spirit, something that John and all before him did not receive (Jn 1:33). John’s anointing caused him to recognize the Messiah, or “Anointed One.” It also prepared him to prepare the way for the Lord. In this Age of Grace we still need to hear the message of repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.
John & Elijah
Another mysterious aspect of John’s anointing is in how it relates to the prophet Elijah. John’s thundering voice appeared in Israel like a sudden storm out of the desert, just as Elijah’s had. John also preached boldly to men of both high and low estate. The Jews of John’s time knew that Elijah had been caught up to heaven and were awaiting his return, heralding the advent of the Messiah. To this present day the Jews still leave a full cup of wine and a place at their Passover tables for Elijah. They do this because they did not recognize their Messiah, the Lord Jesus, when He first came.
The last promise of the Old Testament is, “Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet…he shall turn the heart of the fathers…and the heart of the children” (Mal 4:5). Israel saw this word being fulfilled in John’s message and his baptism of repentance so their leaders asked John if he was Elijah (Jn 1:21). Since they were looking for the prophet in bodily form, John denied that he was Elijah. Yet Jesus spoke of John to those who had ears to hear, telling them that “this is Elijah, which was for to come” (Mat 11:14). We know that Elijah was still alive in heaven when Jesus said this. We also know that John had been physically born to Mary’s cousin Elisabeth. How could Jesus say that John was Elijah and that Elijah was still to come? The answer had already been given by the angel of the Lord when he proclaimed that John would go before the Lord in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn men’s hearts and prepare the Lord’s way, thus fulfilling that final promise in Malachi.
As we continue to study the life of John the Baptist we will find many more comparisons between Elijah and John. For now we will do well to be like John in recognizing the Lamb of God and preparing a way for the Lord in our lives and in the lives of others.
Regarding his humility, as stated above, John’s desire was to “decrease.” This greatest man’s testimony was, “Jesus is greater than I am.” What elder rejoices when the younger is preferred before him? (Jn 1:15). This was the character of John. In contrast to many of today’s ministers and ministries, John did not promote himself. He sent his followers to follow Jesus (Jn 1:37). His happiness was in seeing the Bridegroom happy. Like the Lord Jesus and apostles that came after Him, John’s first message was, “Repent” (Mat 3:2; 4:17; Acts 2:38). This type of preaching does not make one popular or prosperous.
Though chosen to be the final prophet that prepared a road for the Lord, he did not feel worthy to untie Jesus’ shoe (Jn 1:27). We too should desire the Lord’s and others’ elevation more than our own. In humility let us esteem others better than ourselves. Though our lives may be like a wilderness, we can prepare a way for the Lord. The work of John can still go on. “Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make His paths straight. Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth; and all flesh shall see the salvation of God” (Lk 3:5-6). ❏