He had never felt so dejected, so all alone before. Though he cried out to God over and over, He was silent. He was a strong and fearless man, as long as he was hearing the voice of God, and as long as His Spirit rested on him, but from the time of his arrest, YHWH remained silent, leaving him with nothing but time…
Time to reflect on his life and wonder, “Could it be that I misunderstood? Is it possible that I got it all wrong? El De’ot (God of Knowledge), please give me wisdom! Reveal the truth to me!” he cried in anguish, thinking back on his ministry.
He had heard of his destiny from the time he suckled on his mother’s breasts, as both parents shared the miraculous events leading up to his birth. His father, Zechariah, a priest of the Almighty, who served in the Temple, told John about his visit from Gabriel, one of YHWH Tzevaot’s (God of Hosts’) angelic warriors. It was Gabriel who informed Zechariah that he and his wife, Elizabeth, had found favor with YHWH, and that Elizabeth would give birth to a son, whom Zechariah was to name John. Gabriel also told his abba (father) that John would be filled with the Holy Spirit, even before his birth, and that he would bring joy to many.
“Adonai,” John whispered in the silent darkness of the dungeon, “from the time of my birth, I never so much as took a sip of wine or allowed any other alcoholic drink to pass my lips, according to the command Your angel, Gabriel gave to my Abba. I lived in the wilderness, and I cried out to the people, according to Your word:
“‘Repent of your sins and turn to God, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near…’ (Matthew 3:2 NLT)
“And Adonai, I was fearless and bold, knowing I was doing what You had called me to do. When the Pharisees and Saducees came to watch me baptizing many in Your name, I cried out to them in righteous anger:
“You brood of snakes! Who warned you to flee God’s coming wrath? Prove by the way you live that you have repented of your sins and turned to God. Don’t just say to each other, ‘We’re safe, for we are descendants of Abraham.’ That means nothing, for I tell you, God can create children of Abraham from these very stones. Even now the ax of God’s judgment is poised, ready to sever the roots of the trees. Yes, every tree that does not produce good fruit will be chopped down and thrown into the fire.
“I baptize with water those who repent of their sins and turn to God. But Someone is coming soon who is greater than I am—so much greater that I’m not worthy even to be His slave and carry His sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and with fire. He is ready to separate the chaff from the wheat with His winnowing fork. Then He will clean up the threshing area, gathering the wheat into His barn but burning the chaff with never-ending fire. (Matthew 3:7b-12 NLT)
“And El Shaddai, I was so certain, when I saw Jesus that day and baptized Him, that He was the long awaited One, but now, in this foul and wretched dungeon, I haven’t heard You speak to me, and my heart is heavy. Could I have been wrong? O YHWH! Speak to me, please!” Yet, though he cried out, there was no comfort to be found in that dreadful dungeon, where the only certainty seemed to be his impending death.
The nights were the worst, for it was then that the darkness was thickest, and it was then that the tormenting doubts were at their worst. During the days, there was a thin shaft of light that came through a small window, high above him. John tried to keep track of each new day, by that small bit of light, but as his strength ebbed, with little nourishment, and only a cup of water in the morning and at night, he lost all track of time.
One day, he heard the voices of his disciples, calling down to him from the small window above. Though he couldn’t see them, he rejoiced to hear their voices, picturing each one in his mind. His eyes filled with tears, as his disciples reported the many things that Messiah was doing. It had been so long since he had heard a report from Adonai, and as he listened to their report, John stood up and called two of his disciples by name, telling them, “Go to Jesus for me, and ask Him:
His disciples departed quickly, to do their prophet’s bidding, while John sank to the prison floor, and closed his eyes. Exhaustion overwhelmed him, and within minutes, he was asleep. It was dark, when he awakened. His throat was dry and parched, as though all of his saliva had been blown away in a desert sand storm. Disoriented, he shook his head, trying to see in the vast darkness, but there was only black all around him. He was unable to even see himself, let alone his surroundings.
“John!” he heard a familiar voice calling his name in the darkness, somewhere above him. “Are you in there John?” the voice of his disciple called, as John suddenly realized where he was and who was calling out to him.
“Yes!” he tried to shout, but his dry and raspy voice sounded more like the croak of a frog, than the shout of a prophet of God. “Did you find Him? What news do you bring? What did he say?” Closing his eyes, tears welled up in them once again, and John breathed a soft prayer to El Elyon (Most High God), “Please, El Roi (God who sees me), let this be the answer to my prayers.”
“We found the Rabbi (Teacher), John,” they spoke in unison, hoping John would find comfort in their message.
“Did you ask Him if He is Messiah or if we should look for someone else?”
“We did, John and Jesus told us to:
‘Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen— the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor. And tell him, ‘God blesses those who are not offended because of Me.’ (Matthew 11:4-6, Luke 7:22-23 NLT)
“That’s all He said, John, nothing else. Is there anything else we can do for you?”
“No,” John said. “You’ve done enough. Thank you. Go quickly now, before someone discovers you here.” His disciples quickly departed, promising to come back to visit him again, as soon as they could.
Tears rolled freely down John’s cheeks, mingling with the mucous from his nose and falling to the dirt floor of the dungeon, as John whispered to himself, “The blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor. God blesses those who are not offended because of Me.“
John repeated the words again, smiling through the tears, “The blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor. God blesses those who are not offended because of Me.“
Rejoicing, John began to repeat the words of the prophet Isaiah, that his father, Zechariah had taught him so many years ago, when he was just a boy…
5 “And when He comes, He will open the eyes of the blind and unplug the ears of the deaf. 6 The lame will leap like a deer, and those who cannot speak will sing for joy! Springs will gush forth in the wilderness, and streams will water the wasteland. 7 The parched ground will become a pool, and springs of water will satisfy the thirsty land. Marsh grass and reeds and rushes will flourish where desert jackals once lived. 8 And a great road will go through that once deserted land. It will be named the Highway of Holiness. Evil-minded people will never travel on it. It will be only for those who walk in God’s ways; fools will never walk there. 9 Lions will not lurk along its course, nor any other ferocious beasts. There will be no other dangers. Only the redeemed will walk on it. 10 Those who have been ransomed by the Lord will return. They will enter Jerusalem singing, crowned with everlasting joy. Sorrow and mourning will disappear, and they will be filled with joy and gladness. (Isaiah 35:5-10 NLT)
“The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is upon Me, for the Lord has anointed Me to bring good news to the poor. He has sent Me to comfort the brokenhearted and to proclaim that captives will be released and prisoners will be freed.” (Isaiah 61:1 NLT)
Again, John repeated the message Jesus had given Him, laughing aloud as joy welled up within him, “The blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor. God blesses those who are not offended because of Me.
“El Chaiyai (God of my life), thank You. This poor man cried, and You heard me and saved me out of all my troubles. You sent Your word out to me, and it produced the fruits of joy and peace, accomplishing exactly what You meant it to accomplish, and it has prospered me.
“Thank You for Your lovingkindness in the midst of my weakness. The blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor. God blesses those who are not offended because of Me. Adonai, I am not offended because of Messiah. I can now die in peace, because You have spoken to me in the depths of darkness and misery.”
I love this story of John the Baptist, because it shows his humanity. John was a strong and powerful man of God. Even Jesus, Messiah, the Son of the Living God, respected John. In fact, after John’s disciples departed to deliver Jesus’ message to him, Jesus said this about John:
“What kind of man did you go into the wilderness to see? Was he a weak reed, swayed by every breath of wind? 25 Or were you expecting to see a man dressed in expensive clothes? No, people who wear beautiful clothes and live in luxury are found in palaces. 26 Were you looking for a prophet? Yes, and he is more than a prophet. 27 John is the man to whom the Scriptures refer when they say,
‘Look, I am sending My messenger ahead of You, and he will prepare Your way before You.’
28 I tell you, of all who have ever lived, none is greater than John. Yet even the least person in the Kingdom of God is greater than he is!” (Luke 7:24-28 NLT)
Do you want to know one of the reasons I love this story about John the Baptist? It is because Jesus honored John by telling this to everyone after John had asked if He was truly the Messiah. Jesus wasn’t angry when John, in a time of weakness, doubted.
Think about it, John’s father, Zechariah doubted Gabriel’s prophecy of John’s birth to him and his wife, and because of his doubt, Zechariah was made mute, until after John’s birth. I’m certain that his father must have shared this with his son, on more than one occasion, as he grew up, and now, John was imprisoned, and faced with his own doubts. In light of Gabriel’s response to his father’s question, “How can I be sure this will happen? I’m an old man now, and my wife is also well along in years.” (Luke 1:18 NLT) I wonder if John feared Jesus’ response to his question, “Are You the Messiah we’ve been expecting, or should we keep looking for someone else?” (Matthew 11:3, Luke 7:19 NLT)
It’s obvious that there is a difference in the questions that were asked. Zechariah’s doubt stemmed from the fact that he simply didn’t believe what Gabriel had told him. John’s doubt was different. He was at a low point in his life (Can you relate?), imprisoned and alone, no longer able to minister as he had been called to do, and in his weakness, he became uncertain. It wasn’t that he didn’t believe. He had lost everything, and that’s when he started to question.
Have you ever been there? I have. When I was no longer able to continue ministering in prison, because of my back problems, I had questions. If I could no longer work and no longer minister in prison, was my life over? Was I a disappointment to God? Had I imagined that I was called by God to minister? Like John, I struggled with these questions. And I cried out to God for comfort and reassurance, and for awhile, all I heard was silence.
There’s another reason why I love this story so much. The reason why this story blesses me is because of the way that Jesus answered John’s question:
4 Jesus told them, “Go back to John and tell him what you have heard and seen— 5 the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised to life, and the Good News is being preached to the poor.6 And tell him, ‘God blesses those who do not turn away because of Me. (Matthew 11:4-6, Luke 7:22-23 NLT)
Jesus could have simply replied, “Yes,” but I don’t think that would have assuaged John’s doubts. You see, John needed a word from God. He needed to hear the word from the Word. From the time he was in his mother’s womb, he had been filled with the Holy Spirit, and after his birth, I’m certain that Zechariah and Elizabeth shared God’s word with him, in preparation for the ministry he had been called to. Therefore, the only thing that could mend John’s broken heart and renew his hope, was the word of God. Knowing this, Jesus answered him by quoting Isaiah’s prophecy about Messiah’s coming.
It is the same way with me, and all who seek the truth. When I need the truth, I find it in God’s word. When I am anxious or fearful, I find peace in the word of God. When I am uncertain or unsure of what my next step should be, I find my answer in God’s holy word. For peace, joy, certainty and truth can only be found in the Word of God.
After having to give up my job and my prison ministry, I was crushed, because I thought God would no longer be able to use me if I was stuck at home. And then, I heard a message from the Lord, instructing me to begin writing again, something that I hadn’t had time to do for many years.
2 Then the Lord said to me, “Write My answer plainly on tablets, so that a runner can carry the correct message to others.” (Habakkuk 2:2 NLT)
I was excited to do what He had called me to do, and then this thought came to me, “I should start a blog.” Now perhaps that doesn’t seem like anything out of the ordinary to you, but at the time that thought came to me, I had no idea what a blog was. I had heard the word before, but no one had ever explained it to me, and I was never interested enough to know what it was, until the Lord placed it in my spirit to start a blog. Therefore, in October, 2012, I started a blog, and this has become my ministry.
Beloved reader, are you in a dark place right now? Do you have questions and uncertainties? If so, I encourage you to pray and seek your answers in God’s word. It is easier now, than ever before, to search for the answers you need from God’s word. You have only to use your favorite search engine online, and enter “Scriptures about _________.” You fill in the blank.
Also, you can read scriptures from just about any bible version you want at the sites listed below. There are many other sites as well, but the top three are ones that I use most frequently.
If you are looking for answers like John the Baptist was, or like I do, I encourage you to seek those answers in the word of God.
12 For the word of God is alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires. (Hebrews 4:12 NLT)
Cheryl A. Showers