Our text will be the first three verses of Matthew chapter three. A unique thing about Scripture is that there is always more truth below the obvious. The Lord said in Revelation 2:17 that He would give the hidden manna to the overcomers. The surface manna, that which is not hidden, is the obvious information you receive when you read the Scriptures. The hidden manna is truth below the obvious. Spiritual perception is required for one to see the hidden Word of God. Now, if you happen to be one who has tapped into some of the hidden manna, don’t get the feeling you have arrived. The Word of God is inexhaustible. There is hidden manna below the hidden manna you found.
Thinking in absolutes is one of the greatest hindrances of spiritual growth. The young in Christ, in their immaturity and insecurity, want to feel they have obtained their salvation in full. They do not understand that real security is found only in a continual progression into more of the Lord. Anyway, we are going to believe for a little more insight into these three verses. In an effort to do so, we will occasionally look at the literal translation of the Greek text. Matthew 3:1-3 is very familiar Scripture. However, when I read it today I saw things I had not seen before. May the same be true for you also.
Matthew 3:1 In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judea.
The Greek word that is translated “preaching” here is kerusso. It would be more accurately translated “proclaiming.” The problem with the word “preaching” here is that people reading this would liken it to the modern preaching of today. The preaching of today, for the most part, is rather ineffective. The proclaiming of John the Baptist was anointed and authoritative. He did not preach; he proclaimed. His proclamations are described in verse 3 as the Voice of One – the Lord our God is One (Mark 12:29).
Next it is said that John’s ministry was in the wilderness of Judea. All real ministry begins in a wilderness. That was true for Jesus Christ – Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil (Matthew 4:1) – and it will be true for everyone who ministers Christ.
Matthew 3:2 And saying, Repent ye: for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand.
Notice that the reason for repenting is because the Kingdom of heaven is at hand. This is not repenting for forgiveness of sins; this is repenting for entrance into the Kingdom of heaven. It is after you receive Christ that you are given the right to enter the Kingdom and to become sons of God. But as many as received Him, to them gave He power (the right) to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name. John 1:12. Also, the word “heaven” in the Greek is literally “heavens.” The “heavens” here is speaking of the realms of Spirit. There are many realms of Spirit – many heavens of the Kingdom – and each one you enter is preceded by repentance. It is the repentance that gives you entrance. Also this repentance is not for sins committed; it is repentance for what you are. What you are in your own nature is what bars you from the Kingdom of heaven. Therefore, repentance is required; and it is not a one-time thing. Here again we see how thinking in absolutes will hinder spiritual progress.
The Kingdom of heavens is at hand. The King was about to come on the scene. Therefore, the Kingdom of heavens was at hand. It was at hand then, and it is at hand now. The Kingdom of heavens is not a blanket experience for the whole earth. It is for those who have been given entrance through repentance and after you have gained entrance into one heaven of His Kingdom and have learned how to function in it, you must then receive entrance into the next highest heaven of His Kingdom through a deeper repentance. “But Christians would be found in various heavens of the Kingdom.” Of course, everyone has not obtained the same level of spiritual growth, but those who are passing through the Heavens with Christ are of one Spirit (Hebrews 4:14; Ephesians 2:6).
Matthew 3:3 For this is he that was spoken of by the prophet Esaias, saying, The voice of One crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make His paths straight.
Isaiah is the prophet who prophesied this ministry of John the Baptist. His prophecy is found in Isaiah 40:3. Our text says that “this is he that was spoken of by the prophet.” However, it is worded slightly different in the original Greek which also gives a much different meaning. In the literal Greek translation it is spoken of through the prophet. If Isaiah knew what God wanted spoken and he spoke it, then it was spoken “by the prophet”. In such a case it may be nothing more than information that is given, but the phrase “through the prophet” means it was God speaking through him. Therefore, the words would carry the presence and divine nature of God. We see this truth most vividly in the apostolic ministry of Paul. To the Galatians he said that God revealed His Son in him that he might preach Him (Galatians 1:16). Paul did not preach about Christ; he preached Christ. His words carried the very nature of Christ. Again, in I Corinthians 13: 3, “Since ye seek a proof of Christ speaking in me.” So it was with the prophet Isaiah.
Isaiah described John the Baptist as “the Voice of One crying in the wilderness.” I capitalized the words “Voice” and “One” because I want us to realize that it was also the Lord speaking through John the Baptist. God is One. Jesus said, “Hear, O Israel; the Lord our God is One…” (Mark 12:29). John the Baptist was the Voice of One crying in the wilderness, meaning it was a divine word coming through him.
It is interesting that the ministry of John the Baptist began in the wilderness. All true ministry begins in a wilderness. Jesus Christ is the pattern for true ministry. Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. Matthew 4:1.
Now we’ve come to the part we’ve been looking for. Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make His paths straight. It was John’s responsibility to prepare the way of the Lord. Ministries today also have that same responsibility. The coming of the Lord depends upon a ministry that will prepare His way and make His paths straight.
Before going any further I want to remind you of the ministry of Ananias to Saul of Tarsus who became the apostle Paul. This takes place immediately after Paul’s conversion on the road to Damascus. And there was a certain disciple at Damacus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord. And the Lord said unto him, Arise, and go into the street which is called Straight, and enquire in the house of Judas for one called Saul, of Tarsus: for, behold, he prayeth, and hath seen in a vision a man named Ananias coming in, and putting his hand on him, that he might receive his sight. Acts 9:10-12. Now, we know that God can do anything. Nevertheless, His way of accomplishing His will is by functioning through a believer. Ananias had to be a channel for the ministry of the Lord. In other words, the way of the Lord had to be prepared. His path had to be made straight. Ananias was that path. He was the path the Lord used to meet Paul’s need.
Our Scripture text says to make His paths (plural) straight. The Lord has many paths. We will only mention a few. Moses was a path. God moved through him many times. You might say he was a straight path. However, that does not mean that he is a straight path today. That depends on us. How a ministry of today ministers the word of Moses determines whether it is a straight path or not. Jesus Himself spoke of this to the Pharisees. Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of Me. And ye will not come to Me, that ye might have life…Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father: there is one that accuseth you, even Moses, in whom ye trust. For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed Me: for he wrote of Me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe My words? John 5:39-40, 45-47.
When the Pharisees ministered the word of Moses, Moses was not a straight path. When Jesus ministered the word of Moses, he was a straight path. Jesus said of Moses, “He wrote of Me.” In other words, Moses was a path for the Lord. He was a straight path because he ministered Christ. The word of Moses through Jesus continued to be a straight path, but when the Pharisees ministered the word of Moses he was no longer a straight path because the Pharisees didn’t believe in Jesus.
Isaiah was a straight path when he prophesied about John the Baptist because it was the Lord speaking through him. The apostle Paul was a straight path because God had revealed His Son in him that he might preach Christ. The same is true for Abraham, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, and many others in the Scriptures. What we must understand is that how we minister the Scriptures will determine if they are straight paths today. We are in the days of the coming of the Lord, and it is our responsibility to fulfill the prophecy of Isaiah, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make His paths straight.
Copyright © 2004 by Henry DuBose