Daily Devotions


Day 22

In The Tradition of the Ancient Prophets

Text: Matthew 3:1-17

John the Forerunner was most focused in his ministry. He saw himself as the voice in the wilderness. His task was to prepare the ground for the Messiah to walk on. There were many crooked paths to be made straight. Sin had ravaged many lives, and he needed to preach a powerful message of repentance. There was only one way to deal with sin, and that was to preach against it.

Where there would be people who were gripped by the need to repent, there would be a message of hope and comfort. The kingdom of God would not be closed to those who truly seek God. They would be able to enter into His kingdom!

John may have lived in the wilderness, but he was not blind to the shame and hypocrisy of some of the people who came to hear him. To these people, John assumed the stance of the ancient prophets. With great courage, John warned the people concerning their sinful ways.

“But when he saw many of the Pharisees and
Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them,
‘Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from
the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy
of repentance…’ ”
Matthew 3:7-8

How we are reminded of the ministry of the prophets of old. Let us consider how Ezekiel ministered to a group of elders who came to him, apparently seeking his counsel.

“Now some of the elders of Israel came to me
and sat before me. And the word of the Lord
came to me, saying, ‘Son of man, these men
have set up their idols in their hearts, and put
before them that which causes them to stumble
into iniquity. Should I let Myself be inquired of
at all by them?’ ”
Ezekiel 14:1-3

Just as God had spoken to Ezekiel, so the Lord also spoke to John the Forerunner. Thus he was enabled to see through the Pharisees and Sadducees who came to hear him preach. While others were sincere about repenting from their sins, some like these religious leaders, regarded by some to be “elders of Israel” were revealed as “brood of vipers”. John was not taken in by their outward show of piety!


John was essentially correct in emphasizing the issue of fruits. How easy it was for people to imagine that all they needed to do to get right with God was to go to the Temple with suitable sacrifices, and with that display of ritualistic worship, there would be forgiveness! This false understanding had persisted for years! How wrong this understanding was.

There was only one way to deal with the problem of sin! One must truly repent! But there must not just be the outward display! If people were to return to God, they must do so in the spirit described in the Book of Joel.

‘”Now, therefore,’ says the Lord,
‘Turn to Me with all your heart,
With fasting, with weeping, and
with mourning.’
So rend your heart, and not your
Return to the Lord your God,
For He is gracious and merciful,
Slow to anger, and of great kindness,
And He relents from doing harm.”
Joel 2:12-13

The true spirit of repentance, with emphasis on fruits worthy of repentance, may also be seen in a text from the book of Isaiah.

“Wash yourselves, make
yourselves clean;
Put away the evil of your doings
from before My eyes.
Cease to do evil,
Learn to do good;
Seek justice,
Rebuke the oppressor;
Defend the fatherless,
Plead for the widow.”
Isaiah 1:16-17

John was not incorrect when he called the Pharisees and Sadducees “brood of vipers”. Though they were outwardly religious, many were hypocritical in their ways! The baptism that John offered would be of no use to those who merely went through the motions! There must be heartfelt repentance. The reality of that repentance must be expressed in fruits worthy of repentance!


Many had taken the words of warning from the ancient prophets too much for granted. The prophet Ezekiel was once commanded to preach a powerful and relevant message to people who never truly believed that God would carry out what He threatened. Sadly, few understood the seriousness or the significance of the ministry of John the Forerunner. Let us ponder what the prophet Malachi said about his ministry.

“Behold, I will send you Elijah the
Before the coming of the great and
dreadful day of the Lord.
And he will turn
The hearts of the fathers to the
And the hearts of the children to
their fathers,
Lest I come and strike the earth
with a curse.”
Malachi 4:5-6

John was indeed Elijah the prophet in spirit! His word carried great authority! He was not to be trifled with! The Pharisees and Sadducees were rightly warned!