Chapter for Alabaster Co.’s book – The Good and Beautiful Bible Study
Reverberating on the hills of the Judean wilderness, John, recalling the words of the prophet Isaiah, speaks of preparing and cultivating the soil of the people’s hearts. The way is to be made smooth and ready—every valley filled in, every high place made low, and every obstacle removed. His declarations are a visual metaphor for a message of equity, which calls for justice for the oppressed, commands care for the poor, and rebukes people who wrongly use their power. His invitation echoes far beyond the banks of the Jordan River, calling all to repent and be baptized.
Many hear his call and come to be baptized. However, upon seeing the crowd, John rebukes them harshly, calling them a “brood of vipers”. He sees that these people are simply trying to “flee from the coming wrath”, and he suggests their injustices and predatory behaviors have no place in God’s coming kingdom. Despite his severe rebuke, he offers them a way forward: to bear good fruit in keeping with repentance. It is a plea to change—or the ax lies at the ready to cut down every tree bearing rotten fruit.