THE GREATEST PROPHET
One of the utmost glories of the Hebrew nation was its long line of prophets. The function of the prophet may be gathered from the varied names by which these men were called. One or two instances will suffice. The prophet was called “a seer," (1 Sam 9:9) that is, simply, one who sees. He was also called “man of God," (1 Sam 9:6) that is, a man wholly devoted to God, and therefore speaking with authority the messages of God. And yet again, he was called “man of the Spirit," (Hosea 9:7) that is, one through whom the Spirit declared the will and purpose of Jehovah. The prophetical order commenced with Samuel, and in the marvelous succession were such men as Elijah, and Elisha, Isaiah, and Ezekiel. Splendid as was this succession, none among them was greater than the last of the long line, John the Baptist, who was also the immediate forerunner of Jesus.
In common with all his predecessors in the prophetic office, John's message resulted from his vision. He saw clearly, and therefore spoke with authority. The message which aroused the whole nation was the outcome of the clear seeing of this man, wholly devoted to the will of God. Undeceived by the accidental and external in the condition of his nation, HIS VISION WAS OF THE TRUE MORAL CONDITION, and gave birth to his message. When his work was approaching its termination, A NEW VISION, that of the Savior, was granted to him, and his last and mightiest utterances were concerning the sent Christ. It is of deep interest and undoubted value to consider his view of Christ, at this crisis in his work.
How important this vision is, may be argued from the manner in which Luke introduces him. "Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, Pontius Pilate being governor of Judea, and Herod being tetrarch of Galilee, and his brother Philip tetrarch of the region of Iturxa and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene, in the high-priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came unto John." (Luke 3:1-2) One Roman emperor, one Roman governor, three tetrarchs, and two high priests are all made use of, to mark the hour in which the word came to John.
Incidentally this is an illuminative illustration of the Divine perspective in human history. To the men of the day, any one of the great men named would have counted for far more than the man of the wilderness; but in the economy of God, they are simply used to mark the hour in which the most important event of the period happened, that namely of the coming to a man of the word of God, which announced the advent of His Son. The greatness of John in the estimate of heaven, is revealed by the fact that the word of God passed emperor, governor, tetrarchs, and high priests, and came to him; and the mention of these facts proves how important was the message of this man, to whom was given the high honor of uttering the word which announced the fulfillment of the aspirations of the past, and the merging of one dispensation of government into a new and a better.