Week 1: Getting Started
Day 1 – A Heart Unchanged:
(Mark 1:1-8; Luke 1:11-17, Malachi 4:5,6; Luke 7:18-35; Malachi 3:1; John 1:23; Isaiah 40:3)
Four hundred years. That’s a long time to live in silence, a long time not hearing from the One you love. That’s how long it had been for Israel. The God Who led them through the wilderness, Who established them as a nation, Who defended and protected them, Who provided for them and judged them – had been silent four hundred years.
At the end of our look at the Old Testament and the Fatherless, we were left with a promise both of the coming Messiah and of the one who would come before Him to prepare the way (OT 9:4):
“Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in: behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts.” Malachi 3:1
“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the Lord: And he shall turn the heart of the fathers to the children, and the heart of the children to their fathers, lest I come and smite the earth with a curse.” Malachi 4:5,6.
(See also Isaiah 40:3)
At the announcement of the birth of John the Baptist we clearly see that God has, at last, four hundred years later, done as He promised:
“…Elisabeth shall bear thee a son… And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.” Luke 1:13-17
At the beginning of John the Baptist’s ministry it is reaffirmed that he is the messenger God promised:
“…Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. John did baptize in the wilderness…” Mark 1:1-4
Jesus also confirmed that John was the one whom the prophets foretold would go before Him:
“…he [Jesus] began to speak unto the people concerning John…This is he, of whom it is written, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. For I say unto you, Among those that are born of women there is not a greater prophet than John the Baptist…” Luke 7:24-28
John himself acknowledge that he was that voice in the wilderness:
“He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Isaiah… He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose.” John 1:23-27
The silence is broken. God’s messenger has come, but why is that so important to us in this study? What does that have to do with the fatherless? Look back with me to Malachi 3:
“And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, saith the Lord of hosts. For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.” (3:5,6)
These issues, especially oppression and especially of the fatherless and widow, were recurring themes throughout the books of the prophets. Over and over again, God said, “If you don’t” or “because you aren’t” caring for the widows, the fatherless and the strangers, “I will…” and He named the judgment to follow. (See OT and Fatherless series to brush up a bit!) This was one of the greatest tests that God used to prove the sincerity of His people in their faith. If Israel was truly seeking to please Him and to serve Him with their whole hearts these people would not be neglected, oppressed or abused in any way.
In Malachi, as God announces the coming of the Messiah and His predecessor, He also declares that His heart in this matter will not change. Four hundred years later, He would be just as concerned for the wellbeing of the fatherless, the widow and the stranger as He was throughout all the days that he pled with them to return to Him.
This is very important to keep in mind. Scripture is not nearly as vocal in the New Testament regarding the fatherless as it is in the Old, but God’s heart has not changed.
As we go through the New Testament, we will primarily, especially in the beginning, be looking at related principles of ministry. Don’t get distracted or forget the background that it is being built upon. If you haven’t already, I strongly encourage you to go back and read the blogs dealing with the Old Testament. The foundation is found there, the rest of the house is here – in the New Testament.