In John 1:19-34 we have the testimony of John the Baptist and see him declare Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God. John’s existence and his role in God’s salvation plan was prophesied 700 years before him or Jesus was born.
The prophet Isaiah prophesied regarding John in Isaiah 40:1-5, 9
“Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfare is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the LORD’s hand double for all her sins. A voice cries: “In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD; make straight in the desert a highway for our God. Every valley shall be lifted up, and every mountain and hill be made low; the uneven ground shall become level, and the rough places a plain. And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the LORD has spoken. Go on up to a high mountain, O Zion, herald of good news; lift up your voice with strength, O Jerusalem, herald of good news; lift it up, fear not; say to the cities of Judah, ‘Behold your God!’”
Malachi also prophesied regarding John in Malachi 4:5-6
“Behold, I will send you Elijah the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.”
The Prophecies fulfilled
Now fast forward 700 years and in Luke 1:5-17 we are introduced to Zechariah (a priest) and Elizabeth. They had no children because Elizabeth was barren and at this point, they are old (past childbearing age). Then one day when Zechariah was chosen by lot to enter the temple to burn incense, the angel Gabriel appeared to him and said:
“Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for your prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth, for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, and he will 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 for the Lord a people prepared”.
The life of John the Baptist was the fulfillment of prophetic scripture and played a central role in God’s redemption story. John baptized people with water in order to prepare them for the one who would come to baptize them with the Holy Spirit. Essentially he was Jesus’ hype man. He prepared God’s people for the arrival of the Christ.
Seeing scripture fulfilled in this story is important because it reminds us that God’s plan is so much bigger than we could ever imagine. The redemptive power of Christ on the cross was not a last-minute plan because God was desperate. On the contrary, God knew that his creation would turn against him and set a plan in motion BEFORE creation, and then he foreshadowed his plan throughout scripture using his prophets.