In those days John the Baptist appeared in the wilderness of Judea, proclaiming, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near.” This is the one of whom the prophet Isaiah spoke when he said, “The voice of one crying out in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.’ ” Now John wore clothing of camel’s hair with a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then the people of Jerusalem and all Judea were going out to him, and all the region along the Jordan, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins. But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruit worthy of repentance. Do not presume to say to yourselves, “We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. “I baptize you with water for repentance, but one who is more powerful than I is coming after me; I am not worthy to carry his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, and he will clear his threshing floor and will gather his wheat into the granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire.”
God loves stones. I’m confident of that. Have you ever seen the Giant’s Causeway on the Antrim Coast in Northern Ireland? If not, you should add it to your bucket list. The stones there are so intricately chiseled away by the wind and waves and, well, giants (probably not!) as to provide one of the most beautiful and coastlines I’ve ever seen. There’s even one particular formation called the “organ pipes.” When reading this passage I sometimes think of what it might be like if God caused these majestic stones to pour forth booming, bellowing music like their name suggests. All the might and grandeur of creation booming out of these ancient rocks – it would be a sound to hear for sure! But to my knowledge this has never happened and never will. God loves rocks, and delights in the way He formed and shaped them in creation and through the ongoing process of erosion and plate-tectonics. However rocks were not created with voices. John’s words, therefore, were rhetorical in nature. Sure, God could cause the rocks to cry out and to become better, more faithful children of Abraham, but God won’t because that’s not what God desires. You see God, like you and I, is far more interested in hearing the already-existant voice of His children, than in making up voices for rocks.
Do you have children? Could you ever forget their voices? My daughter frequently speaks in a funny, whiny voice. There’s nothing wrong with it, but Lauren and I are constantly reminding her how much we love her “regular” voice, especially when we’re having a “normal” conversation. I just love the sound of the voices of my children, my wife, my parents, and other dear friends and family. I assume you feel the same. We share this with God, our loving Father. Yes, God could cause the rocks to cry out and to become better, more faithful children of Abraham, but God won’t because that’s not what God desires. God desires to hear your voice, and mine, my children’s voices, and all the children of all the peoples of the world. This is what John is getting at: just because God can, doesn’t mean God will or even wants to. God wants to hear your voice. God delights in your voice. God wants you to call Him Father, loving Parent, and friend. It is for this reason that John, and then Jesus were sent by God. To remind us, to instruct us, to guide us, and to allow us to, once again, speak and listen to our loving God.
Today as you pray, praise God for the wonders of creation. Use your audible voice to praise God, to thank God, and to repent, if necessary. Pursue right relationship with God using your unique, beautiful, God-give voice. After all, God delights in it far more than even the amazing geological masterpieces such as the Giant’s Causeway!