Throughout history, prophets are ridiculed and persecuted. Is it because they speak boldly or because people are not ready to listen? In the gospels we read about a prophet who was known as John the Baptist.

Matthew 3:
1 In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea,
2 “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”
3 For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.’”

A voice of one crying in the wilderness… why do people go to the wilderness? Isn’t it often to get away from people? Before any prophet has a message, they have a wilderness. In the place of disconnection from community, there is a voice and it is crying.

The sinner finds themselves in a lonely wilderness and if the conditions are right, there is a cry to God. Before the prophet can be a messenger to anyone else, they find themselves  crying out to God. 

The message of needed change starts with John first preparing a way for the Lord in his own heart. From his wilderness, John has a voice that people seek out. Others come into the wilderness to get away from the community and to find answers. And in this place, the messenger is heard. From the wilderness, the messenger starts to go on a mission compelled to help others find the way.

John the Baptist belonged to a sect called the Essenes. They were deeply committed to personal and religious change. How easy it would be for people of the day to use his community label against him. That practice remains rampant in our time.

We constantly discredit people by their association. “If it looks like a duck and walks like a duck, it’s a duck.” We turn our ears off, because that guy is a ‘bible-thumper’.

Imagine the nerve of someone telling others to repent and change their lives for God. Though this message resonated and caused a change of heart for some, it also led to John’s beheading at the hands of Herod. John had confronted the adultery happening with Herod’s sister-in-law.

John was noted as the forerunner of Jesus. A message of repentance and heart preparation opened a way for people to hear and understand Jesus. There are still many ways that John’s message of personal change is being communicated today. How many people enter recovery without knowing that they were preparing a way in their life for the Lord?

TWELVE: Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to sinners, and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

The alcoholic or addict who follows the path of twelve steps may have a legitimate spiritual awakening that prepares them to meet Jesus. Twelve step groups preach a message of repentance from sin and turning to God to make life straight.