A Study of Luke 7:18-23

Who was John the Baptist? (Luke 3:2-6, Isaiah 40:3-5)

John the Baptist was the last of the Old Testament prophets.

Today you might call John “a fire and brimstone preacher”.

John the Baptist was chosen by God to point out the Lord Jesus, and the Lord Jesus was sent by God to bring “Streams in the Desert”. That is a title that needs some explanation.

Let’s begin to read in Luke, chapter 3, verse 2.

Luke 3:2
The word of God came unto John the son of Zacharias in the wilderness.

Luke 3:3
And he came into all the country about Jordan, preaching the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins;

Luke 3:4
As it is written in the book of the words of Esaias (Isaiah) the prophet, saying, The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.

Luke 3:5
Every valley shall be filled, and every mountain and hill shall be brought low; and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough ways shall be made smooth;

Luke 3:6
And all flesh shall see the salvation of God.

When the leaders of the Jews asked John the Baptist who he was, John answered them with this quotation from Isaiah, the prophet.

When God places a quotation from the Old Testament in the New Testament it is there because God urges us to go to the Old Testament and look up this passage.

Hold your finger here in Luke and turn in your Bibles to the prophecy of Isaiah, chapter 40.

We will go back and forth from Isaiah to Luke.

Isaiah spoke of John more than 700 years before the Baptist came on the scene.

God says in:

Isaiah 40:3
The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD (JEHOVAH), make straight in the desert a highway for our God.

Isaiah 40:4
Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain:

Isaiah 40:5
And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it.

In verse 3: What does the voice of John in the wilderness cry out?

Prepare ye the way of Jehovah.

John was the messenger who would prepare the way before Jesus.

Prepare ye the way of JEHOVAH.

This verse clearly says that the Lord Jesus is Jehovah.

If you still do not see that, God says it again: “Make straight in the desert a highway for our God.” Clearly this verse says that the Lord Jesus is God.

Like the prophet Elijah, John did not mince any words.

John addressed the multitude that came to him as “Generation of Vipers”.

John openly scolded king Herod for taking his brother’s wife.

This got John in trouble, and Herod locked him up in prison.

But while John was in prison, we have to ask the question:

Why Did John Doubt? (Luke 3:7-9, Luke 7:18-20, Isaiah 42:6-7)

John started out so full of assurance. John said in Luke 3:7-9,

Luke 3:7
Then said he to the multitude that came forth to be baptized of him, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?

Luke 3:8
Bring forth therefore fruits worthy of repentance, and begin not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, That God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.

Luke 3:9
And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

John did not have the full revelation from God. John expected that Messiah would come and reward the righteous, and He would pour out His wrath on the wicked.

John did not understand that all this was to be understood spiritually.

John baptized Jesus, and not long thereafter John was put in prison.

He heard about all the wonderful things Jesus did, but now it seemed as if Jesus had forgotten John.

If Jesus could heal all kinds of diseases, why could Jesus not give John some relief and get him out of prison?

We read in Luke 7:18

Luke 7:18
And the disciples of John shewed him of all these things.

Luke 7:19
And John calling unto him two of his disciples sent them to Jesus, saying, Art thou he that should come? Or look we for another?

Luke 7:20
When the men were come unto him, they said, John Baptist hath sent us unto thee, saying, Art thou he that should come? Or look we for another?

Why did John doubt?

It was announced that John would come in the spirit and power of Elijah, and here we find that John was behaving and thinking exactly like Elijah did.

But John was rotting away in prison, and John remembered that the prophet Isaiah spoke of Messiah as written in Isaiah 42.

Isaiah 42:6
I the LORD have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles;

Isaiah 42:7
To open the blind eyes, to bring out the prisoners from the prison, and them that sit in darkness out of the prison house.

If Jesus could open the blind eyes, why could Jesus not get him out of prison?

We would like to scream to this prisoner: “John, this is to be interpreted spiritually!”

But would we do any better than John the Baptist?

When we see our beloved Church go apostate, or when we see our children join one of those apostate churches, are we not saying: “Lord, it is not supposed to go this way.”

Is that not what we think in the face of such disasters?

Or can we say with John the Baptist: “He must increase, but I must decrease.”

Show and tell (Luke 7:21-22, Matthew 20:28, Isaiah 48:8-10)

What was Jesus’ answer to John? Jesus did a show and tell.

We read in Luke 7:21-23,

Luke 7:21
And in that same hour he cured many of their infirmities and plagues, and of evil spirits; and unto many that were blind he gave sight.

Luke 7:22
Then Jesus answering said unto them, Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached.

Luke 7:23
And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.

Is this not typical of how God operates?

First God shows us the Gospel, and then God sends us out to tell the Good News.

Did you notice the last item Jesus mentioned: “To the poor the Gospel is preached.”

Who, do you think, has been assigned this task of preaching the Good News to the poor in the entire world?

You and I and everyone who has been saved have received this commission.

What is the Gospel that we bring?

It is the news that Messiah has come, and has been crucified.

Matthew 20:28
The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.

Why did Christ have to give His life a ransom for many?

Today I would like to answer that question from Isaiah 48:8-11,

Isaiah 48:8
Yea, thou heardest not; yea, thou knewest not; yea, from that time that thine ear was not opened: for I knew that thou wouldest deal very treacherously, and wast called a transgressor from the womb.

This verse tells us of our initial condition.

Our ears were not opened to the Gospel when we came into this world.

We have dealt very treacherously with God.

We are called transgressors from the womb.

This applies to the entire human race.

That is why we all are by nature children of God’s wrath

But God had mercy on His people.

Then God says in the next verse in Isaiah 48:

Isaiah 48:9
For my name’s sake will I defer mine anger, and for my praise will I refrain for thee, that I cut thee not off.

Who is God speaking about?

God is speaking about His people whom He will not cut off.

God speaks about all those He is going to save.

God is doing that for His sake, and for His praise alone.

None of us will be praised for making such a wise decision for Jesus.

None of us will be praised for having been baptized.

God did it alone, all by Himself.

Then God says in the next verse:

Isaiah 48:10
Behold, I have refined thee, but not with silver; I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction.

This is speaking about Jesus.

The Lord Jesus was in the furnace of affliction.

This is Jesus’ answer to John (Isaiah 48:11, Luke 7:22, Isaiah 35:4-6)

John, “I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction”.

Not your affliction John, but My affliction on the cross, which is infinitely worse than you will ever experience.

The Lord Jesus says this to every one of us who has become a child of God.

He has chosen us from the foundation of the world, since He is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.

Because He has chosen us, He also paid the full price for our sins in the furnace of affliction.

God says in the next verse:

Isaiah 48:11
For mine own sake, even for mine own sake, will I do it: for how should my name be polluted? And I will not give my glory unto another.

For My own honor I will do this.

And I will do it 100%, or else My Name would be polluted, for I will not give My glory to another.

I will draw this chosen one to faith in Jesus, and I will make sure that this chosen one will not be led astray by one of the fabricated gospels of Satan.

This was Jesus’ answer to John and to us.

It was an answer of show and tell.

We have to keep in mind that God says in the New Testament that Jesus spoke in parables, and without a parable He spake not unto them.

But Jesus also acted out parables.

The Lord Jesus said to the disciples of John in Luke 7:22,

Luke 7:22
Then Jesus answering said unto them, Go your way, and tell John what things ye have seen and heard; how that the blind see, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, to the poor the gospel is preached.

How was the Gospel preached to the poor?

Well, the spiritually blind can now see, the spiritually lame can now walk, those who were defiled with sin have been cleansed, the spiritually deaf can now hear, those who were spiritually dead are made alive.

In every one of these cases the person to be healed could not help himself.

The blind were blind from birth; they could not see where Jesus was.

The lame could not crawl to Jesus to ask for healing.

The lepers found out one day that they had a deadly disease for which there was no cure.

The deaf never knew that they missed something, because they never heard anything.

The dead were totally unable to do anything for themselves; they represented those who were spiritually dead in trespasses and sins.

This is how the Gospel was preached to the poor in spirit.

In all this symbolism, we recognize that Jesus was referring to that passage in Isaiah 35:4-6.

Isaiah 35:4
Say to them that are of a fearful heart, Be strong, fear not: behold, your God will come with vengeance, even God with a recompense; he will come and save you.

Isaiah 35:5
Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped.

Isaiah 35:6
Then shall the lame man leap as an hart, and the tongue of the dumb sing: for in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert.

Here are those Streams in the Desert.

And now we read in Isaiah 35 about:

The Habitation of Dragons (Isaiah 35:7, Ephesians 2:1-2)

Isaiah 35:7
And the parched ground shall become a pool, and the thirsty land springs of water: in the habitation of dragons, where each lay, shall be grass with reeds and rushes.

You wonder: Are we still on the same subject?

Yes we are still on the same subject.

The desert and the wilderness of verse 6 is the same as the parched ground and the thirsty land of verse 7, and this is the land that is the habitation of dragons.

But we know that literal “dragons” never existed at any time.

But there is an alternative:

The Hebrew word translated “dragons” is also translated “serpents”.

For example, when Moses and Aaron stood before Pharaoh, and Aaron cast down his rod, it became a “serpent”.

This word “serpent” is exactly the same Hebrew word.

When I examine all the verses where this Hebrew word appears in the Old Testament, in every case the context allows it to be translated as “serpent”.

That is what we should read here in Isaiah 35:7. It is “The Habitation of Serpents”.

But what does this mean that this is “the habitation of serpents”?

This was supposed to be the good place, where the eyes of the blind shall be opened, where the waters break out, and where there are streams in the desert.

Well, when you compare the last words of Jesus in Luke 7:22 with the second half of Isa 35:6, then you realize that “in the wilderness shall waters break out, and streams in the desert” means that “to the poor the Gospel is preached”.

The water is a picture of the Gospel, which flows like pure water, out of the mouth of those who preach it.

Where is the Gospel preached?

It is preached in this world.

This world is identified as the wilderness, or a desert, or a parched ground, or a thirsty land.

God says here in Isaiah 35:6-7 that if the Gospel is preached in the wilderness of this world, then some of that parched ground will become like a pool of water, and some of that thirsty land shall become springs of water, which in turn shall water more desert land.

The water of the Gospel has been poured out in the desert at Pentecost in 33AD, and it is still being poured out until now.

The desert is very dry, because it is “the habitation of serpents”.

Who in the Bible is represented by a serpent?

The serpent represents Satan.

The serpents, plural, represent Satan and all his fallen angels.

This world is “the habitation of serpents”.

We find in Revelation 12 that Satan and his fallen angels have been cast out of heaven when Christ died on the cross, and they have been cast out onto the earth.

We find this confirmed in Ephesians 2:1-2, where we read:

Ephesians 2:1
And you (hath he quickened), who were dead in trespasses and sins;

Ephesians 2:2
Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience:

Satan is “the prince of the power of the air” on this world.

Can we escape from prince Satan?

YES! Then God shows us:

The highway (Isaiah 35:8, John 14:6)

We read in Isaiah 35:8 that there is an escape from this habitation of serpents. It is The Highway.

Isaiah 35:8
And an highway shall be there, and a way, and it shall be called The way of holiness; the unclean shall not pass over it; but it shall be for those: the wayfaring men, though fools, shall not err therein.

The Highway is identified as “The Way of Holiness”.

But we know from the New Testament that the only way to holiness is through the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Lord Jesus said in John 14:6,

John 14:6
I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.

Christ is The Way.

His followers were called followers of the Way.

God has showed us this Way of salvation.

The only way to holiness, the only way to get right with God, is to have our sins paid for.

In the Bible God calls us transgressors from the womb.

We all were by nature children of wrath.

How could anyone of us turn to Christ if we were by nature enemies of Christ?

None of us was willing to admit that we were the enemies of Christ.

None of us was willing to let go of our sins.

None of us wanted the salvation of the Bible.

We were “strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world.” (Ephesians 2:12)

God says to us: “I have chosen thee in the furnace of affliction”.

First God chose us, and then God sent His son into the world to pay on the cross for the sins of those whom God has chosen.

The next thing God did was to show us that Christ is the only way out of our sin-problem.

And because Christ has purchased us already in 33AD on the cross, that is why we believe that this Christ is The Way.

We had no other choice. We are His property.

God showed us this Highway; that is why we believe.

What is next?

All our sins have been paid for.

We have been adopted as sons of God.

What is next in our life?

The Lord Jesus Christ says unto us:

“Freely ye have received, freely give”, (Matthew 10:8) and “As my Father hath sent me, even so send I you”. (John 20:21)

We are appointed as ambassadors of Christ in this world, and we have a mandate to bring this Gospel of Christ into the world, to reach others for whom Christ died.

We are commanded to give a “Show and Tell” to the world.

Show them in the Bible, and then tell them the Gospel therein.

Where should we go?

The first place where we go is in our home.

Give a “Show and Tell” to your children every day.

Children learn by repetition.

Read them the Bible after dinner and ask them what they have heard.

This also gives you some practice when you witness outside the home.

For whom is this Highway?

Isa 35:8 says: “the unclean shall not pass over it”.

Those whose sins have not been washed away may not use this Highway.

They will try to use another way to salvation.

They will use a self-help gospel, but they cannot, and they will not use the Gospel of grace alone.

The redeemed shall walk there (Isaiah 35:9, 1 Peter 5:8, 1 Peter 2:7-8)

Only those who have been redeemed at the cross shall walk on that Highway.

God is very protective of His children.

Once we have come to faith in Christ, we have been placed on that Highway by the grace of God, and we are certain to escape that “Habitation of serpents” when our body dies.

God writes in Isaiah 35:9,

Isaiah 35:9
No lion shall be there, nor any ravenous beast shall go up thereon, it shall not be found there; but the redeemed shall walk there:

It is significant that God says: “No lion shall be there” on that Highway.

Whom does the lion represent?

We know that Christ is “the lion of the tribe of Judah”.

But Christ is not in view when God says: “No lion shall be there”.

The other person represented by a lion is Satan.

A lion also represents Satan, because Satan wants to look like Christ.

Satan comes as an angel of light.

He tries to imitate Christ, and thereby lure away those who have come to trust Christ for their salvation.

God writes in 1 Peter 5:8,

1 Peter 5:8
Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:

How does Satan devour people?

He comes with other gospels that are so close to the true Gospel that even the elect would be deceived if that were possible.

If you have been deceived by the master deceiver, Satan, you do not know that you have been deceived.

We have to make sure, absolutely sure, that our Gospel is based on the Bible alone, without picking and choosing from the Bible.

We are walking on this Highway, which is Christ alone, and “no lion shall be there, nor any other ravenous beast shall go up” on that Highway.

God indicates thereby that once we have been saved, we can be absolutely certain that we shall never lose our salvation.

No one can steal us away from Christ.

Besides, no one else would want to use this Highway.

God says in 1 Peter 2:7-8,

1 Peter 2:7
Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner,

1 Peter 2:8
And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.

The Christ whom we worship is to the unsaved “a stone of stumbling, and a Rock of offense”.

The Gospel, which we believe, is to them an offensive religion.

Here God addresses:

The Offense of the Cross (Luke 7:23, 1 Corinthians 1:18, 1 Corinthians 1:21, 1 Corinthians 1:23-25)

The Lord Jesus concluded His answer to the messengers of John the Baptist in Luke 7:23,

Luke 7:23
And blessed is he, whosoever shall not be offended in me.

The Lord Jesus said this because He knew that there would be many who will be offended in Him.

God has a great deal to say about the offense of the cross.

First of all there is the blood of Christ that flowed.

Why was it necessary to have such a bloody scene?

You see, God knew that blood is offensive.

But Sin is even more offensive to God.

All throughout the Old Testament God wrote about animal sacrifices, almost from the beginning of time.

There was much shedding of blood.

And then the animals were burnt. There was fire!

Fire is a picture of Hell.

This too is offensive to most people.

All these burnt offerings were only shadows of Christ’s sacrifice on the cross.

But at Golgotha, where is the fire?

The fire of God’s wrath is invisible, but it is burning intensely within the Lord Jesus Christ, so much so that the Lord Jesus cried out: “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me”.

Christ, who was God, was forsaken by God, on behalf of my sins and your sins.

He had to complete the full payment for our sins, in our place.

He endured Hell for us, because to be forsaken of God is to be under the wrath of God, which is Hell.

Then we read in 1 Corinthians 1:18,

1 Corinthians 1:18
For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.

The preaching of the cross is not done with wisdom of words, but it is the power of God.

Almighty God is able to deliver people from their sins through the preaching of the cross.

1 Corinthians 1:21
For after that in the wisdom of God the world by wisdom knew not God, it pleased God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe.

To those who are outside the grace of God, the preaching of the cross is foolishness.

But God is pleased by this foolishness, because God takes pleasure in saving those that hear the Gospel.

1 Corinthians 1:23
But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness;

1 Corinthians 1:24
But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.

1 Corinthians 1:25
Because the foolishness of God is wiser than men; and the weakness of God is stronger than men.

We preach Christ crucified. Past tense.

He was crucified.

This is how God forgives sins.

There is no other way for sins to be forgiven.

Christ saved His chosen ones there on Golgotha, nearly 2,000 years ago.

Their number cannot be increased, nor can it be decreased.

But now look at the result of Christ’s suffering:

There is Everlasting Joy (Isaiah 35:10)

Allow me to bring up the last verse in Isaiah 35:10,

Isaiah 35:10
And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

Who are “the ransomed of the LORD”?

The ransomed of the Lord are all those for whom Christ died.

He did not ransom everyone in the world, but only those whom God chose.

We were ransomed by God’s grace, and not because of our works, lest any man should boast.

We cannot boast that we believed, and we cannot boast that God saved us because we believed.

That is a mixture of grace and works.

Now we know that we are saved by grace; that is a free gift.

Believing the Gospel is by grace alone, through Christ alone.

The message of the Bible is that we have everlasting joy because it has been freely given to us.

We were in the darkness of sin, but by His grace we have been translated into the Kingdom of Christ.

What a joy! YEAH!

We have eternal life now.

Our eternal life does not start when we have died and have gone to heaven.

Our eternal life starts now, while in this life on earth.

Eternal life also means that it shall never be taken away from us.

Now we have been called to proclaim the praises of Christ.

We have been called to radiate this joy that we have in Christ.

We have been called to bring the message of salvation to those who want to hear.

What a wonderful opportunity to be of service to God, and at the same time be a blessing to those around us.

And what a blessing we have in the life hereafter!

There will be No more sorrow and sighing (Isaiah 35:10, Revelation 21:1-4)

God spoke about this promise in Isaiah 35:10, when God said:

Isaiah 35:10
And the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion with songs and everlasting joy upon their heads: they shall obtain joy and gladness, and sorrow and sighing shall flee away.

This verse ends with the wonderful promise of God that we will have more everlasting joy and gladness later, when we shall be with Him in the New Heaven & New Earth.

In the life hereafter there are only two destinies: Heaven or Hell.

Those who have been deceived by the master deceiver will spend eternity in Hell.

Those, on whom God has bestowed His favor, by having redeemed us through Christ’s work on the cross, will spend eternity in the New Heaven & New Earth.

Have you been deceived, or have you been redeemed?

How can you tell the difference?

Begin with the Gospel you believe: Who receives all the credit?

You see. Now you know!

Be sure to tell your children what the difference is between the two Gospels.

Be sure to tell them what is at stake.

Then pray for them, and teach them to pray.

God has given us a glimpse into the wonderful future of the New Heaven & New Earth.

We read in Revelation 21:1-4,

Revelation 21:1
And I saw a new heaven and a new earth: for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away; and there was no more sea.

Revelation 21:2
And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.

Revelation 21:3
And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.

Revelation 21:4
And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away.

The New Heaven & New Earth that God will create will be so magnificent that it cannot be described in earthly terms.

Sufficient to say that the New Heaven & New Earth will be more wonderful for our new glorified bodies than heaven presently is.

Would God create it if it would be less wonderful?

We must not think of the New Heaven & New Earth as two separate spaces.

It must be one entity that is titled the New Heaven & New Earth because God Himself will dwell with us there.

And God Himself will see to it that our joy will be full, and that there will be no more sorrow and sighing.

Let us praise God for such a great salvation.

By Alfred J. Chompff

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