This past Sunday we were reminded of just how good the good news of Jesus Christ really is in Mark 1:1-8. And in that reminder, we were introduced to John the Baptist who viewed Jesus Christ as the ultimate news. And while we observed John the Baptist view of Christ we came across some interesting information regarding John’s dress and diet. We found that he wore camel’s hair and a leather belt and survived off honey and locusts. That’s weird. But in pursuing the reason why Mark or the other gospels even mention this weird detail we found that it was just another powerful pointer to the validity and precision of God. Right down to the dress of Jesus’ herald everything was planned and executed perfectly. In 2 Kings 1:8 we find Elijah dressed the same way and in Malachi 4:5 it was prophesied that Elijah was supposed to come before the great and awesome day of the Lord. Well right down to the smallest detail God kept his promise and as it says in Luke 1:13-17 we find that John came in the spirit and power of Elijah. God doesn’t miss a thing and that is an encouraging thing to know, especially when hard times fly our way.
But aside from this encouraging fact there is something else we can learn from this weird detail concerning John the Baptist. John the Baptist lifestyle was the exact opposite of the religious elite. As Charles Swindoll says in his Living Insights New Testament commentary on Mark, “The Sadducees, Pharisees, chief priest, scribes and Herodian’s dined on the best meat and drank the finest wine money could buy. And they had plenty of money, thanks to careful bartering with Rome (p. 17).”
From this contrast, I think we can gather three principals. First, the appearance, pomp and power of man doesn’t impress God. God was born in a barn and his crib was a feeding trough. God came to this earth as a man that wasn’t handsome (Isaiah 53:2). God was essentially homeless while on this earth. And here in Mark 1:1-8 God’s herald is dressed in rugged and worn camel skin held together by a belt. God’s primary concern is the heart.
Second, God’s favor doesn’t guarantee worldly success. From the outside the religious elite of John the Baptist day appeared to be in better standing with God. They are wealthy and are in a promising spot with the ruling authorities. John’s living off the land and ends up getting thrown in prison due to a conflict with the ruling authorities and eventually loses his head. God’s standard of success and blessing are different than this world’s. Sure, there are times God blesses financially and does so in a drastic way like with Solomon and we need to be thankful for that. But we should be weary of making that the sole standard by which we measure God’s favorability. Jesus was not wealthy and was crucified. Godly success is a submissive and grateful heart.
Third, God’s creativity is beyond our reasoning. If anything, Elijah and John’s clothes would be seen as a hindrance to anyone trying to strategize how they are going to expand the kingdom of God. But, often God’s ways are not ours. In all our attempts to plan we must always be ready for God to throw his creativity in and cause us to wonder at His power and reason. Effectiveness is God’s job.
God’s Word is so deep, isn’t it? I encourage you to look forward in Mark, study, grow, and find your heart and mind moved to love our God even more!