So he began saying to the crowds who were going out to be baptized by him, "You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?Luke 3:7(NASB)
It was in the 15th year of the reign of Tiberius, that the voice of John the Baptist resounded across the wilderness: "Prepare ye way of the Lord. Make His path straight." The humble in heart would be saved and satisfied, while the proud and arrogant would be brought low. Dishonest men would become morally upright, while those that were uncouth and crude would become submissive and refined.
John had been appointed by God, to prepare the way of the Lord Jesus: "Repent," was his resounding cry, "for the kingdom of heaven is at hand." Isaiah had prophesied of John's ministry many centuries earlier, and later Jesus was to identify His older cousin as the greatest prophet who ever lived!
Throughout the centuries, Israel had been called to repent of their sins and turn back to the Lord their God, but sadly the nation continued in its ungodly, apostate way. John had been sent ahead of the Lord Jesus to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, teaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins - but there were many pretenders among the crowd who came out to hear him.
John's baptism in water was meant to be an outward sign of an inner change of heart, and he insisted that true repentance would be demonstrated by a changed life. John challenged the people of Israel to produce fruit of righteousness to show, beyond a shadow of doubt, that their repentance was genuine. It is under these circumstances that we find John the Baptist crying out to the crowds who were going out to be baptised by him, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?"
John knew that their hearts were not sincere. No doubt many had come out into the wilderness, out of curiosity, having heard of the spectacle of this highly controversial figure proclaiming a baptism of repentance unto the forgiveness of sins. Johns words were certainly challenging and his expectation was that totally transformed lives would be manifested through the fruit of a broken heart and a changed life.
There were probably many reasons why some in the crowd were pretenders, but John, who was filled with the Holy Spirit, was well able to see through any pretence. He was able to recognise a heart of true repentance from those who were feigning contrition of heart. In order for the nation of Israel to be introduced to their King, they were first to turn back to the Lord God of Israel. Before they could accept Jesus as their Messiah, the entire nation was to first have to turn away from their rebellious ways and idolatrous practices, repent of their sins, and return to the Lord their God.
There were many souls who heard the message of John the Baptist, repented of their sins, and returned to the Lord their God, but there were those who heard his message with a cold and rebellious heart whom John identified as "a brood of vipers."
He challenged them with the question, "Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?" The day of God's wrath was prophesied throughout Old Testament Scripture. Those who believed God's Word and who trusted in the Messiah He sent, would not be condemned. But those who would not believe in the only begotten Son of God, remained under His condemnation - and this truth is no less true today than it was in the days of John the Baptist, when he cried, "Repent." Turn from your sin. Return to the Lord.
Heavenly Father, the message of salvation is truly glorious and yet challenging and very sober. There were many at the end of the dispensation of Israel who turned their heart against the gospel, just as there are many today who similarly refuse to believe the message of salvation, by grace through faith in Christ. I pray that as the time for Christ’s return draws ever closer, that You would draw increasing numbers of men and women to Yourself. Use me, I pray, to be a mouthpiece in my generation, just as John the Baptist proclaimed the truth in his. May Your name be glorified. In Jesus' name I pray, AMEN.