“Did you hear that?”
“Yeah,” my friend responded. “I think so.”
We stood stock-still, straining to hear the sound again.
The sun was setting over one of the most breathtaking scenes imaginable. We were just below the Wenatchee Guard Station standing on a basalt spine in the Umatilla National Forest. The gulf below us broke away with a steep, unforgiving drop into the Menatchee drainage, three miles below.
Then came the cry again. This time we clearly heard the word, “Help!”
With darkness falling, we scrambled a hundred yards down the rocky face, yelling out, “Come uphill toward us, and we’ll work our way to you.”
Finally, we saw a dim figure struggling uphill. We clambered down to the next ribbon of rock face, calling out encouragement, telling the man not to give up. Just as the light faded, we met him, hearing his story as he drank big gulps from our water bottles.
He had dropped off the unfamiliar terrain earlier that day. Not paying attention, time had flown by as he kept skidding and sliding downhill with his inadequate water supply drying up. By late afternoon, he was disoriented and dehydrated and had more than 2,000 feet of tough climbing ahead of him. Traversing the mountainside, he began to weaken—and panic—the vast wilderness swallowing up his feeble yells.
“Voices crying in the wilderness” aren’t usually popular, well received or accepted by the masses.
John the Baptist was a “voice crying in the wilderness.” And while he drew crowds, he must have felt very alone at times. As he sought to speak God’s words, he faced a sheer mountain of obstinate religious prejudice, apathy, and entrenched bureaucracy.
It’s interesting that, when speaking of John, all four Gospel writers pick up on Isaiah’s poignant word picture of a solitary “voice crying in the wilderness.”
In the first two verses of Luke 3, Dr. Luke brushes by six levels of entrenched power, influence, and wealth to get to his essential point: “The word of God came to John, the son of Zacharias, in the wilderness.”
The man we met that evening in the mountains had been crying out. Had we not been present and paying attention, we might have missed it. Thank God we paid heed to that solitary voice in the mountain twilight. We strained our ears, listened carefully, and moved down a mountainside to hear the man’s words.
There are people in our nation right now straining to hear the truth: God’s truth called Jesus, the Word.
God will bypass the seats of political, religious, and cultural power to deposit his Word in the hearts of his faithful servants. These are men and women who will justly, compassionately, and humbly handle his gospel message, proclaiming it even when they feel alone, unheard, and little esteemed. Even when their voice seems to be swallowed up the darkness.
As God’s man, John knew who he was and why he was sent. His sole task — his reason for being on Earth — was to cultivate the soil of human hearts for the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, and his kingdom.
Luke tells us in verse 6 the triumphant end game for kingdom people. “And then all people will see the salvation sent from God.”
The wilderness hasn’t swallowed up the message after all. There are those who hear, heed, and respond.
It’s way too early to give up.