John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt around his waist. His food was locusts and wild honey. Matthew 3:4
When I was a kid, there was a craze for all things natural, wholesome, and pioneering. Grizzly Adams, Ewell Gibbons, Across the Great Divide and The Wilderness Family, Jeremiah Johnson, The Waltons, Little House on the Prairie, and exotic health foods: there were countless movies, ads, and TV shows extolling modern America to return to simpler times. Nostalgia claimed things were simpler, less complex “back then,” and we could live longer, more fulfilling lives by living simpler, eating simpler, being simpler. As Waylon and Willie said, “maybe it’s time we got back to the basics.”
Without ever going to Luckenbach, Texas, John the Baptist did that, long before Waylon, Willie, or the Waltons. He lived in the desert, probably sleeping on rocks and in caves, and he probably owned few possessions. He foraged for food, eating insects and honey; Ewell Gibbons didn’t do that. And he wore clothes made of unrefined leather; Jeremiah Johnson may have been a trapper who wore leather, but he at least scraped off the hair. As for the Wilderness Family, whatever.
Moreover, like the previous verses, Matthew describes John’s attire (clothes made of camel’s hair) to align him with Elijah, who also wore clothes that had animal hair on them (see 2 Kings 1). This was to establish John’s bona fides as the inheritor of Ellijah’s mission to herald the Messiah. As for locusts and wild honey, let’s just say I’d prefer to eat only one of those (no matter what the WEF wants for us). Maybe Grizzly Adams ate them. He could share them with Laura Ingalls.
No matter, this eccentric man was indeed the herald of Christ, preparing unbelievers for the time when they would see Jesus the Messiah in person. Jesus would be God, would be Immanuel, meaning “God with us.” He would be the one who would usher in the new age which, when you boiled away sin, would return people to simpler times. We could be people who would personally know God once again, like Adam and Eve had known Him. Not even the Waltons did that.
But they could. So could we. So could we by heeding John’s call to repent and be baptized. To turn away from sin and follow Jesus instead. To let Jesus chip away at our sinful exteriors and release the believer within who could then help lead others to Him as well. To put off “modern” crazes that were really just window dressings on a grave. To rely on God for everything: the healthiest food of all. At its core, this is the essence of getting back to the basic, simpler life back then.
For more reading: Leviticus 11:22, 2 Kings 1:8, Matthew 3:5
Lord, teach me to live simply by following You alone, to rely on You for all my needs and feeds.