They asked him, “Then who are you? Are you Elijah?” He said, “I am not.” “Are you the Prophet?” He answered, “No.” John 1:21
The Pharisees questioned John the Baptist as to who he was. The Pharisees were asking about Elijah because it was prophesied that Elijah would come before the Messiah appeared (Malachi 4:5). Surprisingly John says he’s not Elijah. However later, we find Jesus revealing John the Baptist was indeed, “Elijah” (Matthew 17:11-13). John didn’t know it. Sometimes you can be doing exactly what God wants without even realising it.
Prophesy is best understood in retrospect. Rarely do we understand what God is doing while we’re in the middle of a situation. We’re required to be faithful and trust God with the outcome. Later we can look back and see what God achieved.
It wasn’t long before John found himself languishing in a Roman jail. He had devoted his life to following God’s call and now it all seemed to have gone horribly wrong. He was sitting in jail wondering where he missed God, where he had been mistaken, where it had all gone amiss. John who had been so sure God had told him Jesus was the Messiah sent a message asking if Jesus was the Messiah or should he expect someone else? (Matthew 11:3). John thought the Messiah would rescue him from prison but John discovered God doesn’t always respond the way we expect.
The view from prison created serious doubts in John’s mind. The view from difficult circumstances often creates serious doubts in our minds too. Sometimes we simply have to continue on the path we believe God has told us to take not knowing what the outcome will be, yet having faith that God can be trusted to bring about his purposes.