They were still living in the land promised to them at the time of Abraham, a place abandoned during a time of need, then, after a long exodus, a place to which they had returned. A place that they had once more lost and to where they had been able to return. They are there in that place, but they are ruled by the Romans, a people who held no allegiance to the Lord of the Jews.
Luke makes this specific. He names the emperor, the governor, and the Jewish accomodators and the priests.
God has not forgotten them nor abandoned them.
The word of God comes to a prophet in the wilderness.
Who's in charge of your life? Whose presence in your life governs the decisions you make?
Important powerful people are listed in verses 1 and 2. Yet, the word of God came not to them but to John, a priest's son (Luke 1:5-25, 39-45, 57-80).
Rather than begin his work by going to any of these powerful people or the people around them, John, like Moses and like Isaiah, whose words he quotes, goes into the wilderness to speak.
John calls for a baptism of repentance. Isaiah, in speaking out against the wickedness of Judah, had called upon them to "Wash yourselves; make yourselves clean; remove the evil of your doings from before my eyes; cease to do evil, learn to do good; seek justice, rescue the oppressed, defend the orphan, plead for the widow" (1:16-17).
Jerusalem in John's time would have had evil, injustice, oppression, and many people who needed financial help. He was calling his listeners to repent--to change their ways.
John also specifically includes Isaiah's prophecy that all people are included in the promise of salvation (Luke 3:6; Isaiah 40:5).