Thursday, February 02, 2017

One Touch Away

We live in a day of distraction, when every tiny, struggling spiritual impulse in our hearts and heads has to hack its way through a jungle of psychic noise just to hear the still, small voice of God. Difficult, I know. But there’s tremendous reward for the effort.

And, hey, few people today have to travel for days just to hear the word of God.

Others throughout history have had a much harder time of it. For us, the truth is one touch away.

Not Quite Air Conditioned Comfort

The book of Kings tells us:
“Now when the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the Lord, she came to test him with hard questions.”
There is some scholarly debate about the precise location of Sheba, but the queen may have traveled as much as 1,500 miles to meet King Solomon and to get her questions answered. The Gospels refer to her as the “Queen of the South” and say she came from the “ends of the earth”, so this estimate may not be too far off. That’s dedication. And while she may have arrived in Jerusalem in a caravan, it was definitely not a Dodge Caravan. We can be sure this was not an easy trip, or a decision she made lightly.

The all-important phrase “concerning the name of the Lord” appears in Kings but not in the parallel Chronicles account. And there’s absolutely a difference. To be entranced by the “fame of Solomon” is mere garden-variety fandom; to be drawn from far away by the “fame of Solomon concerning the name of the Lord” is something else entirely.

The Search for Objective Reality

I think we are intended to understand that the queen of Sheba’s lengthy trip was prompted primarily by the desire to have the religion of Yahweh clearly explained, and she perceived that Solomon’s reputation was a direct consequence of his inextricable link with Yahweh.

This is the essence of testimony. A life is transformed in such a way that God is unambiguously evident in it.

The queen was hungry for truth. What exactly was she looking for? Well, it was the precise opposite of a sign. When the scribes and Pharisees asked for a sign, Matthew records that the Lord Jesus called them “evil and adulterous”. He then tells them by way of contrast that the queen of the South … came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon. She wasn’t looking for pyrotechnics; she wanted understanding. Thus, he says, she will “rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it”, presumably for being lying hypocrites who cared nothing about objective reality when they had the ultimate fountain of truth standing right in front of their eyes. Luke has the Lord saying something similar to the increasing crowds whose interest was in miracles and drama rather than the content of his teaching.

Pertinent Wisdom at the Drop of a Hat

So she tested the king with “hard questions”. And Solomon answered every one:
“There was nothing hidden from the king that he could not explain to her.”
That’s impressive. I have lots of spiritual questions, but not a lot of commentaries on my shelves. Why? Because almost invariably the particular question on my mind has never occurred to John Piper, or William MacDonald, or Matthew Henry. They answer bucketloads of questions in their books, and good for them, but NEVER the ones I’m looking to get answered. To have someone dispense pertinent godly wisdom at the drop of a hat is a rare privilege indeed, and definitely worth the trip.

A Vanishing Commodity

Your elders will not be able to do that. I sure can’t. But boy, I wish someone would ask me, because I would definitely try. The hunger for truth is a vanishing commodity in our age, and those of us God has equipped to teach his word need to be alert for any genuine curiosity about the scripture in those around us, and further, prepared to provoke and stimulate that curiosity wherever possible.

People will always get excited about the miraculous, but miracles don’t save. If we are to be known at all in the world, like Solomon, our fame ought to be “concerning the name of the Lord”. After all:
“There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
At the judgment, the Queen of the South will rise up and condemn the generation of Jews that preferred signs and wonders to the incarnate Wisdom of God. I suspect she might have a word or two to say about those of us who have the entire revelation of God only one touch of our keyboards away … and time after time opted for the mindless distractions of the Internet.

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