Pulpit and Pew
An Evil Generation?
by Robert W. Christman
When the crowds were increasing, he began to say, “This generation is an evil generation. It seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah. For as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so will the Son of Man be to this generation. The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with the men of this generation and condemn them, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here. The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.” Luke 11:29-32
An evil generation? The criticism is bruising. But Jesus’ words were not meant to wound, but to draw people out of their murky unbelief into God’s clear and marvelous light. For this reason the Savior made use of comparisons. Good comparisons take the truth by the hand and walk it into the deeper recesses of the soul.
He compared the people to the queen of Sheba and to the citizens of the storied city of Nineveh. He also compared himself to Solomon, an ancient king, and to Jonah, an ancient prophet. While he did not suffer from the comparisons, those to whom he was preaching did. Severely rebuked, they should have been ashamed of themselves. Change your ways, you people! (Let us all change our ways.)
At his final Passover celebration, Jesus said that the Holy Spirit would “convict the world of sin, because they believe not on me.” Unbelief is the soul of sin, and sin the substance of evil. Though the “generation” was standing in the presence of the Alpha and Omega of faith, they were not being converted, and this made them evil. Earlier in the chapter he spoke to his disciples and told them that in spite of their ability to give good gifts to their children, they were evil. Everyone is. Thus, every contact with Jesus calls for conversion, which we usually call repentance.
Opting for religious unbelief (the worst kind), the Lord’s countrymen concealed their sin under the plausible inference that he was not making a convincing case for himself. All he would have had to have done was show them a sign from heaven. One such sign, said they, and they would be happy to believe. (On Calvary they would have settled for his descent from the cross.)
Though such an argument seems reasonable and always has, we can and we must refute it. Jesus is not to blame. He was obeying to the letter him who “desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” God sent him from his bosom to realize this great desire. When at two points in his career he graded his Son, he gave him perfect marks. He said, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.” The problem does not lie with the Son, or with the Father, but with us. (1 Timothy 2:4, John 1:4, and Luke 3:22)
We must add that there is also a role in this for the Third Person of the Trinity. With the Son of God serving his Father, the Spirit of God declares him the Redeemer. In doing so, he functions as our supreme Helper, who meets the Adversary with holiness. As Sanctifier, he stands up to the evil within us as no one else can. He refutes lies with truth, and by the same truth and at the same time he provides fresh ears that are capable of catching the truth and assimilating it. Since this is the core of our text, we do well to relearn these matters from Luke’s introduction to our text.
Introduction to the Text
In the first 13 verses of our chapter (Luke 11) we find Jesus, at their request, teaching the disciples to pray. He starts by telling them the things they should ask for. He also gives them fine, succinct words they may want to use in framing their petitions. Indeed, he gives them the Lord’s Prayer. From there he goes on to encourage them to pray sincerely and positively. They should pray with the confidence of someone approaching his neighbor in the middle of the night and asking for bread, simply
because he has to have it: a guest had just arrived at his door. And last of all, he leads them to understand that whatever their needs, even if they amount to no more than daily bread, their praying is always in quest of the Holy Ghost. As the Lord and Giver of Life, the Spirit of God is the summation of all good things, and for that reason is the essence of true prayer. This is how he puts it:
“If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!” (Luke 11:13)
But prayer for the Holy Spirit happens when one prays in the Spirit. Powered by the Holy Spirit, prayer cries out for the ultimate at the same time as it secures and benefits from the ultimate. A person is crying passionately for God’s kingdom to come, that he may not perish; and for his will to be done, that he may dwell with God forever. He prays because he must be saved. As he prays, he tastes both damnation by merit and salvation by grace. Thus his prayer spans the infinite chasm between Lazarus and Dives, heaven and hell. The need could not be greater, and the blessing cannot be surpassed. Sometimes the need predominates, as in the case in Nineveh; sometimes the blessing is more prominent, as with the queen of the South in Solomon’s court. But invariably both the push and the pull play a part, and none of this happens without God’s Spirit, who deals in the deep things of God and man. The next verses unfold this truth. In them Jesus exposes the folly of stifling the Spirit in support of pious pretexts.
The scene opens with Jesus casting out a demon. While possessed, the poor fellow had been unable to speak. After the exorcism, he spoke, and everyone marveled. But soon an ill wind began to stir. Somebody thought it clever to assert that Jesus was wielding a power he had received from Beelzebul, the prince of the demons. At first probably only a few gave the idea any credence. But the idea persisted. Before long many people were struggling with the dark idea, and the positive impression of the miracle lost much ground.
At some point people started pressing Jesus for a decisive sign from heaven. But Jesus did not yield to their pressure. Rather, in accord with the grace of his heavenly mission, in his own way, he addressed the matter thoroughly.
Speaking calmly and rationally, He explained that with their slander they were saying that the devil’s kingdom was self-destructing. In and of itself this may be an attractive thought. The problem was that it amounted to a rejection of all that Scripture teaches from Genesis to Malachi. God’s word holds that the victory over Satan would be the Lord’s victory. David’s Lord-and-son, the Messiah, was to sit at God’s right hand until he shall have turned his enemies into his footstool. Salvation is of the Lord.
He also said that with their accusation they were cursing their own sons, for they (the 72, for example, whom Jesus had empowered and sent out) were doing the same thing. In the end their sons would be their judges. (Jesus never took his eye off the end judgment, and does not want anyone else to either.)
The only other possibility, he told the people, was that he was casting out demons by the finger of God, that is, by the Holy Spirit. Supplied by the Father with the fullness of the Spirit, he had taken the field as the only one stronger than the Evil One, and now he was clearly winning. For everyone else this left only two positions: they could stand with him or stand against him; there was no middle ground. Whoever was not on his side helping him gather people into the kingdom of God, was opposing him by scattering people in Satan’s dry and empty darkness.
These were powerful claims. But he had more to say.
When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it passes through waterless places seeking rest, and finding none it says, “I will return to my home from which I came.” And when it comes, it finds the house swept and put in order. Then it goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than itself, and they enter and dwell there. And the last state of that person is worse than the first. (Luke 11:24-26)
He is talking about “this generation,” the lost sheep of the house of Israel. They had been God’s chosen people for the past a millennium and a half, from the time of their incorporation as a people. In possession of the Word of prophecy anticipating the Christ, they were able in a very real sense to show the devil the door. This was in contrast to the heathen nations, over whom the Adversary ruled with an iron fist. But now it was time for them to take the next step. In him the kingdom of God was at hand, for he stood among them as sent by the Father and armed with the Holy Spirit. All his words and deeds demonstrated this. Those who were rejecting or ignoring him were doing so to their great peril. The devil loves a vacuum.
Therefore they must not shake off their initial wonder. They must not be afraid of its liveliness and its potential to turn their lives upside down. For the sake of a quiet and comfortable continuation of the past, they must not foolishly stifle the burst of joy they were finding in Jesus Christ. That joy is of the Spirit!
What a dose of truth this was! One woman in the crowd was so moved that she burst into a cry of praise, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed!” But even this pious woman, so tuned to her motherliness, was using words beholden to the flesh rather than the Spirit, and Jesus kindly told her so: “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it.”
Now as then, there is only one true response to God’s gracious visitation. Somehow or other the visited soul must jump at the chance of a lifetime, or risk slipping farther into evil’s clutches. In the message of grace there is always an invitation to come along forever—and the strength to do so! A person feels the transformation of a second birth in which he is both losing and gaining himself. He must not drag his feet or hit the brakes. Asking petulantly for more proof is doing just that. The problem does not lie in the weight of proof, but in the counterweight of his love affair with sin and its atmosphere. Acknowledge God’s finger tapping on your door, dear child of God’s mercy, and in some genuine fashion lift up your voice and cry, “Come in! Come in and stay forever!”
Dismissing the moment, or putting it off for an unspecified time (for you are a responsible person and not used to dashing off in new direction), betrays a fear of being swept off your feet by the Almighty. What will he do with you? Will anything be left of the real you? Have you not functioned well enough as your own best guardian? But this is the devil’s pseudo wisdom, and it turns rapidly into his victory.
Granted, there are false Christs and false religious claims that must be rejected. But the proof does not lie outside the person making those claims, but inside him. Yet, it is commonly assumed that what is internal is vague and disprovable. It needs the support of things external and objective. As plausible as this may seem, the drift of such reasoning is into materialism and in the direction of idolatry. It demeans the Creator, who is Spirit, and extols his creature, who since the loss of his Creator’s image through the Fall is flesh. Only when the seed of the Word is sown, albeit in hearts as hard as beaten paths, does one get even a glimpse of the truth. Immediately the Tempter comes down upon it like a flock of hungry birds and sets about destroying that seed-word, but the grace of God can stand up to him. Yes. “Come Holy Ghost, God and Lord . . . that we Jesus Christ may know aright.”
Part One: Jonah and the Ninevites
When the crowds were increasing, he began to say, “This generation is an evil generation. It seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.”
By the sign of Jonah he meant this:
“For as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so will the Son of Man be to this generation.”
The sign of Jonah had great power because it was a sign of the One who is himself the sign from heaven, Jesus. To see this, we turn to the Book of the Prophet Jonah, a mere four chapters in length. This is how “the Jonah story” begins. (Quotes taken from said Book of Jonah.)
“Now the word of the Lord came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, “Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.”
This was God’s way. But for Jonah, his faithful prophet, it had lost its appeal. (Certainly, all men are sinners!) Jonah knew how, after thundering against sinners, the Lord liked to relent, and he could just see himself playing the fool once again, announcing a doom that would fail to materialize. “How nice it would be” he thought, “to labor in the service of a god who could make a solemn, no-nonsense announcement and then keep his word! A man could represent such a straight-up deity without becoming a laughingstock.” But is it right for one to whom the Lord commits his word to take issue with the very heart of his word?
A hundred and fifty years later the prophet Ezekiel had to have the truth spelled out to him. The Lord told him how it works.
Though I say to the righteous that he shall surely live, yet if he trusts in his righteousness and does injustice, none of his righteous deeds shall be remembered, but in his injustice that he has done he shall die. Again, though I say to the wicked, “You shall surely die,” yet if he turns from his sin and does what is just and right, if the wicked restores the pledge, gives back what he has taken by robbery, and walks in the statutes of life, not doing injustice, he shall surely live; he shall not die. None of the sins that he has committed shall be remembered against him. He has done what is just and right; he shall surely live. (Ezekiel 33:13-16)
From this we learn that God is a God of Resurrection. Two thousand years ago he looked down on one with whom he was wholly pleased. But when he saw him identifying wholly with the sinners, even though it was his idea in the first place that he do so, he turned against him. What a bitter cup for him to swallow down!
But now through faith in him others, evil in thought, word, and deed, sink to their knees before his cross and pray the prayer of faith. At that moment they find themselves eternally thriving. The living one joins the pseudo-living dead, his brothers, and dies a solo death. Then, rising, the dead (living one) lives again, and his (essentially) dead brothers live with him. This is the Resurrection. This is how God’s no becomes yes.
No one ever found this easy to understand, and so we are not entirely surprised that Jonah at first stuck to his guns; he rather hoped the Lord would understand. He packed a bag, slipped down to the sea, and took shipping in the opposite direction from Nineveh, his God-appointed destination.
But the Lord was not minded to accept his sour unbelief, and Jonah, we sense, was not wholly surprised. When a fierce storm arose on the sea, and the sailors (with the help of God) pinpointed Jonah as the culprit, he neither denied it nor complained about what it clearly meant for him. With resignation that looks to us very much like depression, he told the crew to throw him into the sea: this would solve the problem. Once he was swaying about face down in the sea like a clump of seaweed, God would be satisfied, the sea would quiet down, and the mariners would sail safely to their destination.
But Jonah’s certain death by drowning did not occur. What he thought would be his tomb turned out to be a very unpleasant reprieve. The Lord, who had just been using wind and wave like hand tools, now with the same ease prepared a great fish to swallow him whole and quarter him in its stomach.
Jonah’s almost unimaginable ordeal in that churning, sour chamber (thank God for the air bubbles!) ended when the Lord heard his prayer and answered it by having the fish spew him up onto shore. Still alive and only a little the worse for wear, Jonah had a new appreciation of the Lord’s willingness to change his mind. Soon he was obediently marching off to Nineveh to declare this word of God:
“Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”
And this was the result:
The people of Nineveh believed God. They called for a fast and put on sackcloth, from the greatest of them to the least of them.
Even the (heathen) king got on board. We find him exercising his royal authority in this remarkable way:
He arose from his throne, removed his robe, covered himself with sackcloth, and sat in ashes.
From that undignified position he then called on everyone to join him in a demonstration of true repentance. Above all, he told the people,
“Let everyone turn from his evil way and from the violence that is in his hands. Who knows? God may turn and relent and turn from his fierce anger, so that we may not perish.”
And that is what happened.
When God saw what they did, how they turned from their evil way, God relented of the disaster that he had said he would do to them, and he did not do it.
How could this have happened? But it did. Let’s think about it. Can anyone imagine Jonah preaching doom to the great city without being aware on some level of the doom he had just experienced? Surely the Lord with the back of his hand had gotten his attention, and surely the power of his judgment had not yet dissipated. In taking up the words that God gave him for Nineveh, since he was not a robot (as one can so easily become), his mind fixed on God in a new, striking way. What he now grasped (even though at the end of his book he had to have it explained once again) gave his preaching a vibrancy unlike anything he had ever known. It was gilded with a new perspective. It was truth in its glory. He had been confined in virtual hell for three days and three nights. Then in answer to the unceasing prayers with which he was still able to assail heaven, he had been set free. Through this the Lord had put his stamp on him.
Every true preacher, and Jonah was that, preaches the Word of God in accord with his own experience, which he understands in accord with the Word of God, thanks to the Spirit of God. He may or he may not mention his personal experiences in the pulpit, but they always play a part. They color his message.
We might add that we have no right to take the Bible’s summary of what Jonah announced as literally all that he said. He preached God’s displeasure and impatience. Not right then, but in forty days the city would be destroyed. Why the wait? Surely, his ministry suggested that the forty-day period was a reprieve and a glimmer of hope. His bearing, as he stood before the people, suggested an acquaintance with more than judgment. How could he hide it from people whose alertness he was standing there sharpening? Jonah could preach fire and brimstone, but not pure fire and brimstone.
This understanding of his work is reinforced by Jonah’s prayer, which takes up the second of the four chapters of his Book. Listen to it carefully; and doing so, notice that it is not so much Jonah’s prayer you are hearing as a summary of his prayer. It is what he prayed for three days, summarized now as an utterly truthful work of art. He presents it as a recollection, worn smooth and polished by passionate repetition.
Then Jonah prayed to the Lord his God from the
belly of the fish, saying,
I called out to the Lord, out of my distress,
and he answered me;
out of the belly of Sheol I cried,
and you heard my voice.
For you cast me into the deep,
into the heart of the seas,
and the flood surrounded me;
all your waves and your billows
passed over me.
Then I said, “I am driven away
from your sight;
yet I shall again look
upon your holy temple.”
The waters closed in over me to
take my life;
the deep surrounded me;
weeds were wrapped about my head
at the roots of the mountains.
I went down to the land
whose bars closed upon me forever;
yet you brought up my life from the pit,
O Lord my God.
When my life was fainting away,
I remembered the Lord,
and my prayer came to you,
into your holy temple.
Those who pay regard to vain idols
forsake their hope of steadfast love.
But I with the voice of thanksgiving
will sacrifice to you;
what I have vowed I will pay.
Salvation belongs to the Lord!
Here we have the Old Testament foreshadowing the New, a prophecy of Christ. That is the way Jesus understood it. He said: “For as Jonah became a sign to the people of Nineveh, so will the Son of Man be to this generation.” We ask, “What preaching, other than something like this that foreshadows God’s death-and-resurrection salvation in his Son, could have pressed the grace of God so effectively to a city like Nineveh?”
From the depths the penitent people appealed to God for the grace they felt was not in an absolute way being denied them. Their small but real faith turned Jonah’s declaration into God’s appeal! Long before its strains wafted over Bethlehem’s fields, they could hear in the distance, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will to men.” By this fundamental truth, that God loved their worldly city, the city was saved. The Gospel elixir had washed over their souls; they had tasted and seen that the Lord is good. A faint taste was enough. No one quibbled. No one called for a sign from heaven.
Part Two: Solomon and the queen of Sheba
From Nineveh and the prophet Jonah the Lord Jesus turns to the queen of the South and the great son of David, Solomon, king of Israel. The queen heard bits and pieces of the king’s unsurpassed wisdom, which was making him famous far and wide. She understood it to be “concerning the name of the Lord.” Moved
by the power inherent in it, she too felt no need for a sign from heaven. She was enthralled by it and resolved to learn more first hand. As a thinker, she had many deep questions.
So, like the people of Nineveh, the queen set everyone a good example. Nothing could keep her from the pursuit of a wisdom that stands up to sin. Its answers, she was convinced, were the kind that can overcome the power of the devil, and at the same time be breathtakingly beautiful. Like the Ninevites, she prayed and was heard. Like theirs, her prayers rose out of a slight but adequate provision of God’s Word. Her sensitive ear heard the tapping of God’s Finger, and hearing it, she ran to unbolt the door.
She demanded no proof, because what she heard told her that she had found something genuine. It would have been different if her intentions had been to promote national pride or elevate her royal profile at home or abroad. By the grace of God, the Word reached her heart, and she heard the bells of heaven. She told Solomon that she came to lay claim on a wisdom that seemed too good to be true. From just his table crumbs, she knew she must come and see him.
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. She came to Jerusalem with a very great retinue, with camels bearing spices and very much gold and precious stones. And when she came to Solomon, she told him all that was on her mind. And Solomon answered all her questions; there was nothing hidden from the king that he could not explain to her.
And when the queen of Sheba had seen all the wisdom of Solomon, the house that he had built, the food of his table, the seating of his officials, and the attendance of his servants, their clothing, his cup-bearers, and his burnt offerings that he offered at the house of the Lord, there was no more breath in her.
And she said to the king, “The report was true that I heard in my own land of your words and of your wisdom, but I did not believe the reports until I came and my own eyes had seen it. And,
behold, the half was not told me. Your wisdom and prosperity surpass the report that I heard. Happy are your men! Happy are your servants, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom! Blessed be the Lord your God, who has delighted in you and set you on the throne of Israel! Because the Lord loved Israel forever, he has made you king, that you may execute justice and righteousness.” (1 Kings 10:1-9)
Solomon, David’s son and royal successor, was indeed graced with exceptional wisdom. But of Jesus Christ, the son and successor whom David called his Lord, it was said, “Grace is poured upon your lips.” (Psalm 45:2) God gave him the Spirit without measure. (John 43:34) When he taught, even more so than John the Baptist—and Solomon—he taught “as one having authority, and not as the scribes.” He knew everything, as Peter rightly said on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. (Matthew 7:29 and John 21:17)
Compare the words of Solomon in these successive verses (chosen quite at random) from Proverbs 21:24 to 22:2 with the teachings of Jesus in the Gospels. See the similarity and the difference.
Solomon: “Scoffer” is the name of the arrogant, haughty man who acts with arrogant pride. The desire of the sluggard kills him, for his hands refuse to labor.
Jesus was dealing with scoffers and spiritual sluggards all along; our text is a fine example of how he taught them.
Solomon: All the day long he craves and craves, but the righteous gives and does not hold back.
Jesus said that it is better to give than to receive, and told the meek that they will inherit the earth.
Solomon: The sacrifice of the wicked is an abomination; how much more when he brings it with an evil intent.
Jesus: “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you tithe mint and dill and cumin, and have neglected the weightier matters of the law.”
Solomon: A false witness will perish, but the word of a man who hears will endure.
Jesus: While Judas, repeatedly warned by Jesus, was perishing by his own hand, the Lord was instructing a thief hanging next to him who had suddenly shown that he had ears to hear: “Today you shall be with me in paradise.”
Solomon: The wicked man puts on a bold face, but the upright gives thought to his ways.
Jesus to brazen Judas: “Betrayest thou the Son of man with a kiss?” To Peter he gave only a look, but it was enough to bring to his memory what had been said earlier, give him a good look into his soul, and move him to repent with bitter tears.
Solomon: No wisdom, no understanding, no counsel can avail against the Lord.
Jesus taught Pilate the truth, when the governor was trying to figure out how to release him, though the Lord God Almighty willed him to suffer and die. He told him that he should not put so much stock in his power to crucify or release, since he would not have any such power were it not given him from above.
Solomon: The horse is made ready for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the Lord.
Jesus taught this by the mount he chose for his messianic entry into Jerusalem. As it had been prophesied, he rode a beast of burden, a donkey’s foal. It was like David’s choice to take on Goliath with only a sling and a stone.
Solomon: A good name is to be chosen rather than great riches, and favor is better than silver or gold.
Jesus said that the man is a fool, who tears down his barns, builds bigger ones, and stuffs them to the rafters with his wealth, but is not rich toward God.
Solomon: The rich and the poor meet together; the Lord is the maker of them all.
Jesus told of Lazarus and Dives meeting together in life and again in the afterlife, where it became clear that the one did not have an indelible worthiness that surpassed that of the other, for God is no respecter of persons. (Proverbs 21:21:24 -22:2 and various New Testament sites)
Solomon modeled Jesus, the greater Son of David. Already by his wealth he appeared before the queen as a man who stood in God’s favor. Jesus revealed the same about himself with his prodigious healing of the ill, even raising of the dead. Both the wealth and the healing were beneficial signs that people could elevate too high. But they were not demanded, but mercifully granted in a concession to human weakness. The queen understood this, and used them properly to reinforce her convictions, the way believers also used the Savior’s miracles.
And what an understanding God gave her! The Lord, she declared, made Solomon king because he loved Israel forever. Peter had a similar understanding of Jesus.
As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all), you yourselves know what happened throughout all Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John proclaimed: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with him. (Acts 10:36-38)
But if Solomon’s wealth corresponds to Jesus’ healing powers, it remains Solomon’s wisdom—down to earth and at the same time heavenly—that very properly made the great impression on the queen of the South. She saw immediately that his was more than mental agility. The king was supplying the truth and grace of God that her heart craved. She realized that he was drawing from God’s attributes, as he executed “justice and righteousness.” These two nouns, justice and righteousness, perfectly characterize Jesus.
This made his attributes, all of them, greater than those of any mortal. Was there ever a question put to Jesus that he could not answer? Has anyone ever matched the depth of his replies? Over and over again he answered questions according to the true meaning hidden behind what had been expressed.
Solomon prefigured the Christ of the Sermon on the Mount. This is not unimportant. The apostles were sent out to baptize in the name of the Father and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Jonah), and to “teach [people] to observe all that I have commanded you” (Solomon). In the church of God, forgiveness and instruction are bound together. They rely on one another. [Matthew 28:20]
Solomon was a man of peace; Jesus is the Prince of Peace. Solomon spoke many proverbs; Jesus spoke many more. For three years he cast his teaching in proverbs, as he told the disciples at the end of his ministry in the upper room. Yet, his proverbs were only provisional. His purpose was to announce the things of God plainly, and his resurrection was that plain speech. He instructed the Emmaus disciples, and a few hours later he taught the other disciples in the locked room.
It happened as he had said a few nights earlier:
These things have I spoken unto you in proverbs; but the time cometh when I shall no more speak unto you in proverbs, but I shall show you plainly of the Father. At that day ye shall ask in my name: and I say not unto you, that I will pray the Father for you: for the Father himself loveth you, because ye have loved me, and have believed that I came out from God. I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world: again, I leave the world, and go to the Father. (John 16:25-28 KJV)
This is the truth that moved the Ninevites, the queen of the South, and many others through history. Their number on earth has always been small, but when it comes time to add them up, they will constitute a host that no man can number. They will fill the Father’s banquet hall, and not one of their 144,000 will be missing. They need no sign from heaven. A request for one strikes them as a disparagement of what they have so wonderfully received. They have all they need in the love of Jesus, the words of the prophets and evangelists, and the good offices of the Holy Spirit.
Finger of God, when like a sword
Is lifted high the saving word,
My soul with deep excitement fill;
Where evil was your joy instill.
Lord, hear our prayer. Amen.
(Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.)