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Turning Down the Greatest Opportunity Ever

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey
The Truth Network Radio
August 29, 2023 12:00 am

Turning Down the Greatest Opportunity Ever

Wisdom for the Heart / Dr. Stephen Davey

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August 29, 2023 12:00 am

Listen to the full-length version or read the manuscript for this message here:   Stephen unpacks a powerful passage in Luke 11 as Jesus rebukes those in the crowd who demand further signs and miracles to convince them of who He was. Their unbelief was less about having doubts and more about being disobedient . . . something that we can certainly relate to in our current cultural climate!


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So she travels more than 1,500 miles. 1 Kings chapter 10 verse 1 tells us that she came to test him with hard questions. And I don't want to miss the connection here because that's exactly what the Jewish leaders have been doing to Jesus, testing him with hard questions. Oh, but he is the wiser king. He never failed to obey the will of his father. He never became distracted by wealth or the offering of wealth or the world. His kingdom is not temporary.

It is eternal. He is the greatest king. Like Gideon with the fleece and like Moses with his staff. The Bible is filled with people asking God for a sign of his power. And that's exactly what the Israelites asked of Jesus during his ministry on earth. They had seen him feed the hungry, heal the sick, and even raise the dead, but that wasn't enough. They asked for a sign. Rather than give them what they wanted, Jesus pointed the Israelites to two Gentile witnesses who testified to God's glory.

When we want a sign from God today, those same witnesses will challenge us. Stephen called this message, turning down the greatest opportunity ever. In the mid 1970s, a young engineer named Steve Sasson invented the world's first digital camera. Once he invented it, he believed the possibilities were endless. So he secured a patent for it on behalf of his company and he pitched it to his supervisors, ultimately the board of directors. They rejected his business model based on this new invention. They rejected his idea and they turned the opportunity down. Frankly, they, um, they weren't impressed. In fact, they thought that the title digital anything was odd. Of course, today, digital cameras are standard. If you're old enough, you can remember, you know, the little cardboard boxes that came preloaded.

Any of you old enough to, yeah, if you, you took pictures, you know, they're, they're a little fuzzy, a little foggy, but then you took him to the pharmacy where they took two months to lose them. Steve Sasson's company that had turned down his idea was called Kodak. Just a few years ago, they emerged from bankruptcy for the most part.

Today they produce batteries for electric vehicles. They missed a great opportunity. McDonald's decided to sell off a little side restaurant. It's growing, but wasn't deemed important for their business plan.

It wasn't worth the investment. So they sold a little sidebar company off. It was called Chipotle. How many of you here have had your share of heartburn from Chipotle?

Last year, the revenue was $7 billion. I imagine the heartburn at McDonald's corporate headquarters over that. That's one thing for a corporation, you know, to miss a great opportunity and lose the money, lose a lot of money happens on the individual side as well. I came across this article recently about Sean Connery, the British actor who died a few years ago. He turned down the role of Gandalf in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. He said he read the book, he read the script, but he didn't understand it. He wasn't impressed.

They persisted. They promised him $30 million for just taking the role and he resisted. Then they offered him 15% of whatever the box office take would be, which now is half a billion. He turned down a great opportunity.

You know, it's one thing to turn down a great opportunity and lose a lot of money. It's another thing to turn down a great opportunity and lose eternity, a decision of eternal significance. That's exactly what's happening in the gospel by Luke. The multitudes are packing to hear the Lord. If you'll go back with me to chapter 11 as we work our way through this gospel account, we're now at verse 29 where the crowds are gathering, growing. Jesus does something different with a crowd that's increasing. Verse 29, he addresses them, if you'll notice just the first phrase, he says, this generation is an evil generation. How's that for a sermon introduction? You're all a bunch of sinners.

You're evil. It's not how it usually works. The average person that gathers a crowd tries to keep them from going away. Religious leaders stay up at night worrying they might offend somebody. Political leaders stay up at night worrying about being reelected. Not Jesus. He's not running for reelection. He's not handing out ballots. When it comes to public approval, he's not trying to win anything.

In fact, he's delivering a warning that is for this day and time as well. Jesus was not interested in entertaining a crowd. He was interested in offering the greatest opportunity they would ever be given with eternal significance to become his disciples. The trouble is, most of them weren't impressed.

They didn't see it. So he goes on here in verse 29 to say, this generation is an evil generation. It seeks for a sign. You just want another sign. You want another show.

You want some more fireworks. You want to guarantee again that your investment will pay off, which is frankly hard to imagine because by now the Lord's name has become a household name. He's fed multitudes more than they can eat. He's cured lepers, which the rabbi is considered incurable apart from the hand of God. He's interrupted every funeral he attended by raising the dead individual.

How many times do you have to do that before somebody buys in? Thousands of miracles were performed by the Lord. John's Gospel tells us that if everything Jesus did was written down, the world would not be able to contain the volumes.

We have just a little bit of it, just a fraction of it, which means his generation saw much more than we even read about. But still at this point they're saying, oh, we want one more sign. But the Lord says here, I'm not going to give you another sign except the sign of Jonah.

In other words, I'm not going to do something. I'm going to remind you of someone. That's the prophet Jonah, the sign of Jonah. That's your sign.

Now there's a little debate here. Matthew's Gospel focuses on the sign of Jonah representing the resurrection of Jonah, as it were, the belly of the great fish, three days and three nights, suddenly appearing as it were resurrected alive. Matthew focuses on the resurrection as the sign.

So also Jesus will be buried and suddenly appear alive. Luke focuses on a different aspect, which is the preaching of the prophet to the Ninevite nation, the sign within his preaching of their need for repentance and the judgment of God that is coming on the nation. You'll notice in verse 30, for as Jonah became assigned to the people of Nineveh, so will the Son of Man be to this generation.

The clear focus or the tighter context is the nation Israel. Verse 32, the men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it. He's pointing his finger at his audience and saying, they're going to condemn you.

Why? Well, he goes on, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah and behold, something greater than Jonah is here, standing right here. God calls an Israelite prophet to deliver a rather short message of warning and judgment and deliverance to the Ninevite nation.

I'm sure it's familiar to you if you're older in the faith. The Ninevites have been enemies of the Israelites for centuries. The very sound of the word Nineveh would bring terror to the heart of the Israelite. The Ninevite nation was a demon worshiping, perverted, child sacrificing, brutal nation. They bragged of their cruelty toward defeated nations. They boasted of stretching prisoners out with ropes so they could be skinned alive more easily. Archaeological findings in this region found one Ninevite king boasting with these words translated into English, I flayed the skin from nobles. I burned their children. I captured troops alive and dismembered them.

It was their custom to impale their captives on long poles and set them on fire, a practice, by the way, that Nero would adopt centuries later with Christians, impaling them, covering them with tar and lighting them on fire. No wonder Jonah wanted to resign his commission and move to Tarshish, located on the coast of Spain, considered the furthest western part of the known world. He's going to get as far away from Nineveh as he can go.

He's going to live out the rest of his life there. He's essentially said to God, I'm done. No wonder we're told here, Jesus is a greater prophet. Jonah wanted these cruel people to die. Jesus was willing to die a cruel death. Jonah preached for 40 days and wanted to quit. Jesus preached for three years and refused to quit. Jonah hated these vile sinners. Jesus died while we were yet sinning. At the end of his ministry, Jonah said, I did not want you to show them mercy. At the end of Jesus' ministry, he said, Father, forgive them.

They don't know what they're doing. Jonah never shed a tear over Nineveh. Jesus wept over Jerusalem. The greater prophet is standing before them.

But let me tell you, his day of mercy will end. Jesus says as much here to this multitude, I'm going to call to the witness stand on Judgment Day. These Ninevites to testify against you that you had a far greater opportunity to believe than they did. They repented and you would not. By the way, this rings true to this day. Imagine God calling to the witness stand to testify to your condemnation.

A group of converted demon worshipers who could point a finger at you and say, look at all that you had, what little we had and we repented. The Ninevites heard about a 40 second message from Jonah. And I'm convinced Jonah didn't go 41 seconds on purpose. Now this greater prophet has arrived, the Son of God. And Jesus says, how much better the Ninevites were in believing the brief message.

Well, this wasn't exactly what this huge audience expected to hear as they clamored to hear him. In fact, you can just imagine, beloved, the religious leaders, how they would have been infuriated at this moment to hear Jesus saying that these pagan Ninevites are getting into the kingdom and they are not. But the Lord isn't finished defending them.

That's just the first point here. He's the greater prophet. Now he says he's the greater king and he calls to the witness stand another individual to testify against Israel's unbelief. And I believe against everyone who hears the message today. Go to verse 31.

Notice that text. The queen, he says, 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. Jesus is the greater prophet. He is the greater or you could say he is the wiser king. Now, Jesus in this illustration takes his audience back to First Kings, Chapter four, and we're shown that Solomon's wisdom was the gift of God. Verse 29 says, And God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding beyond measure and breadth of mind like the sand of the seashore, so that Solomon's wisdom surpass the wisdom of all the people of the east and all the wisdom of Egypt. Solomon's wisdom exceeded the libraries of the ancient world, so to speak. Undoubtedly gifted by God with a photographic memory and insatiable appetite to read and learn. He never forgot anything. Add to that his wealth to fund his research and expeditions. His paycheck in today's economy would have been around $200 million a year. He was the world's first billionaire and a brilliant one at that. We're told here in verse 32 that Solomon spoke 3000 proverbs.

He composed 1005 songs. First Kings four and verse 33 tells us that Solomon spoke of trees from the cedar that grows in Lebanon to the hyssop that grows out of the wall. That phrase refers to the categorical ranking from ancient days that placed cedar trees at the top level and hyssop at the lowest level. In other words, that's saying that Solomon's knowledge went across the entire botanical range. Verse 33 goes on to record he spoke also of beasts and of birds and of reptiles and of fish. And people of all nations came to hear the wisdom of Solomon.

Solomon, I would agree with one individual who wrote was not only the founder of Hebrew wisdom, but the founder of Hebrew science. It's tragic that Solomon was so gifted by God, so well versed, so brilliant in so many subjects who would eventually fail in life. It's one thing to fail a test in botany or geometry. It's another thing to fail in what matters most in life.

Like the elementary school boy I read about recently was trying rather heroically to pass a science test. He obviously hadn't studied for it. We can all identify.

We're going to bluff. Evidently didn't even listen. One question on the test asked the student to briefly describe the three basic parts of the human body. The answer should have been the head, limbs, and torso.

I know that because I looked it up. But he wrote the three parts of the body are the brainery, the thorax, and the abominable cavity. And he tried to sound scientific by adding the brainery contains the brain. The thorax contains the lungs and other living things. The abominable cavity contains the bowels, of which there are five, A, E, I, O, and U. Well, at least he can spell.

That's good. Solomon would have been a straight A student. You read the record of his life and his observational skills must have been magnificent. He was proficient in natural history, botany, ornithology, engineering, medicine, architecture, music. For a season in his life, perhaps for several decades, dignitaries from around the world longed to come and sit at his feet as he lectured on all of these subjects. Now, Jesus's point here is that at one moment in his reign, you have this one particular event, a rather surprising visitor arrives, the queen of the south.

This is the queen of Shavawy, in English, Sheba, the queen of Sheba. She had heard the reports of his wisdom, but she was skeptical. She doesn't believe it. But she's troubled with some deep questions of life, and maybe he has some answers. So she travels more than 1,500 miles from Ethiopia to Jerusalem to see for herself. And 1 Kings 10, verse 1 tells us that she came to test him with hard questions.

And I don't want to miss the connection here because that's exactly what the Jewish leaders have been doing to Jesus, testing him with hard questions. Oh, but he is the wiser king. He never strayed from the truth. He never failed to obey the will of his father. He never became distracted by wealth or the offering of wealth or the world. His kingdom is not temporary.

It is eternal. He is the greater king. But back in 1 Kings 10, which would have come to the mind of every member of the Lord's audience, she arrives in Jerusalem. We read, she came to Jerusalem with a very great retinue, this caravan, camels bearing spices, gold, precious stones to be given to him as gifts. And when she came to Solomon, she told him all that was on her mind. And Solomon answered all her questions.

Imagine, he 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, there was no more breath in her. She was breathless. 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. Later in that text, her parting words give worship to God. Many Bible scholars have wondered if she is professing faith in the true and living God. Well, according to Jesus's announcement here, there's really no reason to wonder because Jesus tells this massive crowd, primarily composed of Jewish people, that he's going to call two witnesses to the stand at their final judgment, the Ninevites and the queen of Sheba.

They had they had been given an opportunity, the opportunity of a lifetime, and they had seen it and they they accepted it and the Jewish nation was refusing it. What are you doing with that message? No more signs are needed. No more miracles are really needed.

Although he'll perform more. The demon worshiping Ninevites and a pagan queen from the Southlands has turned to God with far less evidence than Jesus has given this multitude and that's primarily his point. By the way, they came to faith in God with so much less evidence than you have been given and I have been given. They had no access to a Bible. You do. They didn't have a record of the Messiah's birth. You do.

They didn't have eyewitness accounts that we have. Jesus says you reject me. There's nothing really more to say.

One author put it this way. You reject all that Jesus has provided and God is effectively reduced to silence. If I could apply this text to the multitude listening to the words of Christ today, the message to the unbeliever would be you don't need a sign. You don't need more evidence. You have plenty. You have his word. You have the greatest prophet. You have the greatest king, the wisest sovereign and I would plead with you today do not reject the opportunity of a lifetime to give your life as an investment to him. The message to the believer is straightforward as well.

It strikes me as a reminder that we don't need a sign either. We have his word. What we need to do is follow what we already know and trust him for what we don't.

Let's obey what we already have learned as we follow him into tomorrow. I close with an illustration of how one decision led to a direction that is still bearing fruit in the life of a believer, a couple of believers to this day. In the last century, it's hard to believe now, 80 years ago, an evangelist was offered the opportunity to take over a popular gospel radio program called Songs in the Night. Since the cost of keeping the program on the air was rather high, he decided to forego some of his own salary to pay the cost for radio time. It didn't seem to make much sense financially, but he had a desire to preach and take every opportunity possible. He then approached a gospel singer and asked him to sing on his program and lead a live on-air choir as well. This musician declined. There were other offers. He had a busy career in front of him.

It would get in the way. It didn't seem to make a lot of sense, but after praying about it and contemplating it more, he agreed temporarily to help put a choir together from church members in the area and sing. And they were then on the air, started small, but their sacrifice, their early decisions changed the course of their lives. This musician said later in his autobiography entitled Then Sings My Soul, and I quote, it was the humble beginning of an unbelievable journey.

The young evangelist was Billy Graham and the soloist was, of course, George Beverly Shay. A couple of decisions entrusting the Lord with eternal dividends. If you're a believer, I invite you not to seek a sign, but to simply follow your shepherd.

Choose to walk with it today. You're listening to Wisdom for the Heart with Stephen Davey. Stephen called today's message, turning down the greatest opportunity ever. Are you interested in receiving occasional text messages and updates from Stephen? He sends a text about once or twice a month to those who want to receive it. All you do is send a text with the word wisdom to 833-676-4051. Do that today, then join us back here next time for more wisdom for the heart. You're listening to Wisdom for the Heart with Stephen Davey. We'll see you next time.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-08-29 01:32:29 / 2023-08-29 01:40:58 / 8

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