Ever since Adam, the sinful life has been full of excuses (Gen. 3.12). Sadly, my own still echo with regularity. Recently I came across one sentence from Jesus that rather exploded my status quo and pushed me to more integrity in searching myself and more passion in seeking the Lord. Surprisingly, I need to learn from the “queen of the South.”
The Matthew 12 conversation between Jesus and the religious leaders is not friendly. The leaders are consistently accusing Jesus, conspiring against Jesus, condemning Jesus, and testing Jesus. They certainly do not appreciate Jesus, will not sincerely seek Jesus, and have not the slightest desire to worship Jesus. Towards the end of the back-and-forth, Jesus responds by dropping a bomb of a sentence that would’ve devastated His original hearers and will give us pause as well if we will listen.
Matthew 12.42 The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.
To help our understanding of this sentence let’s consider it in four parts: 1) the judgment, 2) the witnesses, 3) the example, and 4) the value.
1) Jesus promises a judgment day.
Just think about it for a moment. There will be a judgment. The judgment will include a judge who will weigh our lives in His balance according to His standards. Oh, how that should effect and determine our lives now.
2) The judgment day will include witnesses.
According to Jesus, the judgment will include witnesses. And here’s something incredible – the witnesses will come from across the very ages to testify towards a just judgment. The “queen of the South” is the queen of Sheba from 1 Kings 10; she lived centuries before “this generation” with whom Jesus is dealing. And yet Jesus insists that, on that day of judgment, she will testify against them towards a just verdict.
3) The example of others from across the ages will reveal our lack of excuse.
What will she say? She will report of her own honest efforts in comparison to the quality of their own. She had heard of the great, godly wisdom of Solomon, so she put aside every other venture and did everything necessary to find that wisdom. As Jesus said, “she came from the ends of the earth.” She put out some serious effort in the seeking of, presumably, God and His truth. And so the generation in conversation with Jesus will one day be condemned by the example and testimony of the queen of the south. Her great effort to hear from Solomon will reveal the wickedness of their antagonism towards Jesus Christ, who sat, worked, and taught right in front of their faces.
They have no excuses. The judgment will publicly reveal them to have no excuses. As D. A. Carson has written, the judgment will show that “God is just and will be seen to be just.”
4) Jesus is the greatest value and worth every effort.
The greatest point made here is that Jesus is far greater than Solomon. In Matthew 13 Jesus will be described as the great treasure worth selling all, and the great pearl that shames all other pearls. He’s worth taking up a cross. He’s worth everything and more. He is of highest value in every way. It seems that part of what the judgment will do is reveal our estimation of His value.
The queen of the South worked harder for lesser value than “this generation” did for greater. “This generation” had no desire for God as revealed by their disgust in His Son. And that will be clearly revealed as they are condemned.
What does this mean for us, 2,000 years later? It means exactly the same thing that it meant originally. As Jesus said, this test is applied across the ages. We need to know that 1) Jesus is the great value, 2) there will be a judgment day 3) that reveals our estimation of His value, and 4) witnesses from across the ages will testify in a way that deflates all excuses.
This stirs up a few responses in me.
First, I find myself running to the Gospel yet again. I’m ashamed of my lack of valuing Jesus. I’ve never valued Christ enough or sought Him with the vigor He deserves. So I look to find my righteousness from Jesus by faith alone in Jesus. I believe my deeds will be exposed, but that He will stand for me and have me cleared.
Second, because Jesus has taken up my cause and will plead for me on the judgment day, I want to listen to less of my own excuses. I have excuses for why I should not seek Him, obey Him, follow Him. I want to remember that examples from across the ages, in far different circumstances than I, reveal the hollowness of my excuses. Imagine, for example, one of William Tyndale’s friends who died for having an English copy of the Scriptures listening to why we were too tired or busy to read the Bible? Please.
So let’s learn from the queen of the South. Let’s trust in the Gospel and fight off our excuses. There will be a judgment. Christ will stand for His people. Because of that, let’s do our all to be seen to have valued Him above all else.