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Have you ever heard the phrase, “Location, location, location”? It’s a real estate expression meant to highlight the key to success for many thriving businesses. If a store or restaurant has a prominent location with many people passing by, the potential for regular customers is bound to be good. So also, in dealing with His chosen people Israel and the ancient Near Eastern world nearby, the Lord would implement a spiritual form of “location, location, location.”

God’s location was the promised land of Canaan and its well-worn trade routes near the Mediterranean Sea. Due to its unique geography, merchants and traders would pass through the land occupied by the Lord’s covenant people. So would imperial armies looking to do battle with their rivals. Thus, the nation of Israel and the Temple city of Jerusalem were conveniently located for much more than casual contact between pagan Gentiles passing through and the local Jewish worshippers of the one true God.

God’s plan to have believers witness His saving name to unbelievers did not originate with the Great Commission of Matthew 28. That plan was in place long before, but it had a major difference in the Lord’s logistical approach. Instead of sending His witnesses out from Jerusalem to all the world, as Jesus commanded His New Testament Church to do, God had ways of bringing a receptive audience to His Old Testament people right where they lived in Israel, Judah, and Jerusalem.

A striking example is the fame of King Solomon. When God gave Solomon divine wisdom and blessed what he accomplished and the great riches he acquired, word spread around. People talked, and as a result Solomon became famous in the surrounding region for his wealth and especially his wisdom from God. 1 Kings 10 reports that “King Solomon surpassed all the kings of the earth in riches and wisdom. And all the earth sought the presence of Solomon to hear his wisdom, which God had put in his heart.” (verses 23-24) One such inquiring mind was the queen of Sheba, whose interaction with Solomon led her to realize that Solomon’s wisdom and wealth far exceeded the report she had heard. The wisdom he had to share would include the identity of the one true God, His incredible power at work in the history of Israel, and His loving plan to provide a Savior for all people through His covenant people.

Solomon greets the Queen of Sheba - Florentine Relief by Ghiberti
Solomon greets the Queen of Sheba – Florentine Relief by Ghiberti

That kind of news would resonate with an audience familiar with the Lord’s miraculous intervention on behalf of Israel over its enemies. Consider what happened to King Sennacherib and the Assyrian army that he lost overnight in a failed siege at Jerusalem. The Lord eliminated the intruders before the battle even started, and that victory was the answer to King Hezekiah’s prayer in 2 Kings 19:19: “Save us from his hand, so that all the kingdoms of the earth may know that You are the Lord God, You alone.” Once again, a Jewish king became instantly famous for something God did on his behalf, which even led to visitors from Babylon coming to King Hezekiah not long after.

When the Lord allows circumstances to confine His witnesses to one location, He also works to bring a captive audience to His witnesses. According to Acts 28, the world-traveling apostle Paul was sidelined for two years under house arrest, awaiting his trial in Rome. Nevertheless, the imprisoned New Testament missionary would have an Old Testament pattern unfold when the Lord brought to his residence in Rome all the people to whom Paul proclaimed the “Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him.” (Acts 28:31) We too can seek a similar outcome as God brings witnessing opportunities our way and we experience in our own location what the Lord directs and effects in 1 Peter 3:15: “Always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you.”

Steven Sippert is a professor at Immanuel Lutheran College in Eau Claire, Wisconsin.