The other evening, we had our first small group meeting in our new home. There were people from all walks of life and from many different places. We had 13 people in our group, all sitting in a circle in our living room.
In an attempt to acquaint ourselves more closely with each other, we asked a question that was designed to break the ice, but in essence also told us a great deal about each of the people in the room.
The question? “Who is the most famous person you have ever met? Tell us about the occasion of your meeting that person.”
The responses were intriguing, to say the least. They ranged from Barack Obama to Ronald Reagan to Raymond Burr to Howard Stern! Oh, and one fellow did mention that he had sat on the platform with Billy Graham at one of his crusades some years ago. It was very entertaining to hear the stories of those encounters.
These stories reminded me of the answers I received often when asking groups if any of them had ever been to the Oval Office – yes, the Oval Office in the White House. My point in asking this question is that is one place that not many people get to go or have ever been.
Most of the time, the answer is “No!”, but in recent years there have been some who have raised their hands in the affirmative response. In fact, one fellow even admitted to having been invited there on two separate occasions!
All of that aside, after the group meeting was over and as we were talking over refreshments, one of the men came up to me and related a very powerful story of one of his college encounters with his college president. The college was Wheaton College in Illinois. The president of the college was Dr. V. Raymond Edman. My new friend told me about the very last chapel message given by Dr. Edman there.
It was required that all student attend chapel every day during the week. Dr. Edman regularly spoke in chapel, but especially during the first week of class, so that he could “initiate” the new incoming students to life on the Christian college campus.
On September 22, 1967, Dr. Edman was speaking on the topic of “The Presence of the King.” As he began that message, he described the experience of meeting the Emperor of Ethiopia, His Majesty Haile Selassie. Doctor Edman explained in detail the court protocol that was followed as he and one of the members of the Board of Wheaton College entered the throne room of the emperor.
He said that after they were cleared to enter the palace, they were ushered into a waiting room where they remained until their names were called to enter the throne room. Once his name was called, he entered the long throne room and bowed as he stood there just inside the doorway. The Emperor, sitting on his throne at the other end of the room, had the option of admitting the individual or rejecting his admission. In this case, the Emperor nodded his approval, and Dr. Edman slowly and humbly approached the throne, stopping about halfway into the room for another appraisal.
In most cases, the Emperor would remain on his throne and either nod his approval or invite the guest to leave his presence. In Dr. Edman’s case, the Emperor arose and came forward to meet him. He then motioned for the college president to take a seat to his right.
The same procedure was followed for the Wheaton College Board member, and he took a seat to the Emperor’s left. The Prime Minister of Ethiopia sat between these men and then translated for both.
As he was relating this story to his students in chapel that day, Dr. Edman compared his entrance into the court of the emperor with the students’ entrance into the presence of Jesus Christ. His comparison was significant. To come into the presence of an earthly king is one thing; but to come into the presence of the King of Kings and the Lord of Lords is quite another.
If we must go through all the intricate measures just described to enter into the presence of Haile Selassie and we eagerly do so in anticipation of the honor it would be, how much more should we prepare to approach coming before the presence of Christ the King? He described how the Bible says the one who would enter the throne room of the King of Kings should “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10).
He continued to urge the students to be quiet and quiet their minds and hearts in preparation to hear what God has to say.
My friend who was in the chapel that day related that just as Dr. Edman was making that point, he suddenly stopped speaking, stepped back from the pulpit, and fell to the floor, dying on the spot.
Dr. Billy Graham, just a few days later in the memorial service for Dr. Edman, remarked that V. Raymond Edman had moved into the presence of the King just as he was speaking about “The Presence of the King.”
My friends, as you think about the famous (or not-so-famous!) people you may know or have encountered, I wonder, how did you approach them? Did you approach them in pride and arrogance? Or with humility, honor, and admiration? But the better question is simply this: How do you approach the King of Kings?
Chuck Tabor is a regular columnist for the Times-Gazette and News Journal. He is also the former Pastor of Port William UMC, Port William.