We common people think fame is a wonderful thing. Some people seek after it. Other people just revere those who achieve it. Even those, though, often think how nice it would be to have fame. Andy Warhol even predicted that in the future everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes. (Oh that some people were only famous that long.)
Being famous is not what is appears. We sometimes think that being famous will get us the best table at the restaurant. We will get invited to all the best (or worst) parties. Everybody will be glad to see us and do anything we ask them to do. How much better would it be in God’s sight if we were famous for our righteousness. After all, Abraham had a nation chosen based solely on his righteousness. David had a promise of an eternal line of kings just because he was a man after God’s own heart. If we were famous for our righteousness what wouldn’t God do for us? Who wouldn’t he save based on our righteousness?
Unfortunately for us, that is not how God works. “And if the righteous scarcely be saved, where shall the ungodly and the sinner appear?” (1 Pet 4:18) Fame for righteousness will barely get us a toe in the front door, and certainly not a corner table. Who are some of the most famous men of the Bible? How about Noah, Moses, Job, Daniel, and Samuel? Would these famous men of the Bible be able to save anyone but themselves? God tells the prophets they could not.
Son of man, when the land sinneth against me by trespassing grievously, then will I stretch out mine hand upon it, and will break the staff of the bread thereof, and will send famine upon it, and will cut off man and beast from it: Though these three men, Noah, Daniel, and Job, were in it, they should deliver but their own souls by their righteousness, saith the Lord GOD. (Ezek 14:13, 20)
Then said the LORD unto me, Though Moses and Samuel stood before me, yet my mind could not be toward this people: cast them out of my sight, and let them go forth.” (Jer 15:1)
These men were famous for righteousness. Some have made a case that Noah was only seen as righteous because of the wickedness around him. (They say that “thee have I seen righteous before me in this generation,” in Genesis 7:1, implies that he would have been run of the mill in any other generation.) Even so, Noah could only save himself and his family. Moses could bring a generation out of Egypt, but could not keep them from dying in the wilderness. Samuel saw his generation leave God and demand a king. While Job is noted for his patience, some would say he is more famous for arguing with God. As righteous as these men were, they could only truly save themselves. As famous as they were, their fame accomplished little.
Does this mean that all is hopeless? If Moses’ or Daniel’s presence could not have saved Judah, where does that leave us in our generation? Most of us have no fame, and no righteousness beyond that which is imputed to us by God because of Christ. Is our generation hopelessly doomed? Certainly not.
Even though the fame of these men would not have saved a generation of Israel, some were saved. We only know of two or three people who paid attention to Jeremiah, but that we know of any shows that he did not preach in vain. Even if we were famous, rich, or righteous we could not save our generation. Nevertheless, we can save some in our generation. Fame may not succeed. Righteousness may not succeed. Preaching will succeed. “My word…will accomplish that which I please.” (Isa 55:11) Noah could only save eight people, including himself, but look what has come from those eight.
Fame may not be what we expect it to be. So what. We don’t need fame. We just need to preach to one person at a time. And each of us is famous enough to do that.