The older testament of the bible is full of bible stories and bible heroes. We are living virtually on the same ground as two of the most famous of those, that is David and Solomon. As you know, David wanted to build a temple for God here in Jerusalem, but God said no…it will be your son Solomon who will build my temple. Solomon was one of the greatest and richest rulers of all time, and the bible as well as legend has it that he was the wisest man ever.
But maybe my favorite of the bible stories, and one of my very most favorite bible heroes, is a woman. A woman who was not a Jew, but a Gentile like me. We don’t even know her name for sure, but we do know that she was an important person, a Queen even, probably from North Africa, possibly from ancient Ethiopia or some place close by. Ethiopian history tells of a very powerful Queen of “Saba” that lived some 3000 years ago. And that she traveled to Jerusalem to visit a king. So, a little different type of blog post today; it’s story time! We pick up our story in 2 Chronicles chapter 9:
1 “When the queen of Sheba heard of Solomon’s fame, she came to Jerusalem to test him with hard questions. Arriving with a very great caravan—with camels carrying spices, large quantities of gold, and precious stones—she came to Solomon and talked with him about all she had on her mind. 2 Solomon answered all her questions; nothing was too hard for him to explain to her. When the queen of Sheba saw the wisdom of Solomon, as well as the palace he had built, 4 the food on his table, the seating of his officials, the attending servants in their robes, the cupbearers in their robes and the burnt offerings he made at the temple of the LORD, she was overwhelmed.”
5 “She said to the king, “The report I heard in my own country about your achievements and your wisdom is true. 6 But I did not believe what they said until I came and saw with my own eyes. Indeed, not even half the greatness of your wisdom was told me; you have far exceeded the report I heard. 7 How happy your people must be! How happy your officials, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom! 8 Praise be to the LORD your God, who has delighted in you and placed you on his throne as king to rule for the LORD your God. Because of the love of your God for Israel and his desire to uphold them forever, he has made you king over them, to maintain justice and righteousness.”
9 “Then she gave the king 120 talents[b] of gold, large quantities of spices, and precious stones. There had never been such spices as those the queen of Sheba gave to King Solomon.”
10″ (The servants of Hiram and the servants of Solomon brought gold from Ophir; they also brought algumwood and precious stones. 11 The king used the algumwood to make steps for the temple of the LORD and for the royal palace, and to make harps and lyres for the musicians. Nothing like them had ever been seen in Judah.)”
12 “King Solomon gave the queen of Sheba all she desired and asked for; he gave her more than she had brought to him. Then she left and returned with her retinue to her own country.”
I love this story! I do believe that it is history, but it is also a parable for us. That it parallels our own inner search and need for wisdom and truth. That it points us to the only One that is “the way, the truth and the life”.
“When the queen of Sheba heard of Solomon’s fame, she came to Jerusalem to test him with hard questions.” If she came from Ethiopia, it would have taken her at least 6-9 months to make the trip to Jerusalem. She might have traveled partially by sea, but most of the way by camel caravan. The point is, she “heard”, but she had to see for herself, she wanted to check it out, to see if what other people were claiming to be true, was true. And she wasn’t just making a casual inquiry, she came to test him, to ask hard questions. She would not be taking somebody’s word for it.
“Solomon answered all her questions; nothing was too hard for him to explain to her.” The speculation is that the Queen would have spent a year or more in Solomon’s courts, doing her investigation. Maybe there are answers to the hard questions, if we are willing to actually take the time to search them out, and to truly wait on and listen to the One who has the answers?
“When the queen of Sheba saw the wisdom of Solomon, as well as the palace he had built, 4 the food on his table, the seating of his officials, the attending servants in their robes, the cupbearers in their robes and the burnt offerings he made at the temple of the LORD, she was overwhelmed.” Overwhelmed. The only possible response when the light comes on and eyes are opened to eternity and God’s beauty, the beauty of His ways, His character.
“But I did not believe what they said until I came and saw with my own eyes. Indeed, not even half the greatness of your wisdom was told me; you have far exceeded the report I heard.” True faith is not blind faith. David, and later Peter, wrote “taste and see, that the Lord is good”.
“How happy your people must be! How happy your officials, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom!” What the true church is supposed to look like. Happy people, fulfilled people, giving people who continually seek Him, grow up into Him, actually live life in His Spirit.
“Because of the love of your God for Israel and his desire to uphold them forever, he has made you king over them, to maintain justice and righteousness.” Because of love… God so loved the whole world… He is not willing that ANY should perish…
“Then she gave…” We don’t know for sure, but it is thought that the amount of gold would be over 6 of our tons… plus all the valuable spices and other commodities she gave. This regal Queen’s response to seeing Solomon, and not just Solomon but Solomon’s God, was to give… and to give of herself abundantly. Yet…
“King Solomon gave the queen of Sheba all she desired and asked for; he gave her more than she had brought to him.” There is a trite but true saying, “You can’t outgive God”. I am not talking about tithing, or putting some money in the offering basket at church. I am assuming that as a Queen with all this gold and riches, she must have lived a comfortable life back in north Africa. She must have been very important, with a people to rule, a country to run. Yet there was something possibly important enough out there that she gave up at least a couple of years of her life to check it out. Her reward was to gain much, more that she gave. In fact, her reward was to get “all she desired”. Everything she could ask for. Its interesting to me that what she gave Solomon is detailed in the story. We are left to speculate what it was that she desired and received. I don’t think it was gold. Amazingly, The Queen of Sheba comes up again in the bible 1000 years later. Jesus, in Matthew 12, tells us that this great woman will be one of the judges come judgment day. That a Gentile African woman would be judging them, must have come as quite a shock to the hypocritical, religious Pharisees!
From 1 John 1: 1-4 out of the Message translation: “From the very first day, we were there, taking it all in–we heard it with our own ears, saw it with our own eyes, verified it with our own hands. The Word of Life appeared right before our eyes; we saw it happen! And now we’re telling you in most sober prose that what we witnessed was, incredibly, this: The infinite life of God himself took shape before us. We saw it, we heard it, and now we’re telling you so you can experience it along with us, this experience of communion with the Father and his Son, Jesus Christ. Our motive for writing is simply this: We want you to enjoy this too. Your joy will double our joy.”
The Queen of Sheba knew what John was talking about in the verses just above. She came seeking to know Solomon and Solomon’s God. To experience relationship with them personally. I want that too. How about you?