Queen of Sheba visits Solomon

After or in-between our series on finding a church, we would like to share an exhortation given a few weeks back by brother Simon Peel at the Newbury ecclesia which we could follow thanks to the Google Hangouts.

It referred back to the second part of the two Books of Chronicles (or the ‎ Diḇrê Hayyāmîm, “The Matters of the Days” or the Paraleipoménōn) which are the final books of the Hebrew Bible in the order followed by modern Judaism; in that generally followed in Christianity, they follow the two Books of Kings and precede Ezra–Nehemiah, concluding the history-oriented books of the Old Testament. That 2° book of the Solomon Chronicles or 2° Paralipomenon comprises the reign of Solomon (chapters 1-9), and the reigns of the kings of Juda (10-36) and covers the same period as the last three Books of Kings.
The objects of Solomon his interest are the temple and its worship, not to supplement the omissions of Books of Kings but  to write the religious history of Juda with the temple as its centre, and, as intimately connected with it, the history of the house of David.

Solomon, renowned for his wisdom, describes her journey to Jerusalem to meet with him.
According to the book of Kings in the Bible, the queen arrived in Jerusalem and asked King Solomon a series of difficult questions. He responded wisely to each one. The queen presented Solomon with many gifts and returned to her home.

Solomon is the one who gave us some more insight of God (in Proverbs a.o.) and let us know that God loves justice and wants us to work with integrity and refrain from offering or accepting bribes or giving in at worldly matters which are not justifiable for God. He also show the dangers of the rich, which are typically powerful, plus the tendency of the heart to abuse and overindulge.

He might have been a very busy person and therefore got the nickname “ant” or “An-Naml” (The Ant), who was a friend of God, but by his want or his lust for more, got sidetracked. In the Qu’ran it is the ant which looks at him and says things about him, which Solomon could hear and did not mid of. He knew Who he had to ask for teaching him how to do things and how to get more knowledge. He could thank for the great bounties that God had granted him and his parents to be able to use them in the way that He had commanded and was the cause of His pleasure so that he would not deviate from the right path, since being thankful for those abundant favours is not possible save with His succour and aid.

There is so much in this world we can gain, but there are more important things we can loose. The writers of the Book of books did not hide their faults and this way we also come to see how it went with Solomon who could come closer than anyone else in saying that he gained the whole world. We can see that h must have had the best and was articulate and very well-known. all luck seem to come like nothing but in the end, he died a man who had lost it. He got also to know that he lost the nation God had entrusted him with. This should be a good warning for us, even when we do have much less than Solomon.

We should check ourselves and be careful not to be not be over-righteous, neither to be over-wise, bringing ourselves in danger to destroy ourselves.
Solomon tells us not to be fools, but to use discernment. We are to trust in God and follow him, but never once to believe our goodness or our wisdom comes from our own effort.

Queen of Sheba visits Solomon

2 Chronicles 9

Sportsmail is serialising Steven Gerrard's explosive new book, My Story
Steven Gerrard with his explosive new book, My Story

I saw an advert for Steven Gerrard’s autobiography* the other day. It is entitled ‘My Story’.

Do you know how many autobiographies are called ‘My Story’? Gazza – ‘My Story’, Aled Jones – ‘My Story’, Sarah Ferguson – ‘My Story’, Julia Gillard – ‘My Story’, Cheryl Cole – ‘Cheryl, My Story’ (she’s just left her first name to seem more approachable I guess), Ryan Giggs – ‘My Life, My Story’ (he’s stepped it up a gear), and a ton of others.

I don’t read autobiographies, the only one I’ve read is Nelson Mandela’s. They strike me as a last ditch attempts for celebrities to bleed out some cash from us before they fade from our memories.

So why does Steven and all these other’s want to tell us their stories? There are hundreds of pages where they get to paint a picture of themselves so that when you finish that last page you come away thinking the best possible thoughts about that person. They can play up their achievements, they can deal with their mistakes, they can downplay their faults, they can give us perspective on that time they got arrested for the nightclub brawl – you can view that part of their life through their eyes and see that the other guy totally deserved to be hit in the face four times.

I am exactly the same, I spend a large majority of my time trying to make you think that I’m better than I am. My whole life is spent trying to perfect a charade. I spend the majority of my time trying to convince anyone I meet that I am someone slightly different than I am. I am still myself but I don’t show everything. I reign in my temper, I reign in my sarcasm. I play up the niceties, I play up the jokes. I feign interest. I’m not quite the man you might think I am.

My Facebook and my Instagram accounts show a side of me that I want you to see.

I trick myself a lot of the time. It’s only when you have a wife with a very good memory that you realise how often you contradict yourself without realising.

I even did it a few sentences ago when I have tried to make you think that I am more intellectual than I am because I have poured scorn on those Z-list celebrities (there you go I’ve done it again) whilst also casually dropping in that I only read accounts of respectable and influential political figures.

Chronicles paints a very positive picture of Solomon. There is not a bad word said about him. If Solomon was to commission a biography, then this is the text that he would want to be used. From Chapter 1 to Chapter 9 we have a wonderful account of a king who could do no wrong.

King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba.
King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Queen of Sheba** is in awe. There is peace, there is wisdom, there is wealth, there is spirituality and there is this man in the centre of it all who is faultless.

“How happy your men must be! How happy your officials, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom!”

Solomon could put on a show. He has skill and talent and charisma and he can make a queen exclaim how wonderful he is.

We are with the Queen of Sheba. We see everything and we read Chapter 9 and we are wowed by it.

“The palace he had built, 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”

and we are overwhelmed!

Of course, the Queen of Sheba doesn’t know the whole story. If Chronicles is the autobiography, then Kings is the sensationalist scoop. We get a hint of it in Chapter 10 of Chronicles and verse 4,

“Your father (Solomon) put a heavy yoke on us.”

1 Kings 11: 4-6

1 Kings 11:4–6 (ESV): For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods, and his heart was not wholly true to the Lord his God, as was the heart of David his father. For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites. So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the Lord and did not wholly follow the Lord, as David his father had done.

Solomon is a man of contradictions. He is wise and yet foolish. His wisdom turned from godly to worldly. It was a talent that Solomon had to choose how to use. He used it to govern well but he also knew all the right words to say and the right things to do to get any woman he wanted. But on the flip side of that he then allowed those women to rule over him and get him to do whatever they wanted. He not only built them their gods and temples but actively worshipped there with them.

Solomon is not quite the man we thought he was. Which means he is more like you and me than maybe we first thought.

For all Solomon’s wisdom and success as a King, the overall account of his life leaves a sour taste in our mouths. There is such high hopes for this man to be a great and godly man and yet he has a major flaw that throws him completely off the godly track.

This sour taste is true for a lot of things in life, whether it’s Rolf Harris or capitalism, we can be easily mislead, disappointed, appalled and disillusioned. I don’t think there has ever been a government in existence which hasn’t lived up to expectation.

You also don’t have to look too hard to find that the food we eat and the clothes we wear are tainted by the blood, sweat and tears of underpaid and exploited workers in the third world. Our wealth exists because other people are poor. Someone goes hungry because I eat too much, someone goes naked because I don’t want to spend the extra money and buy ethical clothing.

If a Chronicles account was written about our country today it would marvel at the technology we use, the fine apparel we wear, the cities we have built, the science we have discovered but if a Kings account were written it would show at what expense and pain and suffering all these things were done.

So what do we do about this? How do we live our lives and think our thoughts knowing this? Do we take the Chronicles approach and forget all about the negatives and focus on just the good things or do we take the Kings approach and acknowledge the evil that is there?

Practically there is very little we can do apart from buy things more ethically but even then that is a lifestyle that is above and beyond what I get paid. Even if I could afford to do it, there is not enough people doing it to make the world sit up and do things differently.

The world and its injustices are too big for our actions to change them, even if you were a leader of a powerful country and you tried to change the way wealth is distributed you’d be booted out at the next election. The only way this can be fixed is for the Kingdom to come. Our very clothes and our very food can be reminder of the unfairness of this world and the real need for Jesus to come and sort it out.

You may think I’m being a bit harsh on Solomon and I’m giving the impression that he was hiding the poor people away and only allowing the Queen of Sheba to see the freshly painted parts of his Kingdom. Scripture makes it clear that the whole Kingdom was unprecedentedly wealthy and that

“all the kings of the earth sought audience with Solomon to hear the wisdom God had put in his heart”.

This is not a charlatan, Solomon genuinely was a very wise man.

King Solomon, Russian icon from first quarter ...
King Solomon, Russian icon from first quarter of 18th cen. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We know that Solomon’s downfall happened at the end of his life so there is good reason to expect that up until that point he was the godly, wise king that Chronicles makes him out to be. When the Queen of Sheba came to visit, Solomon and his Kingdom truly were at their spiritual pinnacle and yet how subtly welcomed was the evil that led the LORD to become angry with Solomon in verse 9 of chapter 11.

1 Chron 28: 9

1 Chronicles 28:9 (ESV): David’s Charge to Solomon
“And you, Solomon my son, know the God of your father and serve him with a whole heart and with a willing mind, for the Lord searches all hearts and understands every plan and thought. If you seek him, he will be found by you, but if you forsake him, he will cast you off forever.

Basically, don’t pretend. Don’t try and fool God because he knows you. The Chronicles account is what human beings would have seen of Solomon whereas Kings is what God would have seen and it ends by saying that ‘Solomon did evil in the eyes of the LORD’. Although we can try to impress others with our autobiography or charade of our life…God is never fooled. He knows our every desire and our every thought.

So what’s our relationship with God? Are we honest with Him? There’s a strange relationship between us isn’t there? He knows everything about us and we know everything about us yet we sometimes still try to hide it. It’s a similar relationship we had with our parents when we were young.

“Simon, did you take the money that was on the table?”

“No”

“Simon, I know you took it. I just want you to apologise.”

“You can’t assume I took it, that’s unfair. What proof do you have?”
“Did you take it?”

“Yes, but it’s unfair for you to assume that was true.”

All my parents wanted me to do was to own up, but I was afraid of the punishment and then I was angry at the assumed guilt even though my parents knew me well enough to know I was guilty.

It’s the same with God, maybe we don’t confess our faults or acknowledge the reality because we’re scared of what God will do to us? But all He wants is a confession, an acknowledgement that we need his forgiveness. Our pride should have no place in God’s biography of us.

There is a clue to Solomon’s pride in his prayer of dedication in 2 Chronicles 6. If you scan through from verse 21-40 you will see that Solomon always refers to the people being the one who will be the sinners not himself. Verse 24 as an example

“When your people Israel have been defeated by an enemy because they have sinned against you”.

Verse 26,

“When the heavens are shut up and there is no rain because your people have sinned against you.”

Verse 27,

“Teach them the right way to live.”

It maybe that this is the way the English translation renders it and it maybe that, again, I am being unfair on Solomon especially because I am already viewing him in a negative light but it seems to me that Solomon knows the people are more than capable of sinning and needing redemption but he doesn’t consider the same for himself.

Compare this to his father’s prayer in Psalm 51 after David is confronted by the prophet Nathan:

Verse 3 – “For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.”

Verse 7 – “Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.”

Verse 17 – “The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise”.

The Queen of Sheba Kneeling before King Solomon
The Queen of Sheba Kneeling before King Solomon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Admittedly, it is a completely different scenario and the mood of the Solomon and David would have been polar opposites but we don’t have anything we can turn to that says that Solomon felt the same about his failings.

Where ever you are at this morning, whether you feel you could entertain the Queen of Sheba and she would be waxing lyrical about your godly wisdom or whether you feel like a prophet has come and exposed your sin there are lessons to be learned.

Whatever our situation we need to echo the words of Psalm 139 and verses 23-24 –

“Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. See if there is any offensive way in me, and lead me in the way everlasting.”

I like this because it admits that we probably don’t know ourselves as well as God does. If I knew about an offensive part of me, I would like to think that I would do my utmost to get rid of it, but maybe there are things that I am too blind to see and I want God to remove them if they are a blocker to my entrance to the Kingdom.

If we cannot be completely honest with ourselves and God then we aren’t the sort of people God wants in his Kingdom. We know how vehemently Jesus reacts to the Pharisees, he practically spits his tirade at them.

“Woe to you scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs which appear beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and every impurity. In the same way, on the outside you seem righteous to people, but inside you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”

Solomon was human. Like us, he had his strong points and his weak points. He had his ups and his downs. Solomon tried to present his most admirable parts to the Queen of Sheba but only God knew the reality. We all have different aspects we struggle with, for Solomon, it was his wives. There is no point trying to hide it because God knows it all- including the secret/hidden things. At the end of Ecclesiastes, Solomon came to realise this for himself:

Ecclesiastes 12: 13-14

Ecclesiastes 12:13–14 (ESV): 13 The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. 14 For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil.

Romans 7:23-25

Romans 7:23–25 (ESV):  23 but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

There are always going to be two sides to our autobiography. There is no way to hide the fact that we have two sides to us. There will always be this constant war in our bodies. Thanks be to God, that delivers us through Jesus.

Jesus himself understands this temptation to present ourselves in a certain way.

“For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”

– Simon Peel

*

Notes

* Steven Gerrard – legendary captain of Liverpool and England – tells the story of the highs and lows of a twenty-year career at the top of English and world football.

** Josephus clearly identifies the queen who visited Solomon as “the woman who ruled Egypt and Ethiopia,” and tells us that her name was Nikaulis.

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Preceding articles:

Trusting, Faith, Calling and Ascribing to Jehovah #4 Transitoriness #2 Purity

Believing in the send one and understanding that one does not live by bread alone

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Additional reading

  1. What should we learn from Solomon’s story?
  2. Was Solomon saved?
  3. In 1 Kings 8, how was Solomon’s prayer heard by so large a crowd?
  4. What is the difference between wisdom, knowledge and understanding?
  5. What stories in the Bible talk about lust?
  6. A look at materialism
  7. Count your blessings
  8. Capitalism and economic policy and Christian survey
  9. Is there any scripture that commands me to confess my sin to the person I lied to?
  10. Set free from any form of mental torment or self-condemnation
  11. How can I ask God to take away a desire to be rich?
  12. How can grounding in biblical truths help us to distinguish godly wisdom from worldly wisdom?
  13. Purify my heart
  14. How can I restore my faith?
  15. When can one be considered righteous?
  16. Two states of existence before God
  17. God does not change

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Further reading

  1. Tonight’s thoughts: Solomon’s Books
  2. Solomon: Whose Glory Was A Shadow
  3. Solomon Builds the Lord’s Temple
  4. Queen Of Sheba
  5. How Solomon Would Choose A Candidate
  6. The Wisdom of Solomon and the Wisdom of Christ. Thursday after All Saints’, 2015
  7. Only What Is Done For God Will Last
  8. The Inerrancy of Proverbs
  9. Tafsir Naml
  10. Would that you had walked the path of Solomon once more
  11. There Is No Exchange For Peace
  12. Ecclesiastes 9-10: Discover His heart: His Word provides the wisdom we need to keep sharp!
  13. Wisdom – do you have it?
  14. Wisdom Continues To Speak!
  15. Week 46 Can We Be Too Righteous or Too Wise?
  16. Challenge #4 – Pride

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