A Royal Visit*
Trinity UMC 10-23-2016
I Kings 10:1-102 II Chronicles 9:1-12
Guest Post by David Hartong
Certified United Methodist Lay Servant
35 years ago in a Discipleship Bible Study someone asked, “Where is Sheba?” One day I came across the Sheba story and remembered, I don’t think I ever answered that question. I found at one time two Sheba’s claimed the ‘Queen of Sheba’ found in Kings and Chronicles. One is in Ethiopia in East Central Africa and the other is at the south of the Arabian Peninsula, bordered by the Arabian and Red Seas, in present day Yemen. The Arabian Sheba was known for its spices such as mentioned in 1st Kings and on a caravan route through Israel to Egypt. Most scholars agree that Solomon’s Queen of Sheba was from modern day Yemen. Let’s turn to 1st Kings Chapter 10, and read of her visit.
Reading 1st Kings 10:1-12 from The Message by Eugene Peterson- The Queen of Sheba heard about Solomon and his connection with the Name of GOD. She came to put his reputation to the test by asking tough questions. She made a grand and showy entrance into Jerusalem – camels loaded with spices, a huge amount of gold, and precious gems. She came to Solomon and talked about all the things that she cared about, emptying her heart to him. Solomon answered everything she put to him – nothing stumped him. When the queen of Sheba experienced for herself Solomon’s wisdom and saw with her own eyes the palace he had built, the meals that were served, the impressive array of court officials and sharply dressed waiters, the lavish crystal, and the elaborate worship with Whole-Burnt-Offerings at the steps leading up to the Temple of GOD, it took her breath away.
She said to the king, “It’s all true! Your reputation for accomplishment and wisdom that reached all the way to my country is confirmed. I wouldn’t have believed it if I hadn’t seen it for myself, they didn’t exaggerate! Such wisdom and elegance – far more than I could ever have imagined. Lucky the men and women who work for you, getting to be around you every day and hear your wise words firsthand! And blessed be GOD, your God, who took such a liking to you and made you king. Clearly, GOD’s love for Israel is behind this, making you king to keep a just order and nurture a God-pleased people.”
She then gave the king four and a half tons of gold, and also sack after sack of spices and expensive gems. There hasn’t been a cargo of spices like that since that shipload the queen of Sheba brought to King Solomon. King Solomon for his part gave the queen of Sheba all her heart’s desire – everything she asked for, on top of what he had already so generously given her. Satisfied, she returned home with her train of servants.
Why did she come to visit Solomon? The wisdom and riches God gave Solomon were known throughout the civilized world. She was curious. Visitors would come to her court with news of Jerusalem. An envoy would report “We have been to Jerusalem.” She’d say, I’ve been hearing about Jerusalem, did you go to the Temple?” They’d say, “We sure did. It was a thrilling experience to go into that temple. We were there on one of their feast days. Wish YOU could have heard them singing their songs. And there was the altar, and there’s gold, and silver. It was beautiful and the worship was wonderful.” The queen might reply, “Yes, I’ve been hearing about that, I’d like to see it myself. Maybe one of these days I can make the trip.” Besides, Solomon controlled some of the trade route she would have used to Egypt. Perhaps she could secure a treaty or trade agreement.
Eventually, with great planning and preparation, she did go to experience Jerusalem herself. She came with questions. It was the custom to ask wise rulers questions, or riddles – what we call conundrums – tricky, clever questions to trap a person. The queen also had questions to do with the heart, questions that related to her eternal destiny because she came out of spiritual darkness. She was inspired by the temple Solomon built and the way he worshipped.
Sadly, the temple God wanted for the world was divided by the Jews. Like so many churches today, we think they belong to us, not God. We want to determine who can come in and where they may ‘sit’ in the body of Christ. The Jews set up a court of the Gentiles, a court for women, an inner court for men, and the courts for priests and the Holy of Holies. Jesus broke down the walls dividing Jew and Gentile, male and female, rich and poor. All stand equally, before God.
When Solomon dedicated the temple he told the world it was a place where every person on earth could approach the living and true God. Hear part of Solomon’s prayer from 1 Kings 8:41-43 […forgive and go to work on us. Give what each deserves, for you know each life from the inside (you’re the only one with such inside knowledge) so that they’ll live before you in lifelong reverent and believing obedience on this land you gave our ancestors.
And don’t forget the foreigner who is not a member of your people Israel, but has come from a far country because of your reputation. People are going to be attracted here by your great reputation, your wonder working power, who come to pray at this Temple. ]
That word went out to the ends of the earth of that day, and reached the Queen of Sheba. Our scripture started, “the Queen of Sheba heard of Solomon’s fame…” First, she had to hear. The apostle Paul tells us, “So then, faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.” Faith comes by hearing the Word of God. Our story today opens at the far end of the earth with a queen who heard; then she acted on what she heard. The place God meets you is where you hear. Our responsibility is to see that all people hear of God. When we have gotten God’s Word to the ears of people, we have done what God has called us to do. Let God do His work in them, once we have made them aware of their need to seek God. [Pause] [Repeat]
When the Queen of Sheba arrived in Jerusalem with her caravan, she attracted a great deal of attention. Just how many camels would it take to carry all the spices, jewels, and four- ½ tons of gold? At about 400 pounds per camel, the gold alone would have taken two dozen camels. With other gifts, soldiers, and provisions, it would have been a massive caravan. In this time in history, here is a woman no less, from the mysterious East. She displays great wealth in abundance. She is not a wise man, but is looking for wisdom. She had servants and soldiers of every color of skin under the sun. People lined the streets; no circus has ever attracted the attention the Queen of Sheba did, the day she arrived in Jerusalem.
The record tells us she was absolutely overwhelmed by her visit with King Solomon. The first thing that impressed her was that he was able to answer all of her questions. The second was the tremendous organization and display he had there. Thirdly, she was amazed by the way he worshipped, and the burnt altar. In the temple the King had a private entrance to the altar, but when he got there he was at the same level as everybody else. That impressed her, because down in her country, she was far above the level of the crowds. But Solomon, even with his private entrance, stood by that burnt altar; just like any other sinner stands before God. The burnt altar speaks eloquently of the cross of Christ. It’s the best picture of Christ’s cross we have in the Old Testament. The burnt offerings that impressed the queen speak of the person Christ, of who He is; and the sin offering speaks of the work of Christ- a sacrifice to take away the sins of the world.
She found, when she came to Jerusalem, that the living and true God was approached only through a sacrifice. Even a King had to come as a sinner, and stand with the lowest subjects, to receive salvation from God. God revealed to the queen that there is a righteousness, which He provides. The truth of the burnt offering was shown to her in a way she could understand. This points to Christ, and a righteousness God provides for a King, or any other sinner; that He might accept them into His presence. We all stand on the same level and all must come, and ALL CAN receive this righteousness. It is likely the Queen of Sheba came to know the living and true God, when she came to Jerusalem to visit King Solomon.
In the narratives of Solomon’s wealth and wisdom, why is this story told in more detail than most? Sheba was nearly 2000 miles from Jerusalem. This was great example of God bringing people from the uttermost parts of the world to His temple in Jerusalem. Think of the sacrifices she made to get to Jerusalem. Today you can drive to California in 3 or 4 days, you can fly there in 3 or 4 hours. On our first trip under the English Channel we went 40 miles in 20 minutes (120 mph). When we got going in France the engineer reported we were traveling at 300 kph (186 mph). There were no tracks in the desert, no Eurostar. A caravan large enough to carry 4-1/2 tons of gold, large amounts of spices and jewels, the personnel, and provisions for a trip of that magnitude – would have taken about three months each way. Camels did not come with air conditioning or adjustable seats. Would you like to ride to California in the bed of a pick-up truck? Before route 66? Perhaps you’d prefer the comfort of a Conestoga wagon on the Oregon Trail. The Queen of Sheba sacrificed a tremendous amount of time and resources to seek Solomon, and to find God in Jerusalem.
Today God does not ask you to take a trip anywhere. You don’t have to make the long trip up to Jerusalem. You don’t even have to go across the street to find Him. It is our job to see that everyone hears the gospel. We don’t need to go around the world. Just telling everyone in the neighborhood of this church would be a good place to start. (repeat)
As I reviewed this last sentence I realized, God is telling us to support things like Perry Helping Perry. Telling the people of this neighborhood about God’s love and grace, is exactly what programs like this are all about. Supporting the Fellowship of Christian Athletes demonstrates Christian concern. God wants us all to meet Him; one at a time is a great way to introduce them. According to Matthew 12:42; Christ said, “The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and look – something greater than Solomon is HERE.
There are lessons to be learned in the account of the visit of the Queen of Sheba. We need to hear of God. Faith comes from hearing and we need to act on that faith. She taught us acting on that faith may require self-sacrifice, even a long, arduous journey; not necessarily in miles, but perhaps in terms of hardships and risks. The queen not only took gifts to Solomon, but received many gifts from him in return. But the most important gift she received was a new life after worship at the altar of God. A new life for each of us is available at this altar. Seek and you shall find.