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A SEEKER AFTER WISDOM
‘And when the queen of Sheba heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the Lord, she came to prove him with hard questions.’
1 Kings 10:1
The world and the Church together are foreshown by this queen; all to whom ever the word, sight, name of Christ come within ken are warned by her example; while the king, whose wisdom awoke such a rapturous feeling, is the pale shadow of the wisdom which Christ among us is ever uttering.
I. The principle which makes this Oriental visit of barbaric splendour worth a Christian study is this, that the queen recognised the existence of a higher wisdom than filled as yet her daily life, and that she was laborious. With her, wealth given and received was but a background, only a means of obtaining higher things. She owned and she sought out wisdom, knowledge, learning, thought, as something of a different order, and infinitely more precious—plants, proverbs, music, songs, simple names, indeed, yet standing at the beginning of lines of knowledge which are dignified by greater names, and opening out before the eyes which were first lifted to them dreams and possibilities which were yet in the far distance.
II. We do not always understand what a distinction there is between the progressive and thoughtful and the careless, whose days, from sunrise to sunset, add nothing of wisdom to their hearts or of knowledge to their minds. Christ draws the greatest distinction between the one class and the other, between the inattentive listener to His words and the attentive one with infinitely less advantages.
III. Christians in the world, and thoughtful Christians among nominal ones, are like those very men whom the queen so envied. We stand about the throne of Christ. Happy are we if we know and realise our privileges.
(1) ‘This story brings out the true ideal of Israel’s relation to the nations. Solomon is the embodiment of his nation. His reign is marked by largely increased and amicable relations with his neighbours. These were not all wholesome, and ultimately led to much mischief. But, while the purely commercial connection with Tyre was defective, in that there was no attempt to bring Hiram and the men who worked for the Temple to any knowledge of the God of the Temple, and the relation with Egypt was more unsatisfactory still, in that it meant only the importation of corrupting luxuries and the marriage with an Egyptian princess, an idolatress, this relation with the Queen of Sheba was the true one. Solomon did in it what Israel was meant to do for the world. He attracted a seeker from afar, and imparted to her the wisdom that God had given him.’
(2) ‘When the Queen of Sheba met King Solomon, tradition tells us she began with riddles. She asked him, for instance, to tell the boys and girls in a company who were all dressed alike. And Solomon, calling for water, bade them wash their hands, whereupon the girls turned up their sleeves. She brought two bouquets to him—one real, one artificial—and she bade him tell which of the two was real. Whereupon Solomon, flinging the casement wide, let the bees come in and settle on the real one. There is nothing the least unlikely in this legend. It was a thoroughly Oriental introduction. It was like the fence and parry of sharp wits that with us goes often before deeper intercourse. And then, having met her match in Solomon, she deserted the puny combat of the wits, and began to commune with him (as we read) of all that was in her heart. Then Solomon showed her all that he had built, and displayed to her the splendours of his household, till overwhelmed with it all, “there was no more spirit in her”—as we should say, she was struck dumb. And the interview closed, not with a marriage (as the Abyssinians believe), but with the interchange of costly gifts.’
(3) ‘How dazzling the description of Solomon’s glory! And yet it is excelled by a single lily made by our Father’s hands. Fair indeed must Jesus be, the Son of His Love, in Whom all that is beautiful and strong and glorious is combined.’
(4) ‘A greater than Solomon invites us, saying, “Come and see.” But we must come before we can see. In the presence of Jesus the mists are dispelled.
But when we come to Jesus we feel that the half was never told us. His wisdom and goodness far surpass the power of the tongue of men and angels to utter. The soul basks in a golden radiance of Love and Grace which are unspeakable and full of glory. And it need not go out again from his presence-chambers. It may know the happiness of standing continually before Him, hearing His words. It may feast in His presence. It may live on His royal bounty. No good thing will He withhold. He will give grace and glory, exceeding abundantly above all you ask or think; all your desire, whatsoever you ask.’
(5) ‘The sacrifices which men can make for lower objects are the most powerful rebukes of their unwillingness to make sacrifices for the highest, just as their capacity of love and trust is of their not loving and trusting Him. The same energy and effort which this queen put forth to reach Solomon, and which we should put forth for some temporal good, would suffice to bring men to the feet of the great Teacher.
They who find their way to Him, and tell Him all that is in their hearts, will have all their questions solved. We have not far to go, for “a greater than Solomon is here.” ’
THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE WISE
‘Happy are thy men, happy are these thy servants, which stand continually before thee, and that hear thy wisdom.’
1 Kings 10:8
The Queen of Sheba was more than an admirer of wisdom, she was wise herself. It was to her credit that she was induced by the report of Solomon’s magnificence and wisdom to repair to his court, behold his glory, and listen to his discourse. And in this judgement which she passed upon Solomon’s court, there is contained a lesson of the profoundest wisdom.
I. It is a general law of human nature that men are influenced by their constant associations.—Scripture abounds with statements of this principle:—‘He that walketh with wise men shall be wise, but the companion of fools shall be destroyed.’ Hence the importance especially in youth of forming companionships and associations of a profitable and elevating nature.
II. Hence the privilege of habitual fellowship with the wise and good.—This indeed follows from the general law. They who listened to Solomon’s sagacious maxims, prudent counsels, and judicial utterances, could not fail to be impressed by what they heard, and, if they were disposed to profit, could not fail to reap some rich advantage.
III. The principle is one which is practically applicable to the religious life.—The existence and influence of the Church of Christ are accounted for by this Divine law of human society. But we may go deeper even than this. Where Christ is known it may be said, a greater than Solomon is here! To listen to Christ’s words, to meditate upon Christ’s deeds and sufferings, to be continually in His spiritual society—this is to be in the way for securing wisdom, happiness, and life.
‘It is a privilege to be among the friends of any good and wise man. There are people whose close companions we may almost justly envy. They live near to the good, the great, the wise. They hear their words, they see their life, they have their friendship. We may think of the disciples of Jesus who had the privilege of being with Him continually, hearing the wonderful words which fell from His lips, seeing the sweetness, gentleness, purity, and holiness of His life and witnessing the wonderful works which He did. What a privilege was St. John’s—leaning on Jesus’ bosom, and Mary’s—sitting on a low stool at His feet, listening to His teachings! It is a privilege to be a member of a good man’s family, living in the midst of refinement and culture. It is a far greater privilege to be a Christian, a member of the heavenly Father’s family. “A greater than Solomon is here.” ’
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Nisbet, James. "Commentary on 1 Kings 10". The Church Pulpit Commentary. https://www.studylight.org/
the Second Week after Epiphany