<< 1 Kings 10: The Queen of Sheba’s Visit to Solomon >>
“And when the queen of Sheba had seen all Solomon’s wisdom, and the house that he had built, and the meat of his table, and the sitting of his servants, and the attendance of his ministers, and their apparel, and his cup-bearers, and his ascent by which he went up into the house of the Lord; there was no more spirit in her. And she said, It was a true report that I heard in mine own land of thy acts, and of thy wisdom. Howbeit I believed not the words, until I came, and mine eyes had seen it; and, behold, the half was not told me: thy wisdom and prosperity exceedeth the fame which I heard. Happy are thy men happy are these thy servants, which stand continually before thee, and that hear thy wisdom.”-I KINGS x. 4-8.
THE prosperity of the peaceful reign, and the magnificence of the temple, of the king’s house, and the house for his queen, the daughter of Pharaoh, spread the fame of Solomon through the surrounding kingdoms, The queen of Sheba, or Abyssinia, excited by what she had heard: of his great, wisdom, and pressed by many anxious questions which she thought he might possibly solve, made the long journey from her ‘country to his. Her labour was not in vain. She was astonished and delighted with all she saw, and all she heard. She contrasted the grandeurs she beheld With the very modest structures of her native land poor then as now in noble buildings, and the splendours of art; and she felt no comparison could be made. The interesting and beautiful language of our text informs us of her increasing admiration until she could no longer contain her ardent and astonished feelings, and exclaimed, “It was a true report I heard in mine own land of thy acts and of thy wisdom, Howbeit I believed not the words, until I came, and mine eyes had seen it: and, behold, the half was not told me.”
We may view this divine history in many ways. It may be regarded as a manifestation of the will of the All-wise, that beauty and goodness should exist together among men, as they do in His glorious works, and in heaven.
We sometimes meet with good people who suppose that the surroundings of religion cannot be too plain. They shrink from anything but the veriest simplicity in places of worship, and fear that anything but the most modest appearance there is unbecoming, and tends to draw the soul away from devotion. Yet if we consider that all beauty and all true art are from God, who is Himself the Infinitely Beautiful as well as the Infinitely Good and True, we may see that real beauty like real blessing should raise the soul to Him. “Honour and majesty are before Him: strength and beauty are in His sanctuary. O worship the Lord, in the beauty (the beautiful things) of holiness: fear before Him, all the earth.”
The splendid tabernacle, and the still more magnificent temple, constructed by the directions of inspiration, will certainly be testimonies and illustrations of the truth, that if the inner beauties of the heart and mind are kept supreme within us, in our devotions, it is becoming also to adorn our piety with such forms as may suggest that true beauty and true goodness are from the same source, and should, as far as circumstances permit, go hand in hand together. The Christian in a cottage should make it as neat and pretty as he can. The Christian of ampler means should not neglect to surround himself with graceful forms of art, which are the blending of loveliness in mind and matter from the source of grace and grandeur. And the Christian should not be slow to make his church beautiful to manifest that he deems nothing too good for the worship of Him, in whose hand his breath is, and who by His beautiful flowers, and beautiful sights and sounds, as well as by His lessons of holiness and wiscom, prepares the soul for the land of living loveliness and everlasting peace.
The King of the spiritual Israel is the Lord Jesus, the King of kings and the Lord of lords. This Divine Prince of peace was represented by Solomon, the peaceful king. And, the three houses which Solomon built, the house of the Lord, the house of the king, and the house of Pharaoh’s daughter, were types of the Church, as it exists arnongst the celestially minded,where heavenly gold or love is the chief feature, as it exists among the spiritually-minded, in which truth is the leadlng characteristic as cedar was in the house of the king; and the condition of the Church amongst those whose delight is mainly engaged in the art and science of religion, which was portrayed by the house of the daughter of Pharaoh. The Lord Jesus, when He had redeemed man by conquering the powers of darkness and was fully glorified, was represented by Solomon.
When, therefore, we read of Solomon’s great wisdom, of the peace of his kingdom, and the abundance of gold in his time, we must remember that in the supreme sense “a greater than Solomon is here.” He is meant who is high above all, who imparts in abundance, the blessed gold of celestial love, and who diffuses over the soul interior peace. Hence, in the 72d Psalm, which is said to be for Solomon, it is evident that the language can only be fitly and fully applied to the glorified Saviour. Of this Solomon it can alone be true that “He shall come down like rain upon the mown grass; as showers that water the earth. In His days shall the righteous flourish and abundance of peace, so long as the moon endureth (ver. 6, 7). For, He .shall deliver the needy when he crieth: the poor also, and him that hath no helper., He shall spare the poor and needy and shall save the souls of the needy (ver. 12, 13). His name shall endure for ever: His name shall be continued as long as the sun: and men shall be blessed in Him: all nations shall call Him blessed” (ver. 17). These words can only be true of the Lord Jesus, the Divine Solomon. Of Him only can it be said, He shall save the souls of the needy, and men shall be ‘blessed in Him. When, therefore, the psalm is said to be for Solomon, it is to Solomon as the type of Him, in whom is all wisdom, and from whom alone we can derive true peace.
The queen of Sheba, who had heard of the fame of Solomon concerning the name of the Lord, and who came to prove him with hard questions, represented those who yearn for the Lord Jesus, who seek for communion with Him, and desire to lay their perplexities before Him. The soul, when it turns to its Saviour, has many hard questions. Can the selfish become truly humble, the sinful become really pure? What shall I do to be saved? Is the Lord indeed a friend above all others, or is He only an avenging God? How is it so many good people are tried and straitened in the world, and so many wicked flourish? How is it after death? How is it in heaven? Will the Lord speak to me and whisper peace? These and a thousand other hard questions move the minds of those who are represented by the queen of Sheba, and who commune with the Saviour, the Divine Solomon.
These are represented by a female, because in the Word of the Lord, they who can be received into the Church, because they are in the affection for truth, are represented usually by a virgin, a bride, and a wife. Hence we read of the virgin daughter of Zion, the virgin daughter of Jerusalem, the bride, the Lamb’s wife, and other expressions involving the idea that those are meant who love the truth, as a maiden loves the object of her choice, and who will be faithful to the truth, as a genuine wife is faithful to her husband. This real and earnest affection for truth constitutes the central point, the fulcrum all which all spiritual progress turns. If the affection cherished for truth be deep, then the good seed of the Word will sink deeper and grow, and bring forth fruit. If there be no affection for the truth, there is nothing to lay hold of the means of salvation. The Lord calls, but there is no response. The Divine Love invites, but the heartless object of His affection throws the priceless boon of His love away.
Not so with those meant by the queen of Sheba. They come and open their hearts to the Chief among ten thousand. The Lord displays to them His Church. They see the house that He has built. They behold its proportions, and its adornments. His glorious truths of every kind are like gems, shining on every side. It is the house of which it is written, “I will lay thy stones of fair colours, and lay thy foundations with sapphires. And I will make thy windows of agates, and thy gates of carbuncles, and all thy borders of precious stones.” Of the same house the apostle says, “‘These things I write unto thee . . . that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the Church of the living God; the pillar and the ground of the truth.” The Lord’s Church is a home for all who desire to live for heaven: it is indeed a heaven below, a vestibule to that above.
When one who has been troubled with hard questions, cast down, dismayed sometimes, ‘with doubts and difficulties, comes to see how complete a provision the Lord has made in His Church for all the soul’s wants, even beyond all its hopes and wishes, like the queen of Sheba he is lost in wonder and delight, and exclaims–
“Here will I take my joyful rest,
Nor ere from Salem roam;
For ever, and for ever blest,
In this my happy home.”
What next excited the admiration of the queen of Sheba was the “meat of his table.” The soul has appetites as well as the body. Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after righteousness; for they shall be filled. The varied assortments of Divine Wisdom which afford food for meditation, for comfort, and for joy, are so many dishes of heavenly meat on which the spiritual appetite may feed, and indeed enjoy a sacred banquet. ” When I found thy words,” the prophet exclaimed, ” I did eat them, and they were the joy and rejoicing of my heart.” The Word is a divine table on which there is prepared an unlimited supply of all that the soul can want, The Book of Psalms may be truly called the Christian’s Daily Bread.. He who will devoutly in the morning extract heavenly nourishment from one psalm will find himself strengthened for the day. There is that heavenly good which is the bread of life, the holy wisdom which is the wine that cheers both God and man. There is every supply which can strengthen hope, impart consolation, and fortify the Christian for virtuous duty. It is the dinner of the King, in the Gospel; the supper in which our Divine Friend will sup with us, and we with Him. He spreads a table before us in the presence of our enemies, and enables man to eat angels’ food. The meat of His table is sweeter than honey, or the droppings of the honeycomb. It is meat that endures to eternal life. Those, then, who are like the queen of Sheba, when they have seen and partaken of this bread of heaven, join with the disciple in saying, “Lord, evermore give us this bread.”
Another delightful feature of the arrangements of this palace, as we learn in the text, is, the “sitting of the servants.” Sitting, in the spiritual sense, implies settlement and satisfaction. They who are at rest sit down in the kingdom of God. They are neither hesitating nor disquieted, but in repose. They have been pilgrims, but are now at home. They sit, as belonging to the household. Each has his place, his dignity, and his enjoyment.. They sit as the guests of the king, each in order, and each satisfied, as forming part of the company of their Heavenly Father, the highest and the best of beings. Some too were lower ministers, delighting to serve, but glorious in their apparel.
When doctrinal truth has been made the Christian’s own, and, fitted to his soul, it is called, “a garment of salvation,” “a robe of righteousness.” The spirit walks in Heavenly purity. Its dress is white, with a golden tinge. “Thou hast a few names in Sardis, who have not defiled their garments : they shall walk with me in white, for they are worthy.” Heavenly thoughts are heavenly clothing; for thoughts clothe affections, and words clothe thoughts, just as raiment clothes the body.
Some people have noble impulses, but cannot clothe them in suitable dress so as to bespeak for them attention and acceptance: others as wolves in sheep’s clothing. But when we behold angelic innocence and earnestness clothed with purity and wisdom, we see immortal excellences holily attired, and we understand those gracious words in the parable of the prodigal son, respecting the penitent returned: “Bring forth the best robe and put it on him, the ring upon his finger, and the shoes upon his feet.” There are immortal thoughts for the whole immortal being. Thoughts of hallowed reverence which are constantly suggesting supreme gratitude to the Lord, who is the infinitely tender and All-Good, form the mitre for the spirit’s head-dress, on which is written “Holiness to the Lord.”
Thoughts of charity and good-will are the clothing of the breast, or vest encircled with a golden girdle. Thoughts of conjugial love and ever-increasing union are the clothing of the loins, and thoughts directing our daily life make the lower portion of our raiment down to the feet. “Let your feet be shod,” said the apostle, “with the preparation of the Gospel of peace” (Eph. v. 10).
The queen of Sheba admired the apparel of the ministers, and was struck also with the cup-hearers. When we remember that there is heavenly wine we shall understand there must be heavenly cup-bearers. The Psalmist exultingly exclaimed, “My cup runneth over.” There are seasons when out of the .abundance of the heart the mouth must speak. There are occasions likewise in which the wearied and tried spirit becomes faint and languid: strength and hope are flagging, and at a very low ebb, and we greatly need counsel and support. In such states, when comforting friends come gently to us and administer in sympathizing kindness themes of consolation and peace, we then, like the queen of Sheba, make note of the cup-bearers. Our Lord desires that we should have ever ready the blessed cordial that strengthens the weak and cheers the weary, and should thus all be cup-bearers. “They put new wine (He said) into new bottles, and both are preserved” (Matt. ix. 17).
The angels in their office of ministering spirits doubtless often exercise the office of cup-bearers. They infuse the balm of comfort into the bitterness and vexation which have tried us deeply, and well nigh multiplied our sorrows beyond what we can bear. A strange and wonderful peace will sometimes be imparted in our darkest hours, like a beautiful light in the gloom, and we feel our hearts cheered and our souls refreshed. No doubt, “it is wine new from our Heavenly Father’s kingdom, gushing fresh from the Fountain of Peace, which had thus suffused its blessed balm throughout our being: and the angels are the cup-bearers. While we acknowledge that the Lord’s mercy has held us up, and His comforts have delighted our souls, yet let us not forget to bless Him! that He has made His ministers to be our cup-bearers. Lastly, the queen observed with admiration and delight the ascent by which He went up into the House of the Lord. All creation is connected together by degrees above and below. Stage above stage, we rise at every point from Nature up to Nature’s God. The natural is surmounted by the spiritual, the spiritual by the celestial, the celestial by the divine. The universe of God, like the Word of God, is a ladder whose foot is on earth, whose top reacheth to heaven, and above which is Jehovah Himself. In each degree there are numerous subdivisions, having relations above and below and ramifications on all sides.
“All are but parts of one stupendous whole.”
We live all the skin of the vast body of universal being; and when we see the correspondences, analogies, and relations of one grade of existence with another, of one stratum of life with the next above it, like the queen of Sheba, our spirits sink within us, and we are lost in wonder, love, and praise.
All orderly and beautiful things on earth are images of things in heaven, and steps of ascent to them.
From the humblest forms, from mosses to fruit trees, from creeping things to the animals in immediate attendance upon man, there is a continual ascent of being.. All have relation to man, a certain resemblance to him, even to his body. His body corresponds to his mind, which is a higher—a spiritual body. And this is in the image and likeness of the Lord, the Divine Man, the-Almighty. Man’s will is intended to be the receptacle of the Divine Will, which is Infinite Goodness; man’s understanding of the Divine Understanding, which is Infinite Wisdom. Thus from the Supreme there are degrees downwards, all things in the universe having relation to His goodness and truth. From the atom upwards, there is a constant ascent towards the Lord, and all things are seen to be derived from Him, and to return through man’s acknowledgment and worship to Him.
It is just so in the Word; of the Lord, when understood in the Church. In it and by it; there is an ascent from the letter to the spiritual sense, from the spirit to the celestial sense, and from this to the Divine, for in its origin: and highest essence the Word is God (John i. I). Thus, everywhere in the Church, those represented by the queen of Sheba are shewn the ascent by which they can go up into the House of the Lord, by which they can touch all around them, and see and feel this chain of being everywhere, while they, filled with awe and adoration, exclaim with the patriarch of old, ” Surely God is in this place, and I knew it not. This is none other but the house of God: and this is the gate of heaven.”
There is said to be no more spirit in her: that is, self was entirely humbled and abashed, and could no more be seen. Yet these words are more fully and divinely true when uttered by the humblest Christian, than they were in the case of the queen of Sheba.
By unregenerate nature weare, like the Abyssinian queen, inhabitants of a far country, rough and poor. We have felt how dark we are, and how much there is we would like to know, We have heard of the fame of Solomon, and of the glory and peace of his kingdom. The Divine Saviour is known to be condescending, powerful, glorious, and full of wisdom. We are troubled with hard questions. Why are we tossed about on a sea of uncertainties? Whence are we? What are we to becorne? Can we really be made into angels? What are the monstrous propensities and lusts which press themselves upon us? Can our passions be subdued, and our life in this world be made even in a feeble way to resemble the life of the blessed? Can we indeed find peace? What is death? What is there beyond the grave?
These are hard questions which have made us ponder, as they have perplexed those who have gone before us. Let us go to the great Prince of Peace in our day, and commune with Him of what is in our hearts. In prayer and meditation, He will speak to us, and give us replies; not only to what we have asked, but tell us lunch more than we have sought to know. It is astonishing that an immortal being, placed for a season between two seas as it were, THE PAST, of which he is a product, THE FUTURE, in which he is everlastingly to live, can remain in apathy, nor ask whether he is on the assured road, which will lead to eternal peace. A night of darkness may lie around us, but let us not rest, let us not sit down in the valley of the shadow of death. Let us at least unceasingly inquire, Watchman, what of the night? Watchman, what of the night? Let us rest assured that if we thus inquire earnestly and perseveringly the gracious Saviour, who intends to turn our darkness into day, will reply, The morning cometh.
Author: Jonathan Bayley— The Divine Wisdom of the Word of God (1892)