Then she gave the king 120 talents of gold, a great quantity of spices, and precious stones. Never again was such an abundance of spices brought in as those the queen of Sheba gave to King Solomon.
I. SOLOMON, IN HIS WISDOM, A TYPE OF THE "GREATER" CHRIST. The distinctive personal characteristic of Solomon was his "wisdom." The fame of it is regarded by some as marking the uprising of a new and hitherto unknown power in Israel. Whence came this new phenomenon? We trace it to a Divine source. "The Lord gave unto David this wise son" (1 Kings 5:7). "God gave Solomon wisdom and understanding exceeding much" (1 Kings 4:29). No doubt the extended intercourse with surrounding nations that he established was the beginning of a new life to Israel, bringing in a flood of new ideas and interests. This supplied materials for his wisdom but did not create it. It was not learnt from Egypt, or the "children of the East." It was a Divine gift, that came in response to his own prayer (1 Kings 3:9).
1. One broad feature that strikes us in Solomon's wisdom is its remarkable versatility, the variety of its phases, the way in which its light played freely on all sorts of subjects. It dealt with the objects and processes of nature. It was a kind of natural science. He has been called "the founder of Hebrew science," the "first of the world's great naturalists." "He spake of trees, from the cedar tree," etc. (1 Kings 4:33). One would like to know what the range and quality of his science really was; but the Bible, existing as it does for far other than scientific purposes, does not satisfy our curiosity in this respect. It dealt with moral facts and problems - a true practical philosophy of life; its proper ends and aims, its governing principles, the meaning of its experiences, its besetting dangers and possible rewards. It dealt with the administration of national affairs. This is seen in his assertion of the principle of eternal righteousness as the law by which the ruler of men must himself be ruled. His wisdom lay in the gift of "an understanding heart to judge the people and discern between good and evil," and the people "feared the king, for they saw that the wisdom of God was in him to do judgment" (1 Kings 4:29). We are thus reminded of the unity of nature and of human life. Truth is one, whether in thought, feeling, or conduct, in things private or public, secular or spiritual. Wisdom is the power that discerns and utilizes the innermost truth of all things, finds out and practically applies whatever is essentially Divine.
2. Solomon's wisdom assumed various forms of expression: the Proverbial form, as in the "Book of Proverbs;" the Poetic form, as in his "Songs" and "Psalms;" the Socratic form, by question and answer, riddles - "dark sayings" - and the interpretation thereof. It is in this latter form that his wisdom here appears. Tradition says that Hiram engaged with him in this "cross questioning," and was worsted in the encounter; so here the queen of Sheba came "to prove him with hard questions," and "communing with him of all that was in her heart she found that he could tell her all her questions," etc. By all this we are led to think of "One greater than Solomon."
(1) "Greater," inasmuch as He leads men to wisdom of a higher order. Solomon is the most secular of the inspired writers of the Old Testament. Divine things are approached by him, as it were, on the lower, earthly side. A prudential tone is given to the counsels of religion, and vice is set forth not so much as wickedness but as "folly." Think of the marked difference between the utterances of Solomon's wisdom and the sublime spiritual elevation of David's psalms. And when we come to Christ's teaching, what immeasurably loftier heights and deeper depths of Divine truth are here! Redemption, holiness, immortality, are His themes - the deeper "mysteries of the kingdom of heaven; .... in him are hid all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge" (Colossians 2:8).
(2) "Greater," inasmuch as the Divine fount of wisdom must needs be infinitely superior to any mere human channel through which it flows. Solomon was after all but a learner, not a master. His were but guesses at truth. Christ's were the authoritative utterances of the incarnate "Word." Solomon spoke according to the limited measure of the spirit of truth in him. Christ spoke out of His own infinite fulness. "God giveth not the Spirit by measure unto Him" (John 3:34). Whence, indeed, did Solomon's wisdom come but from Him, the true fontal "Light that lighteth every man that cometh into the world"? The words that the wise in every age have spoken were but dim, dawning rays of the light that broke in a glorious day upon the world when He, the Sun of Righteousness, arose.
II. THE QUEEN OF SHEBA, IN HER SEARCH AFTER WISDOM, AS AN EXAMPLE FOR OURSELVES. All the motives that actuated herin this long pilgrimage from the far off corner of Arabia we know not. Mere curiosity, commercial interest, personal vanity may have had something to do with it. But the words of the narrative suggest that it was mainly an honest thirst for knowledge, and specially for clearer light on highest matters of human interest. Learn
(1) The nobility of a simple, earnest, restless search after truth.
(2) The grateful respect which a teachable spirit will feel towards one who can unveil the truth to it.
(3) The joyous satisfaction of soul that springs from the discovery of the highest truth. How much does such an example as this in the realms of heathen darkness rebuke the spiritual dulness and indifference of those who with the Light of Life shining gloriously upon them in the person of Christ refuse to welcome it, and walk in it! "Many shall come from the east and the west," etc. (Matthew 8:11, 12). - W.
Behold, the half was not told me.
I. THE FUNCTION OF LANGUAGE. And first let me try to make clear what language is, and its function in relation to thought. Language is a distinctively human endowment, and its place is to form a bridge between one mind and another, so that the ideas, emotions, and intentions of one man may become known to his fellows, and that all may share the mind of each. Now, thoughts are, primarily, the reproductions of things; and since, in the far-off ages when language was first evolved, men's thoughts were almost exclusively of their physical surround. ings and needs, we find that the fundamental words of every language are names of material objects or of the impressions made by them on the primitive, childlike mind. And when man's mental horizon widened, and his grasp of abstract ideas strengthened, instead of inventing new names for these higher operations of his mind he linked each abstract thought to a physical symbol, and used for the purpose the words already in vogue. It would surprise some of us, if we studied the matter, to find what a large proportion of our intellectual, moral, and religious vocabulary has physical roots. Right means straight; spirit means wind; transgression, the crossing of a line; supercilious, the lifting of an eyebrow. We still use the word heart to denote not only the physical organ, but the abstract emotions of love; and the word head, not only for that part of the body, but for the intellectual processes which are supposed to go on within it. And here we have the first suggestion of both the beauty and the imperfection of language as a vehicle of mind. It is beautiful because, by the use of natural imagery we employ nature as a symbol of the spiritual world of which she is the antechamber, or as an index finger, pointing away from herself into the deeper mysteries of the spiritual world. Language helps us to realise that these mountains and clouds, these trees and flowers, this earth, sky, sea, still have more to say when they have told us all about their physical properties. Words are the symbol of spirit, and every natural object they connote is a letter of some Divine word. Thus the more clearly we have it proved to us that language is sense-born, the more spiritual are its uses seen to be; for leaf, bud, fruit, horizon-line, mountain-masses, the foam of ocean waves, the eternal stars that blossom nightly in the skies, are one vast illuminated scroll on which, in letters of crimson and gold, green and midnight blackness, is spread the message of the Eternal. But now, if the physical basis of language is a part of its beauty and its power, it is also a source of its weakness. There is no philosopher who does not acknowledge that matter and mind are the most widely sundered realities in the universe. The spiritual and the material are at opposite poles of our experience. Yet we have to use the one not only to illustrate but to express the other. The spiritual has to clothe itself in a material image in order to be communicable at all. Our souls are like prisoners in the cell of sense, able to communicate with each other only through narrow loopholes of eye and ear. And so in dealing with the deep realities of the spirit we are never able to express exactly what we think and feel. Every great sentence is an unsuccessful effort to body forth an elusive thought in words too clumsy to hold it. Always more is meant than meets the ear. We feel like Titans who have strength and passion enough to sport with the hills and to fling mountains at one another, but who can lay their hands on nothing better than a handful of pebbles on which to exercise their muscle. So much greater is sense than body, so much finer is spirit than matter! Human language can no more compass the spiritual riches and vastness of life than a narrow inlet can contain the ocean. And so I might go on to show, by one line of example after another, how it is that in spiritual matters — where the mysteries of the soul, and God, and the life eternal brood darkly within and around us — when we have done what we can to compass them in thought and describe them in words, "the half hath not been told." Far beyond our reach still stretch the heaving waters, still breaks the eastern dawn, still rise the ever. lasting snows. If this is fairly clear, some important conclusions follow.
II. THE MYSTERY OF RELIGION. The first conclusion we are led to is this — we can understand the great difference between the clear results of scientific thought and the uncertain and debatable questions that still try us in our theologies. The plain man — he who is now usually called the "man in the street" — and the scientific thinker are constantly throwing it up to us theologians and preachers, that while they see their way so clearly in practical things, and in dealing with the laws of matter, we never seem to quite agree for long about anything. That is quite true, but the inference which they draw is wrong. If religious thought dealt with material realities, our conclusions about it would be as clear, I suppose, as the rule of three or the theorems of Euclid. But it deals not with matter, which provides the basis of language, but with spirit, which can only use the clumsy instrument lent to it as best it may. This being so, it is unreasonable to expect the same exactitude of thought in theology as in science. We are battling with realities too big for us, and with weapons forged in a furnace too cold for the work. Man, it is true, is made for science, for he is the creature of time and space; and we know something of his surroundings, and it is well. But still more, man is made for religion, for he is the child of eternity, and in the mighty things of the spirit we find our truest and highest life; and so, even at the cost of being condemned to an endless quest, we must battle with the mystery which is also the glamour of religion. And we cannot leave spiritual realities alone for another reason. For in this higher quest and battle there is a supreme reward. Here are the supreme problems and hopes and aspirations of our soul. In this dim, tremendous region we find our truest selves, we find each other, we find God, our Maker and Redeemer. And in wrestling with the realities of religion, the soul grows, realises its true self, comes to its own, makes progress in all that is holy and good, as in no other way.
2. And here I would point out an obvious but perpetual snare that lies in the path of all religious thinkers. That is the danger of thinking that any one can reach finality in theologic thought. How often has this warning been forgotten, or not even recognised? It is the besetting sin of theologians, and of Church councils, and of all system-mongers, to imagine that they have reached the ultimate goal of religious certainty. Too often, in their hurry to reach religious rest, they have treated the high subject-matter of theology — God, the soul, personality, atonement — as if it could be tabulated like the contents of a museum. But museums are for dead things, not for living souls. Let creeds have their place. Let them rise as spontaneous utterances of the common faith of Christian communities — as the changing forms the ever living and growing tree of truth. But directly they claim to be more; directly, to change the figure, they profess to be other than the high-water marks of devout thought, and to be binding on the mind and heart of living men, they become dams, keeping back the swelling tide; they are prison walls that exclude the light and air. The only worthy attitude towards the great mysteries of the spiritual life, then, is one of humility.
3. A word in conclusion to the plain man. Where does he come in in this big, wide, mysterious world of religious thought? He has had no training in exact thinking; he is no logician; he has no time, and less inclination, to dive into the perplexing problems of theology. Yet he has his place and function in religion. For it is his business to live great truths even though he may not be able to understand them. He may have a reasonable faith, even though he may not be able to give full reasons for his faith. And we must always remember that but for the plain, ordinary, devout, and more or less unthinking Christian man or woman the theologian's occupation would be gone. For it is the common everyday religious experience and consciousness that provides the theologian with his material., Therefore, let us all live the life. Let us put religion to the test. Let us "follow the gleam." Let us pray and wrestle and fight with temptation Let us in the strength of God and by His redeeming grace follow Jesus, and put His promises to the proof.
(E. Griffith-Jones, B. A.)
PeopleArabians, Aram, Hiram, Hittites, Ophir, Solomon, Tarshish, Tharshish
PlacesEgypt, House of the Forest of Lebanon, Jerusalem, Kue, Ophir, Sheba, Shephelah, Syria, Tarshish
TopicsAbundance, Gold, Hundred, Large, Precious, Quantities, Queen, Sheba, Solomon, Spices, Stones, Store, Talents, Twenty
Outline1. The queen of Sheba admires the wisdom of Solomon
14. Solomon's gold
16. His targets
18. The throne of ivory
21. His vessels
24. His presents
26. his chariots and horse
28. his tribute
Dictionary of Bible Themes1 Kings 10:10
4466 herbs and spices
LibraryComing to the King.
"And King Solomon gave unto the Queen of Sheba all her desire, whatsoever she asked, beside that which Solomon gave her of his royal bounty."--1 Kings x. 13. The beautiful history recorded in the chapter from which the above words are quoted is deeply instructive to those who have learned to recognise CHRIST in the Scriptures. The reference to this narrative by our LORD Himself was surely designed to draw our attention to it, and gives it an added interest. The blessings, too, received by the Queen …
J. Hudson Taylor—A Ribband of Blue
A Royal Seeker after Wisdom
Of the Weight of Government; and that all Manner of Adversity is to be Despised, and Prosperity Feared.
Meditations of the Blessed State of the Regenerate Man after Death.
There is a Blessedness in Reversion
The Fact of the Redeemer's Return was Typified in the Lives of Joseph and Solomon.
"Let any Man Come. "
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