She came to test him with hard questions

In 1 Kings 10, we read the account of the Queen of Sheba hearing of King Solomon’s great wealth and wisdom, his fame concerning the
name of the Lord, and that she came to test him with hard questions.  We’re not told what those hard questions are, but they shouldn’t be that hard to imagine. One can imagine that the great and wealthy queen came to ask this world-renown king of Israel, known for his astounding wealth, prosperity, and wisdom, questions such as:

“What are your views on women ruling countries?” After all, she was the queen and he a king.

“Why do you think that your God is the one true God?”

“What is your position on men sleeping with men or women with women?”

“What makes you think that the temple you’ve built in Jerusalem is the dwelling place of God?”

“How do you reconcile the history of your warring and conquering people with your poets’ words about God loving all mankind?”

“Why do you think tragedy happens to those that are seeking to be good?”

“If God is God, why can’t he stop babies from dying and sons from rebelling, and spouses from abusing?”

Remember, they were hard questions. She didn’t come to ask the great king easy questions. They were questions born of the travails and trials of this life. They were questions heretofore unanswered by anyone. Now comes this king who is supposed to be the wisest ever to have lived, powerful in wealth and influence, and she’s going to put him to the test. She wants to know the answers to those questions that haunt your soul at night and cause your heart to be weighed down. She’s wants to ask those naughty questions about the existence of God and of the truth of His love and whether or not He really gives a hoot about mankind. She wants to ask if he plans on conquering her land and making her and her people slaves.

She’s come to ask the hard, life-bending questions that we all ask because she suffered the same evils we all suffer; the evils of betrayal, death, defilement, hatred, envy, greed, loneliness, guilt, not too mention our perverse thoughts that we so desperately hope and pray never come to light before others. We all want to know, like the Queen of Sheba, why God made us this way; what’s His end-game; why has He made it so hard and terrible on us.

Verse 3: “And Solomon answered all her questions; there was nothing hidden from the king that he could not explain to her.”

That’s rather profound. He answered all her questions. Her hard questions. Would that some king answer our hard questions. Would that something greater than Solomon were here. Would that the truth would be known and would set us free!

But the queen hadn’t simply asked her questions and bagged out. She didn’t email the king or send a letter. She went and saw him and stayed a while in his kingdom. Most likely the Queen of Sheba remained in the presence of Solomon and in his kingdom of no less than six months, and probably much longer. Why do I say this? Because the text reads that “the queen of Sheba had seen the wisdom of Solomon, the house that he had built, the food of his table, the seating of his official, and the attendance of his servants. their clothing, his cup-bearers, and his burnt offerings that he offered at the house of the Lord.” (1 Kings 10:3-5) Considering that Solomon only offered the burnt offerings in the house of the Lord three times a year, which, as she saw and considered them, suggests that the queen was in Jerusalem for an extended stay. Moreover, the distance she traveled to get to King Solomon, and the cohort she brought (v. 2), in addition to all that she saw and pondered strongly suggests that she wasn’t there for an evening or just a few days. Rather, it was in hearing the kings answers in consideration of all that she saw and witness, that she was answered.

She came to test him with hard questions and wanted to know that his answers weren’t canned answers that had no true bearing on the way he lived. You don’t ask the hard questions without wanting to know that the answers given are answers that will stand the test of time and strength of opposition. You wait around and consider not only the words but the fruit of the words. The queen was no dummy. She heard the answers but also took stock and consider King Solomon’s reign, his wealth, his subjects: his kingdom.

Verse 6-10: And she said to the king, ‘The report was true that I heard in my own land of your words and of your wisdom, but I did not believe the report until I came and my own eyes had seen it. And behold, the half was not told me! Your wisdom and prosperity surpass the report that I heard. Happy are your men! Happy are your servants, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom! Blessed be the Lord your God, who has delighted in you and set you on the throne of Israel! Because the Lord loved Israel forever, He has made you king, that you may execute justice and righteousness.”

We are as wise as the Queen of Sheba. We’re not so easily fooled by the answers of others. We hear the answers but also consider the evidence. God is love, yet there is great evil in the world. God created all, yet creation – and we, too – die and decay. God loves us, yet we fight and kill and destroy each other while God seems to sit quietly by shaking is ancient, powerless head going, “Tsk, tsk, tsk. Don’t do that.” God is good, yet we are called evil and our desires and choices are called evil. God answers prayer, yet all we hear is the empty promises like a child holding a seashell to his ear: the sound is there, but no substance. We have hard questions, too. Perhaps harder than the great queen’s; if for no other reason than that they are our questions and not hers. So she was satisfied by the wise king, but we are not. Where is the wise king that we can put him to the test and ask the hard questions and receive true answers?

He is on His throne, as Solomon was on his throne. And if we want His answers, we must enter His kingdom. We must consider His actual answer rather than the pre-canned answer we expect to hear.

But this is no metaphoric, poetic rhetoric designed to stir the heart so that the hard questions soften or to pacify the questioner long enough to escape their weary gaze. Not at all. This is only to put the quest into context. If you want answers, you must ask the King. You must ask the King and you must stay to consider His kingdom: His wisdom and prosperity; His men and servants who continually stand before Him and hear His wisdom. You must enter the courts of the King and put your questions to voice. Only, consider His answers in light of His reign and of His kingdom. Do not seek to find the answers you want, but the answers He gives. You will find that they, like your questions, are hard answers. But their hardness is not in their exacting difficulty or in their intricate novelty and twisted paths of some ancient logic. Quite the opposite. They are hard in that they are stronger than your questions. They are harder like a rock that is harder than glass, able to dash the glass to pieces. They are not hard because they are exacting, but because they are everlasting.

To the troubled heart they are easy answers; to the conscience they are light and airy and carry no weight. To the suffering questioner His answers are quiet peace and calm salve. His answers don’t fight your questions or reason with them or win them over by argument. His answers are bigger than your questions as His kingdom is bigger than your world.

But the asking is the thing. You ask your questions, whatever they may be, however hard or inappropriate you might think them. Ask and hold nothing back. Ask in anger, ask in fear, ask in hopeful expectation of an answer. Or ask expecting only silence. But when you ask, know that He has answered. He has answered your questions – all your hard and difficult questions. Whatever your questions, no matter how hard and seemingly unanswerable they might be, no matter how many before Him have not been able to answer, He has answered. He answers with His virgin birth and His obedient life. He answers your questions with His passion for sinners and His quiet suffering at the hands of sinners. He answers your questions with His bloody cross and His three-day burial. He answers with His resurrection and with His ascension to the right hand of Power. He gives His answers when He washes you with His water and word; when He absolves you by the mouths of His servants; and when He feeds you from His table, food richer and more plenteous than all the tables of the impoverished king Solomon. His wisdom is wiser than men. His answers are absolute.

His sacraments are His kingdom. Not your knowledge of the Bible or your eagerness to pray (or lack thereof). His gathering is His throne room and His banquet hall. The pondering of His kingdom isn’t naval gazing or long walks on dusky trails. His kingdom isn’t knee deep in good works or swaying to the rhythm of the beat. His kingdom isn’t our efforts on putting on a worship service or our efforts at making sure the altar flowers are pretty, the babies are quiet, and no one does anything stupid or embarrassing. His kingdom is His reign through His mysteries. To ask the King and remain in His kingdom to have to go where He has promised to be and to see what He puts before you.

Ponder His answer, which is Himself; ponder and meditate His answer given, and take stock of His kingdom. Remain in His kingdom a while and consider it. Happy are His men, for they do not fear their sins, nor death,  nor darkness! Happy are His servants that stand daily before Him and hear His wisdom! His wealth and prosperity and greater than you have been told, than you have imagined. He is ruler of all that is seen and unseen. Heaven is His throne and the earth is His footstool. His wealth is not the wealth of nations, but everything belongs to Him.

Something greater than Solomon is here. The Great King reigns in peace and grace amid  a world of hard questions. They have all been answered. But that is not the end.

When the Queen of Sheba left the city of King Solomon, she gave him a token of her gratitude in gold and spice and rare wood. Added to his wealth it was but a pittance. This is our pittance of giving whatever we might give. Meanwhile the king gave to her “all that she desired, whatever she asked besides what was given her by the bounty of King Solomon.” (v. 13) The queen returned richer and wiser than she had come; full and satisfied by the king. So, too, you. Hear His answer and meditate on His kingdom, and He will give you the desires of your heart and you will be richer than the kings of earth, more satisfied than the wealthy among men. and wiser than the sages of this age. For the King’s bounty is eternal life and His gifts are everlasting peace, and He sets you free.

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