Things that dazzle us draw us, but as the dazzling wears off we’re drawn to compromise. But are things different in the Christian life? Don’t we just keep on maturing until we’re the most godly we can be this side of heaven? These notes match a sermon in our series on 1 & 2 Kings over on YouTube.
Be drawn to and dazzled by the Messiah!
1 Kings 10 has this amazing visit from the Queen of Sheba to King Solomon. I said a few weeks ago that we’re looking at the absolute high-point of OT history, of Israel’s history. This is “peak Israel”! We don’t know for sure who she was or even where Sheba was, but her grandeur and wealth is obvious.
So why is this “peak Israel”?
- She’s a fabulously rich Gentile Queen, coming to Jerusalem because the fame of Israel’s king has spread far and wide.
- Israel live in peace, security, wealth and happiness.
- They are one nation under one godly, wise king.
- The Queen arrived with gifts – and she’s just one of many nations to have done so.
- She’s drawn to Solomon; many nations were.
- And she was dazzled! She was “overwhelmed” (v5) – lit. “breathless” with it all.
What does this Gentile woman marvel at, exactly?
- She had tough questions about life – and Solomon answered everything with great wisdom.
- She saw his great wisdom in government: Huge building projects, the organisation of his officials, and the obvious satisfaction of his subjects and employees.
- Very significantly, she noticed the “burnt offerings Solomon made at the Temple of the LORD” (v5)
- A burnt offering where everything is given to God, nothing held back. A statement of devotion.
The Gentile Queen drawn to praise God
Her amazement at Solomon is sincere – and most importantly, she sees the hand of God in it all. So much so that she actually praises God herself: Read v8-9. See what’s going on? Gentile nations are coming to Jerusalem, being dazzled by the messiah (God-anointed) king, and praising God for all he has done. And praising God by his name, the LORD, YHWH! The God of redemption/rescue/salvation, creator and judge of us all. They praise him.
The covenant with Abraham back in Genesis 12 that all nations would be blessed through his offspring? Here it is. The covenant with David that he would have a son to sit on his throne and rule God’s people? Here he is.
Read v23-25. We’re going to see shortly that Solomon was flawed. He turned out to be just “a messiah” and the “the Messiah”. But that image of the king over God’s people is a hope for us all. All nations from all over the world being blessed, drawn to the great king of all – rich in godly wisdom. Bringing him honour and tribute due to his greatness!
One more dazzling than Solomon is here
But one greater than Solomon is here! Solomon was a 2D shadow of the 3D reality of the king to come! Jesus is greater in majesty, splendour, wisdom and honour. All the riches of knowledge and wisdom are in him. He is King of kings and Lord of lords, honoured and worshipped in all the heavenly realms. And one day, every eye will see him and every knee will bow before him – some in adoration, some by force. Jesus – beaten and crucified, now risen and glorified.
Many will scoff at the idea. “It’s that Jesus stuff again.” They didn’t believe him in his day either. Some people asked him for a miracle to prove himself. Read his reply: Matthew 12:39-42.
The Queen of Sheba (Queen of the South) travelled far to pay tribute to Solomon, God’s king. Now it’s time for you to pay tribute to the King of kings – the one who was dead and buried for three days and three nights, and is now your king. Bow to Jesus in all his majestic splendour now, or one day even the Queen of Sheba will one day point the finger at you and condemn you. Queen of the South 1, Unbeliever 0. Why? Because one greater than Solomon is here and you have rejected his wisdom, kingdom, and honour.
But now our text hits a minor key.
In v11-25 the writer gives a catalogue of extreme wealth. His throne is huge and ornate. Everything is either made of gold or covered with it. The Queen of Sheba and countless other Gentile leaders have lavished gifts on Solomon – it’s eye-wateringly wealthy. And it goes on: Read v26-29.
The mood of extravagance goes on! But our writer is here drawing our attention to something that’s not quite right. Back in Deuteronomy 17:14-17, the law of God gave some specific instructions for Israel’s future kings. They were to be Israelite-born. The king must not acquire great numbers of horses, and must not go to Egypt to buy horses. The king mustn’t accumulate excessive amounts of silver and gold. And the king must not take many wives for himself because they will turn his heart from the LORD. So, right here at the very pinnacle of Solomon and Israel, we see worrying signs. The king has broken God’s laws for kings.
We need to say that it’s not a sin to be wealthy.
- There are some who say it’s a sin to be poor, and that God blesses those he loves with wealth. That’s a lie.
- There are others who automatically assume that if you’re wealthy you’re not a good Christian – ignoring the obvious wealth of Abraham, David, Job and others.
Solomon the law-breaker
But as king Solomon had just a handful of specific laws to keep – he didn’t. He was blessed by God with all sorts of wealth, much of which was put to good use. And the Queen of Sheba certainly praised God for what she saw in Israel. But remember last time? God visited Solomon a second time and told him to live in integrity and godliness. Living in every aspect of his life in a joined-up way – integrity. Upright godliness in every part of life.
He could have anything he wanted. But lots of horses and chariots suggest building an army and trusting in that for security, rather than in God – that’s why that law was in place. And going to Egypt for horses suggests a big step backward for the nation God had rescued from there. He was supposed to live in integrity and godliness. But he allowed compromise. After all, what’s the harm? He was still wise, wasn’t he? Things were still going well, weren’t they? What’s the problem with a few bent rules? No harm done!
But here’s the problem: Compromise always creeps. As a guitar player, the skin on my finger tips is hardened – tight metal strings don’t hurt me they way they’d hurt a beginner. The more you compromise, the less you feel the pain of it. So even more you compromise. Because compromise creeps. A little at a time, then a little more, slowly, slowly into sin.
Solomon becomes a terrible warning for you:
Love the Lord all your days
Back in 1 Kings 3:3 we read that Solomon loved the LORD. The only person in the OT of whom that is said! So our writer in 1 Kings is making quite a point when we turn to Ch 11: Read 1 Kings 11:1-3.
As king, Solomon should not have taken many wives lest they turn his heart. But he did – and they did. In case you didn’t notice the minor key at the end of Ch 10, the writer spells it out here: Solomon has broken basic marriage law for the Israelites. Read v4-10.
I started by pointing out that we get better at things as we get older. We learn where we can cut corners. We’d like to think that as Christians we mature and become stronger, better, closer to Jesus. But look at these awful words: “In Solomon’s old age…” Compromise had crept up, crept in. And now, as an old man, he falls away into idolatry and disobedience. God had told him to live in integrity and godliness:
- Be the full believer in 100% of situations – integrity.
- He’d compromised with horses and gold, and gone for 99% integrity.
- And then, wife by wife, year by year, that became 98%, 97%, 90%, 50%…
No harm done?
You can’t expect to dabble with sin over here and think everything will be ok: no harm done. Because you’ll normalise that sin, and your moral centre will have shifted towards the dark. You’ll drift, slowly. Maybe you know you already have.
Older Christian, have you drifted? Do you need to repent and go back to Christ, your first love? He will receive you!
Younger Christian, do you wish to grow old well? Live in integrity and godliness, not idolatry and disobedience. Take your walk with Christ seriously – and he will provide joy and satisfaction all your days.
Because whereas Solomon turned out to be a failure (not the Messiah), we can give thanks that Jesus is now the glorious Messiah King of kings. We can be drawn and dazzled by him – and kept close, lest we compromise.
So, since God has provided a dazzling messiah king, flawless in majesty, power, wisdom and goodness, we must do as the Queen of Sheba did and be drawn to Jesus, enjoy and marvel at this king, rejoice at life in his kingdom and beware the creeping compromise that will rob you of joy and peace, keeping close to Jesus in confession and praise all your days.