IIT UBF - University Bible Fellowship at IIT





A Glimpse of the Heavenly Kingdom

Date: Oct. 26, 2014

Author: Bob Henkins

1 Kings 9:10-10:39

Key Verse: 1 Kings 10:9

“Praise be to the Lord your God, who has delighted in you and placed you on the throne of Israel. Because of the Lord’s eternal love for Israel, he has made you king to maintain justice and righteousness.”

Have you ever gotten a post card from a friend or family member who is traveling and on the card is a beautiful picture of the place they’re at? And it has a clever message on it like “Wish you were here” and it makes you grumpy because you’re not there but wish you were? The picture on the front of the card is just a small glimpse of the real place and it’s made so that you can have a sense of what the real place is like. Today’s passage is similar to a post card because through Solomon’s kingdom, we’re going to catch a glimpse of what God’s heavenly kingdom is like and I’m going to bet you’re going to wish you were there.

And so it came to pass, according to verses 10-11, at the end of twenty years, Solomon had finally finished building the Lord’s temple and his palace and now it was time to settle accounts, to pay his bills. It seems that Solomon had made a pact with his neighboring ally, Hiram the king of Tyre, in exchange for cedar wood and 120 talents of gold worth about ~$375M, Solomon gave Hiram twenty towns in Galilee which were near his border. At first Hiram was ok with this agreement but upon closer inspection of these twenty towns, he began to change his mind complaining, “What kind of towns are these you have given me, my brother?” he asked. And he called them the Land of Kabul, a name they have to this day.” Kabul sounded like the Hebrew word that meant, “Good for nothing.” This could have been big trouble for Solomon; however, nothing seems to come of this disagreement because it appears both kings stayed on good terms with one another and nothing more was ever brought up about it.

Remember the town of Gezer that Pharaoh, king of Egypt, gave to Solomon and his daughter for their wedding gift earlier in the book? Well, it turns out that the gift wasn’t as glamourous as it sounded. Apparently, the town had been captured by Egypt, all the inhabitants killed and then burned down and given to them. I don’t know if you’d consider that a good wedding gift or not? On one hand it’s a city that they didn’t own before, but on the other hand, it’s burned out and full of dead bodies. This also could have been trouble for Solomon; however since he’s a builder, he probably didn’t mind and considered it a fixer upper. He just added it to his list of building projects.

I wonder what it must have been like to be a citizen of Solomon’s kingdom. If you were a foreigner, you were either a visiting guest that has come to see what Solomon has built, or you were a captive from one of the conquered people being used as slave labor working on all the building projects. But if you were one of Solomon’s people, an Israelite, chances are you were treated very well. The people of Israel became part of Solomon’s army, cavalry, navy and government. They had good jobs like generals, government leaders and foremen in charge of his building projects. (v22-23) It was a good time to be a citizen of Solomon’s kingdom because it was a prosperous era, in which Jerusalem was like a magnet drawing the world’s wealth to it. People from all over the world would come to visit bringing gifts and see the sites. On one of Solomon’s sailing trips his navy sailed to Ophir and brought back nearly 55,000 lbs of gold. It was a wonderful time in Israel’s history and a good time to be a citizen.

One of Solomon’s visitors was the queen of Sheba. Take a look at chapter 10 verses 1 & 2. “When the queen of Sheba heard about the fame of Solomon and his relationship to the Lord, she came to test Solomon with hard questions. Arriving at Jerusalem with a very great

Caravan—with camels carrying spices, large quantities of gold, and precious stones—she came to Solomon and talked with him about all that she had on her mind.” Sheba is modern day Yemen. Today, Yemen isn’t much to look at. Even though it’s on the coast of the Arabian Peninsula, it’s mostly desert and too far away from the vast oil deposits. In 2011 it was one of the first countries to start what was known as the Arab Spring, to remove oppressive regimes. As of late, it has been on the receiving end of many, many, US drone strikes. When I first heard of the bombing in Yemen, I wondered why would the US be attacking a seemingly insignificant, poor country. Later I found out that after the war in Afghanistan began, many members of Al Qaeda’s terrorist organization fled to Yemen and have used it, Somalia and Pakistan as their home bases. However, back in Solomon’s day, Sheba was not poor or insignificant. It was the richest nation among the Arabians and one of the world’s wealthiest countries rich in spices, gold and incense. It profited from its sea trade with India and east Africa bringing goods up to Egypt and the middle east. So the queen’s visit was a historic event.

It says that she came because of Solomon’s fame and to test him with hard questions. This got me to wondering what were some of her hard questions…. How about the question of altruism: Can a person really be motivated by desires that are not–ultimately–selfish? Where is heaven located? Is there intelligent life elsewhere in the universe? Why, in general, do women live longer than men? Why does nodding of the head signify Yes and shaking of the head No? How much deeper would the ocean be if sponges didn't grow in it? If you try to fail and succeed, which have you really done? Why, on TV, did "The Incredible Hulk's" shirt always rip but his pants never did? What is the sound of one hand clapping, and can Geico really save you 15% in 15 minutes or less?

All joking aside, I find it interesting that here was the queen of Sheba, a woman who was the ruler of one of the most powerful, wealthy countries of the world and yet she wasn’t truly satisfied. All her money and power were not enough, she still had questions in her heart and she was seeking answers for her soul. And according to verse 2 she makes an interesting connection between Solomon’s wisdom and the God he served. She could sense that there was something different about him, his view, his wisdom. “Solomon answered all her questions; nothing was too hard for the king to explain to her.When the queen of Sheba saw all the wisdom of Solomon and the palace he had built,the food on his table, the seating of his officials, the attending servants in their robes, his cupbearers, and the burnt offerings he made at the temple of the Lord, she was overwhelmed. She said to the king, “The report I heard in my own country about your achievements and your wisdom is true. But I did not believe these things until I came and saw with my own eyes. Indeed, not even half was told me; in wisdom and wealth you have far exceeded the report I heard.” Usually people over exaggerate about themselves making up more than they really have, but she, who was from the upper echelon, was overwhelmed. That says a lot about Solomon.

She was very observant looking at all the details, from the food on his table to the seating of his officials. She was impressed by all the physical blessings Solomon had on display but it was the spiritual ones that caught my eye. Take a look at what she said in verses 8-9. “How happy your people must be! How happy your officials, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom! Praise be to the Lord your God, who has delighted in you and placed you on the throne of Israel. Because of the Lord’s eternal love for Israel, he has made you king to maintain justice and righteousness.” I read in a commentary that the nation of Sheba was known as the happiest nation, I’m not sure where they get that information, but it does seem that the queen commented on it as well. She understood what it takes, from a leader’s perspective, what it took to establish a nation of happy people. Sure, prosperity can make people happy, but it doesn’t matter if there isn’t security. That’s why it’s so important to have a leader that is concerned with justice and righteousness. Usually when people they get in charge, like to rule over others, however it seems that Solomon was a little different. At least in the beginning, he was concerned for God’s people and he sincerely wanted to maintain justice and righteousness.

Think about how important justice is, there are some countries today, maybe most, that justice isn’t guaranteed. What is the point of working hard, building a family, acquiring a little wealth if you are worried that one day, someone can come along and take it all away from you. When people don’t have a sense of security and peace, how can they really be happy? A few years ago, I heard a couple of stories about life in Mexico. I met an engineer from Mexico City. He wanted to build a relationship with me, hoping to off shore some engineering work to Mexico. But he told me that if I ever visited, I should be careful. To watch out even from taxi drivers that pick you up in front of 4 star hotels. Sometimes instead of taking you where you want to go, they would drive you around the block to where their friends are and they would rob you. Or maybe they would drive you out in the middle of nowhere and demand double the amount of they were going to leave you there. He said, “One time someone came up to him as he parked his car in his drive way, and took his car at gun point.” I am not telling these stories to pick on Mexico, but just to illustrate how important justice and righteousness are. Without justice or righteousness, we can’t be happy.

Not only that, because of Solomon’s concern for his people, the queen could see how much God loved the Israelites that he establish such a leader as Solomon. How nice it would be to live under a leader that is genuinely concerned for his people. At this time of the year, we get the blessing to see all the election adds on TV, radio and news outlets. And usually all we hear are the bad stories about those up for election. It seems the only choice we have is the lesser of two evils, there don’t seem to be really many good choices. It is miserable to work under a person that is foolish, however it is good to work with a wise leader.

The queen brought Solomon such a huge gift, but he gave her a larger gift in return. Verse 13 shows that he gave her all that she desired and asked for. Some say that this was a historical meeting that established the trade route between the two countries. What became known as “The Incense Road,” which was established in 1000 B.C.E., began in Southern Arabia and ended in Israel. It allowed the flow of trade across to Egypt, Syria and Ethiopia.

This period is when Israel was at its physical peak, Solomon's splendor and wisdom was on display for all to see. In this passage we see that Solomon is a generous, king who maintains justice and righteousness. Everything in the kingdom is so plentiful, precious stones, food, spices, every dish in Solomon’s house was made gold and even silver was as common as stones. Solomon was wiser and wealthier than every other king on earth. There was peace from all his enemies, no disasters going on and people from all over the world would come just to hear his wisdom. The citizens had good jobs, they were led by a wise leader, they had peace, security and a future to build upon.

Now tell me, who of you would like to live in such a place? We all would. Just like a post card that highlights the good points of a place, Solomon’s kingdom is a small picture of what heaven will be like. It is a paler version. While silver was as plentiful as stones, in heaven the streets will be made of gold. Even as good as it was for people to live during Solomon’s time, it was far from perfect. If you remember in the beginning of the passage, they had slave labor, even Solomon may have been deceitful with his friends, his father in law didn’t exactly give him a great wedding gift. There was still sin in the world.

However God’s kingdom will out shine Solomon’s and his glory will light the world. Jesus recounted the queen of Sheba’s visit and said, “42 The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon’s wisdom, and now something greater than Solomon is here.” (Mt 12) Jesus was referring to the coming Messiah, to himself as the one who would come. He would be wiser that Solomon and his kingdom better as well. The prophet Isaiah looked forward to the day and said, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this.” (Isa 9) Jesus will rule with love and peace.

In Israel we see how graceful God is. And how he pours out his abundant love and blessing upon his people.

Please see audio for conclusion

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As it is written in the book of the words of Isaiah the prophet,

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