Looking at a picture of the Eastern Sierra Mountains with snow-capped tops is a delight to behold. At times it seems as if the photographs taken of these majestic peaks have been tampered with in order to make them look better than they are in reality. But then seeing, smelling, and walking the base of such mammoth rocks illuminates the reality that its pictures are a faint glimmer of the actual glories they possess. And, the joy of both experiences can’t compare for the former is a taste in abstraction, whereas the latter is a plunge into actual elation.
The queen of Sheba had a similar experience when she heard of king Solomon’s fame. After answering all of her questions with absolute clarity all that was in her heart, the text reads:
“3 When the queen of Sheba had seen the wisdom of Solomon, the house which he had built, 4 the food at his table, the seating of his servants, the attendance of his ministers and their attire, his cupbearers and their attire, and his stairway by which he went up to the house of the Lord, she was breathless.” (9:3-4)
Note that to “hear” or to “see” through the words eye picture is one thing, but to actually taste and see the reality is incomparable. The text continues to unfold her experience:
“ 5 Then she said to the king, “It was a true report which I heard in my own land about your words and your wisdom.6 Nevertheless I did not believe their reports until I came and my eyes had seen it. And behold, the half of the greatness of your wisdom was not told me. You surpass the report that I heard. 7 How blessed are your men, how blessed are these your servants who stand before you continually and hear your wisdom. 8 Blessed be the Lord your God who delighted in you, setting you on His throne as king for the Lord your God; because your God loved Israel establishing them forever, therefore He made you king over them, to do justice and righteousness.” (9:5-8)
There are many lessons here to note. First, there’s a difference between hearing about, as opposed to seeing and tasting this wisdom. Now while Solomon’s riches astounded her, it was the wisdom with which he answered and disclosed to her every question that threw her over the edge. How about Jesus’ wisdom, do we ever consider him as a top tier thinker among the great thinkers in recorded history? According to Mathew 12:42, not even Solomon can compare to Christ’s wisdom and knowledge:
“The Queen of the South will rise up with this generation at the judgment and will condemn it, because she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and behold, something greater than Solomon is here.”
This wisdom and knowledge that’s from another age came in Jesus’ proclamation of the kingdom of God where much confusion had to be corrected for the Jews regarding the Torah (Mt.11-12). Unlike any Old Testament prophet, Jesus preached himself as the message; he was God incarnate and thus superseded the splendor of Solomon.
Second, when the queen says, “the half of the greatness of your wisdom was not told me”, reveals that there’s so much more that words could have described. Solomon serves as a shadow example of the breath, width, height and depth of God’s wisdom and splendor that surpasses our ability to imagine or think. It’s precisely this wisdom that culminates in the cross of Christ and its preaching that’s hidden from all of us until God the Holy Spirit opens our eyes to see and taste the glories of God’s majesty revealed in Christ Jesus (1 Cor.2:1-16).
Third, to be continuously before said wisdom is cause for deep happiness in the soul. “How blessed are your men…servants…” Why, because it’s utterly rare and delightful. That is, the knowledge and wisdom of God was given to Solomon by God because the king feared the LORD. If the notion of God’s wisdom and knowledge conjures up a boring notion, then we haven’t tasted said knowledge or wisdom.
Jesus said that he was greater than Solomon (Mt.12); the Hebrews writer explains that Jesus upholds creation by the word of his power (Heb.1:1-3) and thus by virtue is better than the rest of creation combined. And the reason the generation of Jesus will be judged more strictly than other generations is based strictly on the ontological status of the one speaking.
Fourth, the place of power belongs to God always, but Solomon is placed as God’s vice regent to do justice, and righteousness (v.8). The qualities of love and delight, justice and righteousness are what moved God to make Solomon king over Israel. God delighted in Solomon and thus set him up on the throne of power which ultimately belongs to God, not man. Moreover, it was God’s love for Israel that moved Him to choose Solomon to be their king (v.8.c) for the purpose of doing ruling justly and righteously.
Since God by virtue of being the Creator, is the ground of what is just, right and true, when a nation departs from His ways and ignore the Designers understanding of reality, what ultimately awaits is misery, not bliss.