1 Kings 10:1–9
The rain finally succeeded in putting out the lights. You know these past two weeks have been unusually cloudy. Fog and rain almost daily occurrences. We’ve seen glimpses of the sun but nothing substantial. It’s like the lights have been turned off during the day. No matter how dark during the day, we’ve been persistent at our house. Our Christmas tree is still up with lights on all day. Outside our Christmas lights are still up and shining into the night. We have to keep them up till at least today, the end of the Christmas season. Everyone else has their lights off, not us. Our outdoor Christmas lights kept shining. Until Wednesday. The near-constant rain, foggy conditions, and dampness proved too much. The breaker tripped and the lights went out, and wouldn’t come back on.
That won’t happen to the Light that shines during this time of the church year. That light doesn’t rely on electricity or waterproofing. It doesn’t come from a human source. It comes from God, sent by him, showcased in special ways, and highlighting things we need to know in order to be saved. Over the next five weeks, we’ll have the opportunity to be in God’s Word exploring the light that shines. This morning we’re in the Old Testament and a section we don’t come to very often for consideration. But what a story and one that God uses to bring us his light.
The Light shines on a gift
When royals meet it always seems to turn into a big show. Crowns, clothes, red carpets. One trying to show up the other in wealth and power. In the first lesson, the Queen of Sheba came for a royal visit with King Solomon of Israel, perhaps traveling 1000 miles. It was impressive that word of Solomon’s wealth, power, and wisdom made it to her at so great a distance. She was impressed, but maybe also a bit insulted. Solomon wasn’t the only wealthy royal in the world. Her reputation wasn’t too bad. It was only natural for her to want to display her great wealth.
The queen’s camels carried a gift to Solomon over those 1000 miles. A gift she wasn’t shy about shining a light on. “Arriving in 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.” Great gifts, great in number and substance. The spices were probably from her home country showing their impressive array of products. Of course, there was gold, a universal indicator of wealth and power. Plus precious stones, maybe from her country or possibly others. Precious stones from exotic locations around the world would showcase how her travels, and put her on equal footing with this king she had heard so much about. She was sparing no expense making this trip with all these gifts in tow. But worth it if she could shine a light on her own power and prestige.
It was only a couple of days ago we took the gifts we received and put them away from under the tree. We might still be counting them. As we move them into our rooms, the garage, wherever they go, we consider it a success. Those gifts make great additions to our collections. Video games that just increase our already hefty total. Clothes that stretch the closet even more. Jewelry we admire and know others will too. Whatever it is are we looking at it from how it can bring us more glory? We have more, yes! We showed our wealth by being big spenders on someone else, yes! Was Christmas successful in that we got more than we gave? We maybe aren’t too shy to shine a light on our gifts because they make us feel important. They may not be things we figure can bring God glory, maybe we never even thought of that. But isn’t that the problem? Gifts are often about us. Highlighting our gifts to others. Bragging about what we got. Shining a light to signal to others we are people with means. We may even try to pass off gifts we gave as good works that God should respond to. God will see our generosity, he’ll see the light we shine on our gifts and judge us good.
The Queen of Sheba didn’t just bring along gifts, she also came to Solomon with questions. “She came to test him with hard questions.” Were these the big questions of life? It seems she may have been trying to stump Solomon. Or was it that she wanted him to dazzle her, so she asked the big questions hoping he would grant her the answers she sought. She was in the presence of real wisdom, so she asked. She asked everything on her mind. Possible themes may have been technology, money, personal, even spiritual topics. She got a taste of Solomon’s true wisdom. “Solomon answered all her questions; nothing was too hard for the king to explain to her.” No problem answering her deepest, hardest questions.
At the same time, she also saw everything Solomon had going for him. Wealth was in great supply all around. Great numbers of servants, serving in a huge house. On top of all Solomon’s material possessions, food on his table, and the clothes that he wore, Solomon had his wisdom. The queen saw it all. It would have been easy to become mesmerized. Solomon was so gifted. But she noticed clearly, all his wisdom and wealth, everything about Solomon, pointed away from himself. He wasn’t shining any light on himself. He was shining a light on his God. God got all the credit. While what she saw and heard wasn’t half of what she had been told, Solomon must have accepted no credit or praise. And the queen noticed. It made an impression. “Praise be to the Lord your God, who has delighted in you and placed you on the throne of Israel.”
Solomon was shining a light on his gifts, giving glory to God. God shines a light on a gift for you. It isn’t about your smarts, wealth, or the good things you can do for others. God calls you to his wisdom. That wisdom is Christ. Jesus is the one great person who lived on earth as you should have. He walked surrounded by the wealth of nations, and Jesus kept it in proper perspective as a gift of God. He never worshiped wealth or lusted after it. Jesus held wisdom in its proper place, growing in wisdom, but not using it to revolt against God. It was a gift of God, a benefit for humanity, but wisdom wasn’t for telling God what to do. Christ Jesus did these things, perfectly from birth. That made his birth special, different. God was shining a light on that birth, calling attention to it to people far away from Bethlehem. Men from the east traveled a great distance by the light of a star, provided by God, to worship the gift of God. They saw the Savior of the world, the light of the world. The gift of God for you.
Christ Jesus is the light. He shined out into the world from that manger. He shined out from the place where the wise men visited him. The wise men worshiped not just a Jewish king. He was king over all. Ultimately Jesus Christ shined out his light from the cross. There Jesus becomes the light that shines into the deepest darkest portions of your lives. He shines on your sin and it vanishes in his sacrifice. He shines on your guilt and it is gone.
The Light shines on a gift for you and all people. The Queen of Sheba was a fulfillment of the promise that this gift would be for all people. The wise men too were fulfillments. You are a fulfillment of this promise too. That promise is Christ bringing forgiveness of sins as a gift for the whole world. Jesus is a gift granting eternal life. A gift more important than wealth or wisdom. Solomon was wealthy and wise. But that was nothing compared to the gift he had of the Savior. That Savior turned Solomon’s wealth and wisdom into gifts to use for God’s glory. God grants you gifts for the same purpose. The Queen of Sheba said of Solomon and his gifts, “Because of the Lord’s eternal love for Israel, he has made you king, to maintain justice and righteousness.” Whatever you have, it’s because of God’s eternal love for you. You have been placed where you are, with the gifts you have, to serve. You are hospitable to show love to others. You are compassionate to show care for others. You are gifted with wealth to bless others. Shine a light on these gifts only to glorify God.
Many say the Queen of Sheba came to faith in the Savior because of this visit with Solomon. It could be said that she had the Light shine on her. God used the wisdom and wealth of Solomon to point to Christ Jesus the Savior. That Light shines on you too. A light that saves and forgives. The Light that shines on a gift. The gift is Jesus. A gift given not for your glory but for God’s glory. A gift who gives gifts to you to shine the light back on Christ.