In contrast to many of the ancient Near Eastern cultures, the Bible demonstrates a great respect for women. Among Jesus’ closest followers were Mary and Martha, and women were often the object of His kindness (Matt. 9:20ff; 15:22–28; John 8:1–11) and illustrative of His teaching (Luke 4:25–26; 15:8–10).
Once, in response to a Pharisee’s request for a sign, Jesus invoked the memory of a woman who lived one thousand years before His time. He used her example both to instruct and to warn those who had experienced the privileges of seeing His works and hearing His teaching.
After citing the sign of Jonah, Jesus said, “The queen of the South will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon, and behold, something greater than Solomon is here” (Matt. 12:42).
The account to which Jesus refers is recorded in 1 Kings 10:1–13. When the queen of Sheba heard of the “fame of Solomon concerning the name of the Lord,” she traveled to Jerusalem to get a closer look at His renowned, God-given wisdom.
The king’s answers to her questions, the splendor of the Temple, and the impressive display of the royal retinue took her breath away. She said to Solomon, “The report was true that I heard in my own land of your words and of your wisdom…. And behold, the half was not told me. Your wisdom and prosperity surpass the report that I heard” (1 Kings 10:6–7).
Jesus uses the queen’s example to expose the utter folly of those who are unimpressed with the person and work of God incarnate. She responded with appropriate interest to the fame and reputation of King Solomon. Reports of his wisdom and accomplishments had reached the Arabian Peninsula where her kingdom was located. What she heard made her eager to know more.
So she made what must have been a several-week trip to Jerusalem to seek an audience with Solomon. Her sincere interest overcame any desires for convenience.
Furthermore, when she engaged the king she did not hold back any difficult questions from him. She was honest in her desire to learn from him and to receive what he had to offer.
In all these ways the queen of Sheba is an example to us. She investigates what she has been told in order to determine if it is true. Once she sees that it is, she rejoices in it. This is the kind of nobility that marked the Jews in Berea who eagerly received the word that Paul and Silas preached, “examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so” (Acts 17:11). It is the attitude that every honest hearer of the Gospel should possess.
But the queen of the South is not only an example worth emulating, she also is an indictment on many who have spiritual privileges and opportunities that exceed what she possessed. In her we see a great response to very little opportunity whereas too often today we see very little response to great opportunities.
All she had heard about was Solomon. We have available the complete revelation of Jesus Christ, the One “greater than Solomon.” Solomon was wise. Jesus is wisdom personified (1 Cor. 1:30). Solomon could provide answers. Jesus is the Answer, or, as He put it, “the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).
She had only heard reports from a distance and had to go to great lengths to get firsthand knowledge, but God has brought His Word very near to us. We have Bibles, churches, and helpful ministries readily available. She had no invitation to come to Solomon and no assurance that he would accept her. We have many clear invitations to come to Christ and multiple promises that He will receive us (Matt. 11:28–30; John 6:37).
Those who have heard of Jesus Christ and have had access to His Word yet have ignored or dismissed Him will find the testimony of this queen to be part of the case against them on the day of judgment. All of their excuses will be exposed as flimsy and inadmissible in the light of her example.
“I didn’t like the church” or “it took thirty minutes to get there” ring rather hollow after hearing about her more than twelve-hundred mile journey to meet Solomon.
“The Bible just doesn’t excite me” or “it’s too hard to understand” will sound utterly foolish next to the queen’s testimony of being stunned by the incomplete revelation and imperfect works of Solomon. We have Jesus Christ clearly and fully revealed in the Scriptures. Shouldn’t we be more amazed by Him than anyone could ever be by a mere mortal king?
To remain unimpressed or apathetic in the face of such opportunity is inexcusable. One day, the queen of the south will make that clear.
This article originally appeared in the March 2008 issue of TableTalk Magazine.