Monday, December 10, 2012

2 Chronicles 9: Solomon's Wows & Woes

2 Chron 9:1-8 When the queen of Sheba heard of Solomon's fame, she came to Jerusalem to test him with hard questions. Arriving 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 she had on her mind. Solomon answered all her questions; nothing was too hard for him to explain to her. When the queen of Sheba saw the wisdom of Solomon, as well as the palace he had built, the food on his table, the seating of his officials, the attending servants in their robes, the cupbearers in their robes 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 what they said until I came and saw with my own eyes. Indeed, not even half the greatness of your wisdom was told me; you have far exceeded the report I heard. How happy your men 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 his throne as king to rule for the Lord your God. Because of the love of your God for Israel and his desire to uphold them forever, he has made you king over them, to maintain justice and righteousness."

The queen of Sheba was wowed by Solomon's wisdom and achievements. Gold was used everywhere and silver was as common as stones. The queen's response was estatic: "How happy your men must be! How happy your officials, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom!" On the surface, Solomon had accomplished great public feats of success and riches. But if we were to ask Solomon what he really thought of all his accomplishments, this is what he will say in private: "Vanity of vanities, vanity of vanities! All is vanity" (Eccl 1:2).

Some of us may envy those who have apparently "made it" in life: measured by their material possessions and their prominent public profile. But Solomon, in his moment of quiet reflection near the end of his life acknowledges in Ecclessiastes 2:4-11, "I made great works. I built houses and planted vineyards for myself. I made myself gardens and parks, and planted in them all kinds of fruit trees. I made myself pools from which to water the forest of growing trees. I bought male and female slaves, and had slaves who were born in my house. I had also great possessions of herds and flocks, more than any who had been before me in Jerusalem. I also gathered for myself silver and gold and the treasure of kings and provinces. I got singers, both men and women, and many concubines, the delight of the children of man. So I became great and surpassed all who were before me in Jerusalem. Also my wisdom remained with me. And whatever my eyes desired I did not keep from them. I kept my heart from no pleasure, for my heart found pleasure in all my toil, and this was my reward for all my toil. Then I considered all that my hands had done and the toil I had expended in doing it, and behold, all was vanity and a striving after wind, and there was nothing to be gained under the sun." 

What makes a person rich is not what he possesses, but what possesses him. God's greatness is not measured by what we have but who we are. While Solomon possessed everything that would be considered as the "delight of the children of men," he felt unhappy and empty because he had in the process of seeking greatness for himself lost himself and lost his God. So he concludes: "The end of the matter; all has been heard. Fear God and keep his commandments, for this is the whole duty of man. For God will bring every deed into judgment, with every secret thing, whether good or evil" (Eccl 12:13-14).

Father, may our significance not be built on what we possess but on who  possesses us. Amen.

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