As we look at accounts of Solomon’s wisdom, there’s an interesting account in 2 Chronicles 9, about the “queen of Sheba” (possibly modern-day Ethiopia or Arabia) visiting Solomon. We don’t have her name, but she seems to have been doing well, bringing many gifts to Solomon.
Here’s how that chapter starts out:
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.
2 Chronicles 9:1 NIV
When someone starts to accumulate real wisdom, great wealth, or fame, this draws attention. Even outside of the church, we know names like Elon Musk (whose tweets can send investments soaring or plummeting), E.F. Hutton, or Charles Schwab. Business leaders go to elite schools to learn how to do better, and military generals study past leaders to understand how to be victorious.
I like that the queen here didn’t present softball questions to Solomon. It doesn’t sound like she was given a note card with pre-defined questions or a list of approved topics to talk to him about. Different translations refer to her investigation as “hard questions”, “difficult questions”, or “riddles”. These were mysteries; perhaps those that she had sought the answers to for a long time (and maybe where none of her other advisors could help).
After all, how much do we learn when we ask questions that we already know the answers to? At best, we might discover where we are wrong (which is OK), but if we never tackle the most challenging topics (with love for others, an open mind to find the truth, and patience to learn), we’re destined to remain less knowledgeable than we could be if we were bold and brave.
It appears that the queen was not disappointed, though:
Solomon answered all her questions; nothing was too hard for him to explain to her.
2 Chronicles 9:2 NIV
Despite the difficulty of these challenging questions, they weren’t an obstacle for Solomon, thanks to God’s gift of wisdom to him.
Remember Nebuchadnezzar’s dream in Daniel chapter 2, which his (Nebuchadnezzar’s) other advisors couldn’t interpret because he wouldn’t tell them what it was (Daniel 2:1-13)? There is wisdom, knowledge, and understanding that can only come from God. In fact, Daniel, who was given the content and interpretation of the king’s dream by God, said as much in Daniel 2:27-28.
Since (statistically), you probably aren’t a king or queen (and I’m definitely not), we must find a principle in these verses, though, rather than a model to copy exactly (i.e., with spices, gold, and gems).
Here’s what I think: When we run up against a situation like this, we have several choices:
- We can continue to look for the answer ourselves, even when we discover that it is humanly unknowable. Science and philosophy can teach us a lot of good things, but they also show us what we cannot know with our finite capabilities.
- We can make something up and stick to it, despite a lack of evidence. Being stubbornly wrong is even pretty fashionable in some circles.
- Or, we can seek out the truth from God, who knows all things.
As a result, if you feel stuck answering other people’s questions (or even the questions that you have yourself), I encourage you to consider two things:
- First, it’s OK to ask for God’s help. I guarantee that there are questions you and I are not smart enough to answer on our own. Even Socrates (as I understand it) realized that the first step to learning was to admit that one did not know the answer. After all, why seek out an answer if you’re not willing to admit that you don’t know it?
- Secondly, not every question has to be answered in the way that it was asked. Jesus did a great job of using even loaded questions (those that were meant to be traps) as a way of teaching. Sometimes, He answered with Scripture. Other times, He asked a different question. When you ask a question to God, He may answer a different question for you, while still giving you an answer (or helping you to learn to trust Him more about the remaining unknowns in your life).
So, ask for help in everything you do. Start your day out with a prayer to God, that He would help you excel in whatever the day holds: both those things that you expect to happen, and the opportunities that He provides unexpectedly. As you enter into the various events and conversations of your day, ask Him again for help. If you aren’t sure what God’s success story looks like for something that you encounter, ask for His direction. If you are led to do or to say something specific, ask God to show you how you can help excel at it. And, ask God to give you a peek at the work He is doing around you, as He achieves far more than you can do on your own.
Trust me: no question is too hard for God. He knows that we can’t handle all of the answers at once (being limited here on earth by the human condition), but you can literally ask Him anything.
From Sunday School lesson prepared for July 4, 2021
- The Lookout, July 4, 2021 © 2021 Christian Standard Media.
- Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.