Read: 1 Kings 10.
In this chapter Solomon sets forth the greatness of Christ in three respects—in his riches, his food and his wisdom. Again we are brought back to this governing consideration: why all this detail and elaboration? Why is all this space in the three books—Samuel, Kings and Chronicles—occupied with setting out in a very minute and thorough way the greatness of Solomon, and especially in these three directions? There is a double answer. The first part is that which we have already suggested: that he was sovereignly chosen to bring into view Divine thoughts concerning the greater Son of David, and the real meaning of sonship according to God’s heart. The second is not another, but only a part of the first: that the purpose was to bring the glory of God into view; in other words, to glorify God.
(a) To display the Glory of God
You remember how David led up to this. He gathered together all the wealth, the gold for the things of gold, the silver for the things of silver, the metals and the precious stones, and then he added his own great treasure—and great treasure it was!—and passed it over to the Lord for His house (1 Chronicles 28 and 29). It is a great description, very full and almost overwhelming. But then David suddenly seems to collapse before it all, and as you read you feel something of an anticlimax. After having risen in eloquence about the dedicating of it all to the Lord and the joy in doing it, suddenly, in another voice, soft, hushed, subdued, he says: ‘But, after all, what have we done? Of Thine own have we given Thee. It is all Thine own; it is not our wealth, it is Thine.’ “Thine, O Lord, is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty: for all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine.” After all, it is the Lord’s glory, not ours. And David passed that all on to Solomon his son; the son took it all up and brought that glory of God, that wealth of God, into an embodiment of expression—the house of God for the glory of God; for the house “is not for man, but for the Lord God,” and “it must be exceeding magnifical” (1 Chronicles 29:1, and 22:5).
The thing which is governing all this description, and explains the care taken to give every detail in fulness, is the glory of God. So the riches are the riches of His glory. Solomon’s riches and glory have passed and are gone; but with the greater Son, the Only-begotten of the Father, the true riches—the imperishable wealth that never passes—are stored up and brought over, as we shall see later, for setting forth in the Church. But for the present we note that they are firstly gathered up into Christ.
So the answer to our opening enquiry is this, finally and supremely: this great, full presentation of Solomon’s wealth is to lead us to glorify God, to lead on to a worshipping people. For that is exactly what happened—the revelation of the glory of God in a man (but what a man!) resulted in a worshipping people.
(b) For the Enrichment of His People
The Queen of Sheba came to see because of the Name of the Lord (1 Kings 10:1); and the Name of the Lord is that which is involved in this. The Name of the Lord is bound up with the fulness of Christ, and the glory of God depends upon how Christ is seen and known as the Divine fulness. It must come to this—we cannot keep away from it—that the Lord is only glorified as His real fulness is brought into practical revelation in Christ in the house of God. While the first and all-governing thing is this glorifying of God—and it all traces back to God, for God gave Solomon riches and power and wisdom—the thing which immediately issues is the enrichment of God’s people. The Divine bounty was never intended to be limited to Solomon as a solitary individual, for there to be this one man walking by himself as an isolated unit in his kingdom, spending all his wealth upon himself, and, like one of his peacocks, strutting about in his own glory, turned in upon himself—like Nebuchadnezzar: “Is not this great Babylon, which I have built...” (Daniel 4:30). There is nothing like that here! You notice that immediately it turns out to the people of God and it is for them, for their enrichment. It is not for personal and self-centred interests but for Israel; and the Queen of Sheba puts her finger upon that: “Because the Lord loved Israel for ever, therefore made he thee king” (1 Kings 10:9).
When we turn to the Letter to the Ephesians we have that remarkable and mysterious little phrase in Paul’s prayer for a spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Christ—“that ye may know... the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints” (Ephesians 1:18). What does that mean? Well, in the mystery of God it may mean that Christ has something in the saints which is His inheritance, something which He—and He alone knows how it can be—regards as worth having, something for His own satisfaction, by which He Himself is enriched. I do not know how that can be, but I do see this: that Christ’s inheritance is received from the Father, all the fulness of God is lavished upon Him and stored up in Him, and He brings it into the Church—His inheritance is brought into the saints. Whether that is a true exegesis or not I do not know absolutely; but I believe that there is truth in this—that Christ brings into the Church the wealth which He has inherited as the Son, just as Solomon brought into the house of God and into Israel this great wealth which had been given by God. It was Christ’s inheritance in the saints, not for Himself. He had it without ever coming here: “...the glory which I had with Thee before the world was...” (John 17:5). He had it all, for He created all things, but now He has brought His fulness here, and “of His fulness we all received, and grace for grace” (John 1:16); “In Him ye are made full” (Colossians 2:10). It is wealth for His people. So the glory of God works round that way.
Dear friends, it is not to the glory of God that any child of His should be in spiritual poverty, or that His Church should be lacking in spiritual wealth. God’s thought, and what He is anxious to do, is to make His Church wealthy beyond its own dreams in the riches of Christ. Paul saw and knew something of this: “O the depth of the riches...” (Romans 11:33); and again: “The riches of His grace” (Ephesians 1:7). It would take a long time to dwell upon the separate riches of Christ, on all the riches of grace. We can only make the statement. My difficulty is to keep these things apart. I see that the greatness of the Church is something which has to be dealt with by itself, but here we overlap at once. The fulness, the riches, the bounty of Christ, all that is stored up in Christ, is Churchwise, not individualwise; it is corporate, collective. It will take the whole Body to be the adequate vessel of the fulness of Christ. Having said that, let us come back here. The glory of God is to be found in a people who have come into, and are daily living in, the good of the riches of Christ.
(c) For Distribution by His People
That wealth is for their stewardship and distribution—that they have enough, and plenty to give away. Have you plenty to give away? What about your stewardship? Is it a hard, hard labour of collecting enough to meet demand, or have you a margin for others? We are thinking in the realm of the Letter to the Ephesians—the “stewardship of the mystery” (Ephesians 3:9), something committed to us. But we have to see, ‘the eyes of our heart must be enlightened, that we may know the hope of His calling, the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, the exceeding greatness of His power to usward who believe’ (Ephesians 1:18,19). We have to see and know, for in order to fulfil a stewardship it has to come from the inside. All this was in Solomon for his household and for the nation, and the fulness of Christ is for His people, for the Church, as a stewardship. I trust that this is not something that is strange to you and you do not understand, but, even if it is, let it be stated with great emphasis that this is God’s thought and intention for us: that we should fulfil a stewardship of the riches of Christ. And that will be our vindication, our justification for existence, the Divine certificate for our ministry. There is no other ground. Have we got the goods? Can we meet spiritual need? Will what we have solve the problem of spiritual weakness and limitation? The test of our stewardship is when people are in desperation, and when people become conscious of their need, then should be the vindication of all our claims. Have we what is needed? This is the will of God concerning us, for it is all for us in Christ, the greater than Solomon.
(a) The Satisfaction of His People
We touch on this matter of food—Solomon’s provision for one day. Living daily in an apprehension, a consciousness, a realization, of how full Christ is—that is where God’s glory is. This is not just a statement of fact, but God’s thought and will. Those who have really come to the place where Christ occupies the position which God has appointed for Him—have come there individually and in relationship with other believers—know very well that they have been delivered from spiritual limitation, and there is plenty, there is wealth, there is abundance, there is an open heaven, and the Lord is not restrained. He is giving and giving and giving. These things of Christ are all of a piece and cannot really be isolated. You have to have the greatness of the Cross in order to know the wealth of Christ. You have to have the greatness of the Church in order to express the wealth of Christ. But, given that the Cross has a large enough place objectively and subjectively, the heavens are open. Jordan is accomplished, and the heavens are opened upon Him Who is the beloved of God, this greater Jedidiah, “Beloved of the Lord,” and the attestation is made: “My beloved...” (Matthew 3:17). And “He hath made us accepted in the beloved” (Ephesians 1:6). It is all of a piece. Jordan, the Cross, is very necessary; but, given that, the Lord’s thought for you and for all is that you should be in the land of plenty, not struggling to make ends meet spiritually and worrying about where the next bit is coming from. One thing that the Lord would teach us is that we can count upon His supplies. It is wonderful! We may seem to have come to an end very often, but that is just the Lord’s way of telling us that it is a new beginning and there is more yet. These are not just statements: they are facts. I do not know how much you really know of this. Those of us who minister considerably do know something about it. There seems to be nothing left; then comes a new demand and a new fulness; and it goes on. The Lord would have it like that in His Church. Oh, the spiritual starvation! There are people going about saying: ‘I cannot find any spiritual food. There is no meat and everything is so poor!’ Oh, how dishonouring that is to the Lord, and how contrary to His mind! How it sets Christ at nought! What a little Christ that implies! No! God is glorified when the experience of His people is Christ in His fulness, just as Israel were experiencing the wealth of Solomon.
Food is intended to result in a satisfied people. Solomon’s food was for the satisfaction, not only of himself, but of those dependent upon him. And this wealth of Christ, this fulness of Christ, this food that is in Christ, is firstly to make us satisfied people. I suppose that, in the days of Solomon’s glory, to have walked up and down the land would have been to see people who were well content; and God is glorified when He has a people content with Himself and with His Son. Is that true of us? If it is not so, there is something wrong. We have no testimony and no challenge whatever unless that is true. We have no power and no authority. When others look upon our faces as Christians, what do they see? Starvation? Or do they see satisfied people? Are we talking to people out of doctrine and out of Scripture, or out of our own hearts and experience? Dear friends, this is one practical challenge of the Word of God to us. Are you contented deep down in your heart with the Lord? Are you satisfied? Is He all that you want, and more? That is simple, but it is testing. The glory of God is bound up with our being satisfied.
(b) The Maturing of His People
Secondly, food is for growth unto maturity. Are you growing? The proof of growth is this: that the fulness to you is something inexhaustible, and beyond your present immediate need. It has met you here, but you realize that there is something very much more. You have come into the realm where you need not go and glean in any other field, for you have all you want here and you are appropriating it and growing thereby. Is that true? A people growing is a people that glorifies God, for they are attaining unto all the fulness and the stature of a man in Christ.
(a) Divine Principles Disclosed
There are several passages that speak of the wisdom of Solomon. There is that one which tells us that “he spake of trees, from the cedar that is in Lebanon even unto the hyssop that springeth out of the wall” (1 Kings 4:33). How did he speak of trees? Was he just a naturalist, describing trees and flowers, their beauty and so on? No, he showed that trees were symbols. It was not just botany. Certain men of education will make anybody wise in that respect, but not in the sense that Solomon was wise. God gave him wisdom, and he saw Divine principles through the trees. What is the cedar which is in Lebanon? It is the very symbol of nobility, of spiritual greatness. In the Old Testament, trees are types of men, and here in the trees there are characteristics hidden and Divine thoughts embodied. Solomon was getting through the outer structure to the inner meaning and was unveiling the wisdom of God in the creation. In a word, Solomon was showing that everything that God makes is not just something made and something in itself, but that it embodies a Divine thought. All the ordinances of the heavens, all the heavenly bodies and all the forms of nature embody some Divine thought and principle, and the wisdom of Solomon was in disclosing the Divine principles in nature.
(b) Divine Secrets Apprehended
“He spake three thousand proverbs: and his songs were a thousand and five” (1 Kings 4:32). What are proverbs? Well, they are statements with a hidden meaning. The same word is used of the speech of the Lord Jesus. Our word ‘parable’ is only another word for ‘proverb.’ “He spake... in parables” (Matthew 13:3, etc.), that is, statements with hidden meanings; and the wisdom of Solomon was in bringing out hidden meanings. And songs—instruments of worshipping and exaltation. You remember what the Apostle says about the Lord Jesus: “...in Whom are hid...” (Colossians 2:3). The Lord Jesus does not talk to us merely about trees and nature in parables, but He says: “It is given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom” (Matthew 13:11). In the Lord Jesus there is, by the Holy Spirit, the disclosing of Divine secrets by which the very creation will realize its destiny. Do you see that the way to the realization of God’s eternal purpose is the way of discovering the secrets of the Lord? Take the inclusive thing, the Church. The word “mystery” relates to it (Ephesians 3:3, etc.). It is God’s mystery, His secret. Before the world was, God conceived it and projected its eternal vocation to serve Him in high purpose through the ages of the ages. It is the deep secret of God. How, then, will you and I realize our very destiny according to God’s eternal choosing and appointing? Only as the Holy Spirit reveals to us the secrets of God. “Things which eye saw not, and ear heard not, and which entered not into the heart of man, whatsoever things God prepared for them that love Him. But unto us God revealed them through the Spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:9,10). What I am getting at is this: it is not good enough just to read the Bible and take it as it stands on the surface. It is necessary for the Holy Spirit to disclose to us God’s hidden things as they are summed up in Christ. Christ is the wisdom of God, the fulness of Divine knowledge, the embodiment of all that by which we are coming to the realization of that great destiny and purpose for which we are chosen in Christ, but there has to be a work of the Holy Spirit to disclose what is in Christ to our hearts. It has to be along this line and after this kind—that the Spirit shows us something in Christ and we say: ‘I have never seen that before!’ It comes with the power of a revelation which changes us from that time and makes all the difference to us. There is something more in that than just reading a passage of Scripture. You may read a passage a thousand times and know it by heart, and then the Spirit says something and that old familiar portion lights up, and you are brought to a new place in consequence.
But remember that all this must be practically expressed. I know that it is said that the Queen of Sheba heard of the wisdom of Solomon, and the Lord Jesus said that she came to hear his wisdom, but it also says that she saw the wisdom of Solomon: “And when the Queen of Sheba had seen all the wisdom of Solomon, and the house that he had built, and the meat of his table, and the sitting of his servants, and the attendance of his ministers, and their apparel, and his cupbearers, and the ascent by which he went up into the house of the Lord...” (1 Kings 10:4,5). This was wisdom to be seen, and not only to be heard. The greatness of Christ is not just something to be listened to; it is something to be seen, to be manifested, in those who circle round Him. The Church is to show forth the excellencies of Him Who called you out of darkness into His marvellous light (1 Peter 2:9); to show forth the wisdom, and to make the wealth to be seen. We have already spoken of the need for manifesting the satisfaction which we have in Christ. Let us see to it also that our apprehension of the Divine thoughts does not remain only in the realm of our understanding. And even if, after all that we have been saying about the greatness of Christ, you do not really grasp its significance and have nothing more than just the impression that Christ is much greater than ever you thought He was, that will do to begin with. But ask for something more than that: that this may become an inward reality and a working factor in your life. “Oh, what a Christ have I!”