King Solomon, it’s safe to say, was a one-percenter. The man was rich—filthy, stinkin’ rich.
At the peak of his powers, he expanded Israel’s borders to their greatest extent, ruling over “all the kings from the Euphrates River to the land of the Philistines and as far as the border of Egypt” (2Chronicles 9:26). He controlled lucrative trade routes that filled his coffers to overflowing. Solomon’s unending gold was enough to make even King Midas green with envy. Silver in Solomonic Israel was so common, it wasn’t even worth a plug nickel. Imagine being so rich that when a neighboring king gifts you with cartloads of silver, you whisper to your servants, “Put it in the Goodwill pile after he’s gone.”
Second Chronicles 9:21 gives an additional sign of Solomon’s lavish wealth. Once every three years, his royal ships “would arrive bearing gold, silver, ivory, apes, and peacocks.” Forget the precious metals. Anybody who’s anybody has apes and peacocks.
Of course, the man was also known for his wisdom. He wrote a proverb or two. For a time, Solomon wonderfully carried out justice and righteousness as the Lord’s anointed.
Solomon’s fame spread far and wide, even enticing the Queen of Sheba (from what is probably modern-day Yemen or Ethiopia) to witness Solomon’s splendor firsthand. As she soaked in the great king’s opulence and sagacity, she couldn’t contain herself. “I was not even told half of your great wisdom!” she gushed. “You far exceed the report I heard” (v.6). Then she gave him four-and-a-half tons of gold (v.9). You know, just in case he needed a little extra spending change.
So what does this biblical episode of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous have to do with Lent? First and 2 Chronicles were written to the post-exilic Jewish community, which was spread throughout the ancient world. All the Jewish people, regardless of their mailing address, were groaning under the yoke of foreign rule. They were a subjugated people, struggling to retain their identity as God’s covenant people and wondering when the Lord’s promises of messianic redemption would be fulfilled.
The verses in our reading today are a reminder of Israel at its zenith—what life looked like when God’s people truly worshiped Him. Today’s passage highlights God’s covenantal faithfulness to Solomon and the nation before they all succumbed to idolatry and disobedience.
Thousands of years later, is life so very different? Idolatry and disobedience still abound, even if they manifest differently. As believers, we are far from our true home, residents of a spiritual diaspora yearning for complete fulfillment of the Lord’s promises. Living daily in our true identity as God’s covenant people is not easy. We, too, long for the Messiah to bring about the final fulfillment of the Lord’s promises.
Take heart, believer! God’s Anointed One has defeated our greatest enemies—sin, Satan, and death—through His atoning death and resurrection. Soon, the true King will consummate His victory, establishing us forever in an eternal kingdom of true justice and righteousness that will make Solomon’s reign look…well, rather quaint.
Easter approaches, and so, too, does the King of glory. Maranatha!