How Far Would You Go?
A sermon based on 1 Kings 10:1-9
Sunday, January 3, 2015 – Epiphany C
To what extremes would you go to accomplish your goals in life? Would you give up sugar and wheat to get healthier? Not just for a diet, but as a lifestyle? Would you sell your TV to get out of debt? Would you sell your car? Are you willing to get up an hour earlier to make those New Year's resolutions come true? How far would you go?
How far would you go to honor Jesus?
This morning we celebrate Epiphany. It's sometimes called the Gentile's Christmas. It's a day set aside to thank God that he has revealed himself as the Savior of not just the Jews, but of the Gentiles or non-Jews too. It's often spent focused on the Magi or Wise Men who came from the East. We often make a lot of assumptions about those Wise Men and ironically, have no idea how far they traveled. We don't know where they started. It just says, "from the East."
But we do have another account in the Bible of a woman who showed just how far she was willing to go to worship the true God. The queen of Sheba heard about Solomon and his "relation to the name of the Lord." And she wanted to know more. How far would she go? She would go to any lengths to know more of Solomon and his wealth, and of his God.
How far would you go? To what extremes would you go to learn more about God and his eternal love for you? To what extent would you put yourself out to worship him? Our text for this morning is recorded for us in 1 Kings 10:1-9…
When the queen of Sheba heard about the fame of Solomon and his relation to the name of the Lord, she came to test him with hard questions. 2 Arriving at Jerusalem 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 that she had on her mind. 3 Solomon answered all her questions; nothing was too hard for the king to explain to her. 4 When the queen of Sheba saw all the wisdom of Solomon and the palace he had built, 5 the food on his table, the seating of his officials, the attending servants in their robes, his cupbearers, and the burnt offerings he made at the temple of the Lord, she was overwhelmed.
6 She said to the king, "The report I heard in my own country about your achievements and your wisdom is true. 7 But I did not believe these things until I came and saw with my own eyes. Indeed, not even half was told me; in wisdom and wealth you have far exceeded the report I heard. 8 How happy your men must be! How happy your officials, who continually stand before you and hear your wisdom! 9 Praise be to the Lord your God, who has delighted in you and placed you on the throne of Israel. Because of the Lord's eternal love for Israel, he has made you king, to maintain justice and righteousness."
Almost all modern scholars agree that Sheba was in southwest Arabia, modern day Yemen. That's 1,367 miles from Jerusalem. To put that into perspective, that's further than it is from here to Prudhoe Bay. And the queen of Sheba couldn't fly to Jerusalem. She couldn't drive.
And yet, here's a woman willing to travel in a camel-drawn caravan, not just to see the glamour of the King's life, but to learn more about the true God.
"When the queen of Sheba heard about the fame of Solomon and his relation to the name of the Lord, she came to test him with hard questions…" She wanted to have her questions about his God answered. And what really took her breath away? The relationship Solomon had with his God. "When the queen of Sheba saw… the burnt offerings he made at the temple of the Lord, she was overwhelmed."
So in the end she praised God: "Praise be to the Lord your God, who has delighted in you and placed you on the throne of Israel. Because of the Lord's eternal love for Israel, he has made you king, to maintain justice and righteousness."
And if you're still doubting that the queen of Sheba was a believer, listen to Jesus' own words in Matthew 12:42: "The Queen of the South will rise at the judgment with this generation and condemn it; for she came from the ends of the earth to listen to Solomon's wisdom, and now one greater than Solomon is here."
Incredible, isn't it? That this woman who lived 1,367 miles away from Jerusalem should even know the true God. Perhaps one of Solomon's merchant ships carried the news to Southern Arabia. Incredible, isn't it? That this woman who lived 1,367 miles away from Jerusalem should come to believe that this God of Israel was the true and only God? The Holy Spirit is amazing in his work! Incredible, isn't it? That this woman who lived 1,367 miles away from Jerusalem should travel so far to learn more about God and to worship him.
How far would you be willing to go to worship God? How far is your drive in to church? (In your heated vehicle?) Not even 100 miles is it? But what if the only church was in Anchorage? Would you still worship as often as you do? What if it was up in Prudhhoe Bay? Would you go then?
Well, the truth is your church isn't that far away. It's only a few miles for most. So how far are you willing to go to grow in your faith? Are you willing to make the trip in twice a week? Or is that too far to go so often?
The truth is, you don't even have to go that far to grow in your faith. You all have Bibles in your own homes. You can get a free app for your phone. You can get meditations and audio Bibles. You don't have to leave your bed to learn more about your Savior. But are you willing to even go that far to pick up the phone and read a few chapters of God's love letter to you?
Sadly we don't like to be inconvenienced even a little, let alone willing to travel 1,367 miles to worship our Savior. What little love we show to him.
Imagine you're the owner of a small business. And as your business grows, you hire a few more staff. But one of your employees refuses to do any of the work they were told to do unless you stand right over their shoulder threatening to fire them unless they did it. He never takes any initiative to do anything on his own. He's unwilling to be inconvenienced in the slightest for the sake of the company. What would you do? Of course you'd fire him! He wouldn't be in your employment for long, would he?
Well, we deserve to be fired by God for our apathy toward him and his Word. We deserve the fires of hell for refusing to be inconvenienced in our selfish pursuits in order to serve him. We deserve to be sent more than 1,367 miles away from God, but to spend eternity banished from him and his heaven.
That's what we deserve. But we don't get it because the queen of Sheba wasn't the only one willing to travel so far, with such commitment, passion, and zeal. There was another who traveled even further to save you and me.
How far would Jesus go to save us? He left heaven to come to earth. That distance is infinitely greater than 1,367 miles. He left his glory to be born in a stable, to live in poverty, to take the abuse of other men. He traveled with determined resolution every step that took him to the cross—to separation from God the Father in a hell we can never imagine—to pay for our apathy, our selfishness, our every sin—to keep us not just in his company, but in his family!
And what's more, he sent the Holy Spirit to travel to the ends of the earth to carry that Gospel message to you and me. I don't know if you can get much further away from Jerusalem than Alaska! Yet, he sent missionaries, pastors, and teachers all the way here to share with us that mystery now revealed: that God's grace is for all! It's for Arabic queens, for Eastern scholars, for Roman Gentiles, and for you and me!
We don't have to travel to Jerusalem to learn about Jesus. The Gospel has been brought to us all the way out here in Alaska. His grace is more like UPS than the Post Office. When a package comes to the Post Office, I get a pink slip that tells me I have to drive in to Kenai to pick it up. But with UPS the brown truck comes up my driveway and the driver brings the package right to my door.
That's what God has done for you with the Gospel—he's delivered it right to your doorstep—because nothing would stop him from rescuing you and bringing you into his family! And nothing will stop him from rescuing you and bringing you into his heaven. That's how far he's willing to go for you!
"Praise be to the Lord your God, who has delighted in you and placed you…" not just on a throne, but into his family through your "relation to the name of the Lord"! Who will give you not just a little wealth, but the riches of heaven! And right now, you have the Lord's eternal love because of Christ our King who maintained God's perfect justice and yet still made us righteous and holy! (cf. Romans 3:21-26)
So, how far are you willing to go to thank him? Would you be willing to give back to him some of the gifts he's given to you? And because of the Lord's eternal love for you, he has blessed you with so much! You have many things that the queen of Sheba and King Solomon never dreamed of: Motorized vehicles, refrigerators with foods they'd never imagined, we have TV's and microwaves, computers and smart phones, tools at our disposal to free up more time to serve God.
And in a sense, we even have more wisdom than Solomon. We have seen the prophecies fulfilled. We have the New Testament. We know exactly what Jesus did to pay for our sin where he had only vague notions. In wisdom and wealth, you have far exceeded… Solomon!
So let's use our free time, let's use our wisdom, let's use our wealth to do all we can to serve our Savior in thanks for the way he served us. Let's bring our very best to him just as the queen of Sheba gave her best gifts to King Solomon. Let's offer such great sacrifices of thanks to him that when others see them they are just overwhelmed as the queen of Sheba was at Solomon's sacrifices!
How far would you go? We would go to any lengths, we would travel any distance, we would go to any extreme to show our thanks to Jesus for going to such great lengths, and traveling so far, for enduring the extremities of hell for us. We'll gladly give him, our time, our money, our skills, our energy, ourselves, our very lives, to learn more of his grace and to serve him in thanks!