Then King Rehoboam took counsel with the old men, who had stood before Solomon his father while he was yet alive, saying, “How do you advise me to answer this people?” 7 And they said to him, “If you will be a servant to this people today and serve them, and speak good words to them when you answer them, then they will be your servants forever.” 8 But he abandoned the counsel that the old men gave him and took counsel with the young men who had grown up with him and stood before him.
– 1 Kings 12:6-8
If you know the story of Rehoboam (which many of you may not) this does not end well. Rehoboam was Solomon’s son who inherited the throne when Solomon passed away. Jeroboam the son of Nebat was a servant of Solomon and a great warrior. He fled to Egypt away from Solomon because Jeroboam was promised by God, through the prophet Ahijah, that God was taking the kingdom away from Solomon and giving most of it to Jeroboam. Solomon tried to kill him because that meant his son would not inherit the throne. When Solomon dies Rehoboam tries to officially ratify his rule until Jeroboam returns to appeal for him to lighten the burden on the people that his father Solomon had placed on them.
As you see from the text above, Rehoboam takes counsel with two different groups. The older counselors that spoke into his father’s decision-making and his friends that he grew up with. It ends up being not just a generational problem but a wisdom problem. The older men who counseled his father advised him to lighten the load on the people and to serve them. His younger friends thought this would be a great opportunity to squeeze this for all its worth. So his friends advised Rehoboam to increase the burden and exploit God’s people for their own benefit. I think Rehoboam friends saw this as an opportunity of a lifetime. 1 Kings 12:15 simply tells us that the king did not listen to the people…
What happens of course is this aggressive, exploitive move to drive the people harder and demonstrate his authority splits the kingdom (16ff); Rehoboam destroys the opportunity to serve God’s people in order to take advantage of his power to extract more out of them for his own benefit. Here are a few lessons that flow out of this narrative.
First, there is great wisdom with experience. Older folks are often stereotyped as being stuck in the past doing things the way they have always been done. Sometimes that is true but in this case it dead wrong. Experience carries wisdom and wisdom fuels solid decisions. Notice the advice was not geared to serving the people not exploiting them.
Second, younger people don’t always have it figured out.These friends of Rehoboam were his friends who grew up with him. Best buddies who probably shared a lot of experiences and thought they had it pretty much figured out; in this case they were wrong. Dismissing the advice of the elder counselors becomes Rehoboam demise. It often takes courage and wisdom to listen to those of a different generation.
Third, God is at work even in the midst of human posturing. We often wonder why God allows stuff to happen. In this case it steps into the realm of politics and government – who gets to rule and what does that reign look like. Rehoboam sought counselors but seems to have had his mind already made up that he and his buddies new better than the old folks and they wanted to leave their own mark on the world. Their legacy will be a divided kingdom. But if you notice 1 Kings 12:15 we have an amazing statement:
So the king did not listen to the people, for it was a turn of affairs brought about by the Lordthat he might fulfill his word, which the Lordspoke by Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam the son of Nebat.
– 1 Kings 12:15
We are often confused about how God works but here is a perfect example of what looks like human politics going awry and yet God has His fingerprints through the whole process. God brings about exactly what He predicted through Ahijah. You might never guess how God was “behind the scenes” working in the arrogance of one group and the wisdom of another, and yet God’s purpose comes about just as He planned.
Fourth, don’t panic, God is still on the throne. It does not matter who is sitting on earthly thrones or who is trying to get the earthly thrones. In some ways it doesn’t matter if the people who are ruling are young or old, arrogant or servants, people who listen or they don’t seem to listen to anyone other than their close friends. God still has his fingerprints on the affairs of humanity and His purpose.
What is true wisdom?While wisdom is not automatic there is great wisdom in experience. It is often tempting for younger people to be dismissive of the wisdom of older people at their own peril. But the best wisdom is recognizing that God is very much alive and active in the affairs of humanity. It is easy to conclude God could not possibly allow some things to unfold because this could not possibly be His will. And yet, as we see in this narrative, God has his fingerprints on the ebb and flow of human events so that His will is still the result. We should not panic because humans seem to create more harm than good, more chaos than hope. But God is still on His throne and working out His purpose.
In His grace