To whom will you listen?

Based on: 1 Kings 12:3-11

What would you do?  You have before you one of the most important decisions you will ever make in your life.  You are the new king of Israel and the people come to you and say that taxes are too high.  They want you to lessen the financial burden they are under.  How do you answer?

You have one group of advisers who helped your father make decisions and they say, “Give them what they ask for and things will go well for you in the future.”  But they are from a different generation and you don’t know them very well.  They just don’t seem to think the same way you do.

Then there are your friends – the people you grew up with.  They certainly want what’s best for you, but they tell you just the opposite.  They tell you to make the people’s burden even greater.  Their answer appeals to you.  You are the king after all.  You are in charge.  How dare they come to you to tell you how to run the country.

What would you do?  You have an angel on one shoulder telling you one thing and a demon on the other shoulder telling you just the opposite.  But how do you know which is which.  Who is giving you the right advice.  To whom will you listen?

Rehoboam was the son of king Solomon, the son of king David.  God had given king Solomon greater wisdom than anyone else who has ever lived.  With his wisdom Solomon made the country of Israel a world power.  Israel was at the absolute pinnacle of its existence as a nation.  It’s boundaries had grown as large as they ever would.  Important people came from all over to visit Solomon and Israel enjoyed trade with places as far away as India.

Now Solomon left this empire to his son, Rehoboam.  And Rehoboam is immediately faced with this decision that would benefit from the wisdom of Solomon.  The people claimed that Solomon’s government was too expensive to maintain.  They were struggling under the load of paying for and helping to build the temple, the palace, military bases, and other public works, not to mention supporting Solomon’s household and other officials.  Perhaps they did have a heavy burden, but they also benefited from the peace and prosperity Solomon brought.   (Maybe you and I do the same thing when we complain about taxes and yet we are happy to use the roads, social services, and police and fire protection.)

Rehoboam has these two choices. What did he do?  He followed the advice of his friends.  In fact, I think he planned to do that even before hearing their advice.  Listen to what he says to his friends, “How should we answer these people.”  It sounds like he is including them in the decision making.  “Let’s work together to respond to these people.”

The consequences of this one decision are immense.  The empire that David and Solomon built is split in two as the ten northern tribes of Israel decide they don’t want Rehoboam to be their leader and they get Jeroboam to be their king.  These children of Abraham began fighting with each other rather than proclaiming God’s praises.  The split was never repaired.

Even worse was the spiritual mess that came as a result.  Jeroboam didn’t want the people of the northern kingdom to intermingle with the people of Judah and Benjamin in the South so he changed the way they worshiped God.  There were four things in particular that were against God’s commands:  He set up other places to worship beside Jerusalem.  He set up golden calves to represent the Lord.  He allowed anyone to become a priest, not just the Levites.  And he changed the days for festival worship.  After 200 years of this God handed the northern kingdom over to the Assyrians and they never again became a separate nation. 

The southern tribes of Judah and Benjamin were known simply as the nation of Judah.  (Even though the nation of Judah was made up of only two of the original twelve tribes, the terms Judaism, Jew, and Jewish often used in modern times to refer to all those who descended from Abraham.)  Judah also struggled after that point, both spiritually and physically, but lasted much longer as a nation than the other 10 tribes and retains much of its cultural identity to this day.

Now, that’s a lot of history that you probably haven’t heard in a while, but it is good to look at history.  We see a little bit of what made up the Jews of Jesus’ day and we see an excellent lesson for ourselves.  So, what about Rehoboam and his decision?  To whom did he listen?  He listened to his friends, of course.  Is that wrong?  Not necessarily.  The better question would be, to whom did he not listen?  Why didn’t he seek God’s advice?

If he had considered God’s Word he would have known that God told his grandfather, David, “You will shepherd my people Israel, and you will become their ruler” (2 Samuel 5:2).  By that he would know that he also was a shepherd of Israel.  He was there to serve them as their leader, not so they could serve him.  If he had read the inspired words written by his father, “A gentle answer turns away wrath” (Proverbs 15:1), he would have know how to answer the Israelites.  But Rehoboam was not interested in following God’s Word.  The Bible says of him, “He did evil because he had not set his heart on seeking the Lord” (2 Chronicles 12:14).

What about you?  When you are faced with decisions do you seek God’s wisdom?  Looking at Rehoboam’s decision is not just a history lesson, but a warning for us to seek God’s wisdom in our decisions.  “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” Solomon says in the book of Proverbs.

When you are faced with decisions about dealing with people, look at how Jesus dealt with people.  Look at how he was unyielding when it came to sin, but compassionate to the repentant sinner.  Look at how he always spoke the truth in love.

When faced with financial decisions, consider the praise Jesus gave the widow who put into the offering all she had and consider the promises Jesus gives to take care of you.

When faced with the temptation to sin, look to God’s Word and the ten commandments, and know that God will bless you with earthly blessings when you obey them.

When you have made a bad decision, you didn’t seek God’s advice and now things are a mess, remember the woman caught in adultery.  The crowd was ready to throw stones at her until she died.  Jesus said, “If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her.”  One by one the crowd went away. Jesus told the woman, “neither do I condemn you.” 

In God’s Word you find God’s wisdom – the wisdom that tells you Jesus Christ made all the right decisions even though we do not.  It is that same wisdom of God  that put Jesus on the cross for us.

When you seek God’s counsel, pray the prayer that never fails, “your will be done, Lord”,  and even if your decisions seem to not work out, you can be confident that God has even greater blessings prepared for you.

Our decisions will probably never cause a civil war as Rehoboam’s did, but listening to the right source, God’s unfailing Word, will have an everlasting effect.

Amen.

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