Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Prophets And Kings, Day 24. Rebellion Against King Rehoboam

Prophets And Kings
Day 24
Rebellion Against King Rehoboam

We studied the death of King Solomon yesterday and now hims son Rehoboam is on the throne.But as foretold by the Lord, Rehoboam's kingdom will not remain united. The division of the kingdom is discipline for the sins of idolatry but also we will find that Rehoboam himself is not a wise king and is not capable of leadin the nation.

1 KINGS 12:1-24
"Rehoboam went to Shechem, for all Israel had gone there to make him king. When Jeroboam son of Nebat heard this (he was still in Egypt, where he had fled from King Solomon), he returned from Egypt. So they sent for Jeroboam, and he and the whole assembly of Israel went to Rehoboam and said to him, 'Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but now lighten the harsh labor and the heavy yoke he put on us, and we will serve you.'" (1 Kings 12:1-4) Some commentaries mention the fact that Shechem is in the northern territory of Israel and that it seems in order to be declared a legitimate king, Rehoboam had to travel to the territory of those who are not really for him. A prophet in Chapter 11 declared that Jeroboam would become the king of the ten northern tribes which is why Solomon tried to have him killed, causing him to flee to Egypt. Now that Solomon is dead he comes back, ready to run for election on a platform of tax relief. The request of the people is a thinly veiled threat because what they are really saying is that they will only serve Rehoboam if he lightens their taxes. 

"Rehoboam answered, 'Go away for three days and then come back to me.' So the people went away. Then King Rehoboam consulted the elders who had served his father Solomon during his lifetime. 'How would you advise me to answer these people?' he asked. They replied, 'If today you will be a servant to these people and serve them and give them a favorable answer, they will always be your servants.'" (1 Kings 12:5-6) Solomon's advisers must have been very wise men because I can't imagine someone as wise as Solomon keeping officials near him who lacked good discernment. These men are also elders, experienced men who know what they're talking about, and they urge Rehoboam to have a servant's heart toward the people. David, the shepherd king, had a servant's heart. When the King of kings, the Lord Jesus Christ, came in the flesh He had a servant's heart. It's difficult to rule wisely if we have not first learned how to serve wisely.

But these elders haven't told Rehoboam what he wants to hear. He has a prideful heart. He likely has a greedy heart too, since he doesn't want to lift the heavy tax burden from the people. Solomon had instituted a steep rate of taxation in order to fund his many building projects and now that they are finished, Rehoboam wants to keep the excess for himself. "But Rehoboam rejected the advice the elders gave him and consulted the young men who had grown up with him and were serving him. He asked them, 'What is your advice? How should we answer these people who say to me, 'Lighten the yoke your father put on us?' The young men who had grown up with him replied, 'These people have said to you, 'Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but make our yoke lighter.' Now tell them, 'My little finger is thicker than my father's waist. My father laid on you a heavy yoke; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions.'" (1 Kings 12:8-11) These young men are just as foolish and inexperienced as Rehoboam. They advise him to punish the people for asking for help so that they will not ask again. How dare they come to the king on his first day on the job and ask for tax relief? He is to say, "If you thought my father was tough, wait til you see how tough I am. You haven't seen anything yet! My father was a mighty and powerful king but I'm an even bigger man than he was."

"Three days later Jeroboam and all the people returned to Rehoboam, as the king had said, 'Come back to me in three days.' The king answered the people harshly. Rejecting the advice given him by the elders, he followed the advice of the young men and said, 'My father made your yoke heavy; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions.' So the king did not listen to the people, for this turn of events was from the Lord, to fulfill the word the Lord had spoken to Jeroboam son of Nebat through Ahijah the Shilonite." (1 Kings 12:12-15) Respect is something that has to be earned; it can't be commanded although Rehoboam attempts to command it. In his pride he must have felt it would make him look weak to begin his reign by cutting taxes. He feels insulted that the first order of business he has to deal with involves the people expecting him to ask less of them than his father asked. His actions are setting everything in place for a rebellion against the throne. The Bible tells us "this turn of events was from the Lord". The Lord didn't cause Rehoboam to be a foolish man. The Lord didn't force Rehoboam to make a bad decision. But the Lord knows us all even before we are born and He knows our character and He knows everything we will ever do. Somehow, even though we can't quite understand it, the Lord works together His perfect plans and our imperfect plans in order to accomplish His purposes. For the sake of the Lord's servant David, He kept the promise to leave Solomon on the throne for life, but the Lord knew Rehoboam was not a wise man and would not be a good king. This is why the Lord already had a man prepared the lead the tribes that will rebel against Rehoboam.

"When all Israel saw that the king refused to listen to them, they answered the king: 'What share do we have in David, what part in Jesse's son? To your tents, Israel! Look after your own house, David!' So the Israelites went home. But as for the Israelites who were living in the towns of Judah, Rehoboam still ruled over them." (1 Kings 12:16-17) The people quote the words of Sheba, a man who led a rebellion against David in 2 Samuel 20. The ten northern tribes take their allegiance from the house of David and reject Rehoboam as king. Only David's own tribe of Judah, which also includes the tiny tribe of Benjamin, remain faithful to David and to his descendants.

Rehoboam doesn't intend to allow such disrespect so he sends out his tax collector. The NIV renders this man's title as being in charge of forced labor, while other versions render his title as being in charge of taxes. "King Rehoboam sent out Adoniram, who was in charge of forced labor, but all Israel stoned him to death. King Rehoboam, however, managed to get into his chariot and escape to Jerusalem. So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day." (1 Kings 12:18-19) Rehoboam has to make a hasty and undignified exit when this situation turns bad.

"When all the Israelites heard that Jeroboam had returned, they sent and called him to the assembly and made him king over all Israel. Only the tribe of Judah remained loyal to the house of David." (1 Kings 12:20) It didn't take long for Rehoboam to lose control of the nation. He is the only son of Solomon ever mentioned in the Bible and some commentators have suggested Solomon only fathered one son. With one thousand wives and concubines we would expect Solomon to have thousands of children, many of them male, but we have to consider the possibility that for all his sexual activity he was almost infertile. Or maybe he carried very few Y-chromosomes and produced only daughters and this one son. If either of those things is true, we have a clue as to why he took so many wives and concubines, because in ancient times infertility or the inability to produce a male heir was blamed on the woman. In those days nobody knew the science behind such problems, so Solomon may have thought he had the bad luck to marry many barren women or women who could only have daughters, not suspecting anything was wrong with his own fertility. If he had only this one son, it also explains why he chose the foolish Rehoboam to succeed him as king. We wouldn't expect a man with the wisdom of Solomon to choose unwisely when selecting the future king, but if he only had one son then he only had one choice. The book of Proverbs seems to be an instruction manual for his son and I can't help but wonder if it was Solomon's attempt to impart wisdom to a son who didn't naturally possess it. 

"When Rehoboam arrived in Jerusalem, he mustered all Judah and the tribe of Benjamin---a hundred and eighty thousand able young men---to go to war against Israel and to regain the kingdom for Rehoboam son of Solomon." (1 Kings 12:21) This is civil war and Rehoboam intends to squash the rebellion.

"But this word of God came to Shemaiah the man of God. 'Say to Rehoboam son of Solomon king of Judah, 'This is what the Lord says: Do not go up to fight against your brothers, the Israelites. Go home, every one of you, for this is My doing.' So they obeyed the word of the Lord and went home again, as the Lord had ordered." (1 Kings 12:22-23) It isn't the Lord's will for the nation to be put back together. He is carrying out His prophetic words and if Judah and Benjamin go up against Israel they will be defeated. There's no sense in pointless bloodshed. This Shemaiah must be a highly respected man of God because the people take his advice to heart. They treat his word as the word of God Himself. Many lives are saved by obeying what the Lord tells them through the prophet.

With every successive generation, the faith of David is being watered down. His son Solomon lacked David's steadfast faith. Rehoboam doesn't appear to possess really any faith at all. Sadly, the man who now leads the ten northern tribes will also not be a godly man. God's discipline is about to come down on the idolatrous ways of the nation and He will use some bad leaders to impart this discipline. Here in an election year, it's something to think about that God often uses bad leaders to discipline nations that have strayed from Him. We may or may not be happy with the current administration. We may or may not be happy with the next administration. But what if it's discipline because the USA is turning away from her Christian beginnings? I think we need to pray more and more for our nation and for its people, that there would be a major turning back to God and to His word. Who knows what discipline might be averted if God's people pray for our country?

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