‘Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it’,
(1948 speech to the House of Commons)
There is no such thing as a perfect generation. Each fails in one way or another. Our choice is whether to repeat the mistakes of the past, or to learn and change. In these studies, we will explore the first four kings of Judah: Rehoboam, Abijah, Asa, and Jehoshaphat, to see how they handled the challenges that resulted from the mistakes of their fathers.
Rehoboam had an amazing heritage! His grandfather was David, the ‘man after [God’s] own heart’, 1 Sam. 13. 14, and his father was Solomon, who asked for wisdom which God gave him in abundance, along with riches, honour, and previously unseen glory
David wasn’t perfect and Solomon lost his way badly, leading to God dividing the nation under his son. So, was Rehoboam’s ‘fate’ sealed or was he responsible for his own attitude and actions? Of course he was! Rehoboam could have decided to follow the Lord, but he made the definite decision that he wouldn’t. His father, Solomon, had counsellors who helped him make decisions for the good of the nation and himself Rehoboam had access to the same advisors, but he only asked their opinion once.
After his father died, Rehoboam called the people to Shechem. They had served Solomon, but he had been a hard taskmaster. They were tired and fragile, and needed a leader who would be easier on them. The hard work of nation and temple building was done. Israel was strong and prospering and they needed a king who would make their life less harsh. They asked Rehoboam if he would ease their burden, and he asked for advice. His father’s advisors gave him wise counsel: if you do what they say, they will serve you for ever. Then, he went to those he had grown up with and asked them. They had no experience, no wisdom and, like Rehoboam, didn’t care;
‘You ain’t seen nothing yet’ was their reply. ‘Your father used whips; you will use scorpions’, 1 Kgs. 12. 10, 11 paraphrased. Rehoboam followed their advice and the nation split into the ten northern tribes (Israel), and the two southern tribes (Judah). Rehoboam had been desperately weakened. Did he fall to his knees in repentance, seeking God’s forgiveness? Not at all. Instead, he went to battle with Israel’s new leader (Jeroboam) and brought about a crisis. How could this happen?
Rehoboam lacked conviction. Many Christians use the word ‘conviction’ very lightly. They often apply it to archaic practices that have no biblical foundation. Call an opinion a conviction, no one dare argue! We must be guided only by the authority of the word of God. As we continue our studies in the kings of Judah we will see that there are three areas of conviction that matter:
How we behave within this triangle of convictions will determine our success for God. If we let one of them slip, we will fail in all of them. Rehoboam had no interest at all in anything that mattered to God. He was interested only in himself and his own amusement and therefore he was a catastrophic failure.
Rehoboam had complete disregard for God’s word. ‘He abandoned the law of the Lord’, 2 Chr 12. 1, ESV.
How we treat the Bible reflects on how we view God. If we refuse to read it, we are saying that we don’t want to hear God’s voice. Having read it, if we then decide not to obey it, we are saying that God has no authority over us. We must treat God’s word with the seriousness it deserves.
When Shishak, king of Egypt, plundered the temple and took the gold treasures, Rehoboam replaced them with bronze. He had no love for the temple at all, vv. 9-11.
We no longer have a temple to worship in, and the church we are associated with is not a building but a group of people. Paul calls the church the ‘house of God’, 1 Tim. 3. 15. Our treatment of church truth and our acceptance of God’s order reveals our attitude to God.
Israel pleaded with Rehoboam to make their lives easier, promising him their loyal obedience if he went along with their suggestions. In his arrogance, he treated them very badly.
If I love someone, I will love what they love. God loves His people. If I don’t love my fellow-Christians, can I say that I love God, 1 John 3. 17? John’s first Epistle clearly says that I can’t. How I treat the people that God loves demonstrates what I think of God, 4. 21.
Rehoboam was a failure because he lacked conviction, ‘He did not set his heart to seek the Lord’, 2 Chr 12. 14, ESV.
What about us?