We leave Solomon’s reign and enter his son’s; Rehoboam. He does NOT start well but the blame for it can’t all be laid at his feet.
With so many wives and concubines I’m surprised that we don’t hear of any other children of Solomon. First Kings 11 mentions that his wives and concubines had his “children”, meaning there were at LEAST two. Maybe they were so overshadowed by their father that they didn’t rise to the level of attention. It is also possible that at least some of his children were sacrificed by his wives to their gods. But I think God would have come down harder on him that He did if this was the case. So for whatever reason, Rehoboam is the only one of Solomon’s children we hear about. And he is the one who takes the throne after his father.
Because of Solomon’s sin, Rehoboam was set up to fail. “So the king did not listen to the people, for it was a turn of affairs brought about by God that the Lord might fulfill His word” (verse 15a). That word was spoken to Solomon and to Jeroboam. The word was that the kingdom would be torn from Solomon’s son’s hands and it would be by Jeroboam that it happened.
I wonder if Solomon counseled his son concerning this word from God. When Saul was told the kingdom would be ripped from his hands, the whole nation knew of it. Many applauded it even while Saul sought to stop it. Solomon tried to kill Jeroboam but did he prepare his son as to what to do ‘if’ this event came about. If so, shouldn’t Rehoboam have noticed that the group coming to him was led by Jeroboam?
When I was looking at the advice given to Rehoboam, I decided I didn’t like either response. The old men advised; “If you will be good to this people and please them and speak good words to them, then they will be your servants forever” (verse 7b). The young men advised; “And now, whereas my father laid on you a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke. My father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions” (verse 11).
The first is a position of surrender. “Just give them what they want.” It reminds me of a child throwing a fit and the parent giving in because they are tired of hearing it. Yes! What the people asked for was right but giving in just to please and make them loyal is begging for trouble. This would set them up for expecting to have their way every time. There have to be some places where the line is held. This is how much of the church has gotten into trouble over the years. “Just tell them what they want to hear and they will be loyal.”
The second position is one of arrogance. “You think you have it bad now, just wait until I’m through with you.” This is abuse. It cares nothing for the truth of the matter, only what the one in power can do to keep others under his boot. This is the ‘parent’ who never even considers the needs of the child. If the child eats, it is because the parent is hungry. If the child is offered a break, it is because the parent felt the need for one. The child is neither consulted about his needs or listened to when those needs are voiced.
There is a middle ground. One that takes in the needs of the other and balances them against the realities of the world. The one that says; “I hear you and I will do what I can, within the bounds of what is under my control.” This would have involved Rehoboam looking at what the taxes were being used for and finding ways to cut them to some degree. Or at the VERY LEAST telling the people why the heavy tax burden was still needed.
But Rehoboam was not going to get the ‘middle ground advice’ because there was a plan in motion from God. AND because he never asked GOD to weigh in on this issue. If he had, would there have been a different result? Could he have pushed back the deadline of prophecy’s fulfillment by asking God?
God didn’t MAKE Rehoboam choose the cruel advice. He knew Rehoboam’s character before the question was even posed and He planned according to what He knew would be chosen. It is like playing chess where you plan your moves by what you know your opponent will do. In the end it looks like you led him there but he had the choice all along to do something out of character and change the outcome. We will see Rehoboam do just that in a day or so.
God KNEW the course of events before even creating man. He KNEW we would rebel against Him. He KNEW the nations that He promised Abram would turn their back on Him over and Over and OVER again. He KNEW that granting Israel a king would bring about division. Yet He chose to lay His heart open to man anyway. God allowed man to walk his “own” path. But He NEVER took His hands off the outcome. That outcome is for MANY to choose Him above all else and to spend eternity with Him. Rehoboam exercised his “free will” and wound up exactly where God knew he would be.
Don’t be fooled. God had a better way from the beginning. But He CHOSE to give us control of our destiny, KNOWING FULL WELL the mess we would make of it. And He chose to steer out paths, subtly at times and not so subtly at others, until we got to the place He designed to bring us to. Sometimes we take the easy way and sometimes we take the hard way but we ALWAYS end up right where He knew we would be.
Father God, do You ever sit back and think; “Right there! She missed the shortcut again! If only she would have listened she wouldn’t have to work so hard at this.” If so, could you please turn up the wattage in Your signs so I don’t miss so many of them? Please! Am I where You planned for me to be or is this another ‘stop along the way’? I KNOW I’m not done learning and growing in You. But is this place of service what You intended for me all along? Or are You preparing me, like in my earlier collage years, for another task that still lies ahead? I know I won’t be moving on from this ‘position’ with Steve until You say it is time to. I pray that is a LONG time away but are there other things You want me to do in conjunction? I am open to YOUR leading. For now I’ll “just keep walking.” I do like where I’m at, for the most part. Give me wise advisors who can help me see the “middle ground” for my path.