Once Rehoboam feels secure in his seat as king of Judah he turns away from the Lord and the people follow him. This is NOT acceptable to God. And He makes sure Rehoboam knows this.
Rehoboam had a rough start to his leadership. He felt all was going well when he went to Shechem to finalize the appointment of himself as king of Israel. Jeroboam, the people, and most importantly, God had other plans. Rehoboam would lose all but two tribes and become the king of Judah instead. He was angry about this revolt and planned to take ‘his kingdom’ back by force. God stopped him and told him that what happened was His doing. He had to work HARD to convince the people that he was the man for the job in terms of ruling Judah. So for three years he did everything as David and Solomon had done. The most important thing during this time was showing he was faithful to the people and to the Lord.
Time passes and Rehoboam begins to relax. He is now fully in command. He has established his sons in the fortified cities, shown the people that prosperity still reign in Judah, and made a name for himself as a good king. What more does he really have to do? Nothing he can think of right off hand. Sure, he should probably continue with the sacrifices but it gets old having to get up before dawn every day to attend the sacrifice at the Temple. No, it is not a long walk but there are days when he is just too tired to be bothered.
As time passes Rehoboam finds more and more excuses to be away from the House of the Lord, both physically and spiritually. After a year of excuses the pangs of guilt over his absences is gone and he doesn’t even bother with the excuses any more. “I had more pressing matters to attend to” is the excuse he uses now if questioned. Few do as they too are following his example.
God sees what is going on. Rehoboam doesn’t believe he needs God to help him anymore. It is time to show Rehoboam the hard truth. ALL that Rehoboam has is a gift from God. He has earned NOTING on his own. God decided to give him a ‘refresher course’ in the affairs of the state.
Egypt is God’s tool against Rehoboam and the people. Egypt is allowed to come in and conquer even the fortified cities. These were the cities that Solomon carefully built up to repel such attacks. So much for trusting in fortresses made by man!
One thing that puzzles me is who God sent word to. I’m not questioning the messenger for his message but who received it. It is Rehoboam and his sons, “the princes of Judah” who have gathered at Jerusalem because of Shishak. Are these ALL of Rehoboam’s sons, even the ones who were stationed in the fortified cities or only the ones who remained with him in Jerusalem? Abijah is certainly one of them present but did the others flee their cities when Shishak came against them? If so, what became of the other people from those cities? Or did they ‘go down with the ship’ in trying to defend their cities?
Regardless of how many sons were with Rehoboam that day, they all received the lesson. They all heard the message that God was angry with them for forsaking Him. “You abandoned me, so I have abandoned you to the hand of Shishak” (verse 5b). No doubt about the cause of their current situation. No quibbling over how they could have been better prepared. No personal recriminations against one another. ALL were equally as guilty and ALL needed to make this right with the Lord.
It is not just Rehoboam who falls on his face before God and asks for forgiveness but ALL of his sons too. As one they repented in TRUTH. They held nothing back from the Lord. They held no strategy meetings to repel Shishak. They held no meeting to prepare the people to defend themselves against the incoming army. They didn’t even take the time to call the people to repent. Rehoboam and his sons took the responsibility on their own shoulders and bowed them to the Lord.
The response of Rehoboam and his sons was so sincere that God took notice. This was His desire all along; for the people to turn back to Him. Having accomplished His end, God stops the attack of Shishak. He doesn’t prevent Shishak from entering the city of Jerusalem but God doesn’t let him destroy it or the people. Shishak empties the treasury of the king of the Temple and even takes the shields of gold from the Hall of the Forest of Lebanon. And then he left. In some form or other, Rehoboam would be his servant.
Rehoboam would not forget this lesson. He recommitted to serving the Lord, at LEAST in physical form. He replaced the shields that were taken with bronze ones and had them in use every time he went to the House of the Lord. I wonder how often that was now. Still the end of his life is noted by these words; “And he did evil, for he did not set his heart to seek the Lord” (verse 14).
The humbling himself before the Lord apparently didn’t last. He paid ‘lip service’ to the Lord but his heart wandered away again. NOT words I want to EVER hear spoken about me!
Father God, I feel guilty for all the times I fall asleep while writing. It is NOT that my heart is wandering but that my eyes somehow become VERY heavy when I read. Thank You for giving me some coping mechanisms to combat this but I would LOVE it if my spirit was so awake that my eyes had NO choice but to follow suit! I want to seek You with EVERY PART OF ME! Drive out EVERY pretense or half hearted excuses for doing otherwise. I look forward to seeing what a difference this will make in our relationship.