The story of Rehoboam in I Kings 12 seems increasingly relevant to independent Baptists in the 21st Century. Rehoboam, of course, was the son of Solomon and the one to whom the Proverbs had been written. He was given excellent advice and excellent training. When he became king, the citizens of Israel came and made an appeal to him. They explained that the tax burden placed upon them by Solomon in order to build the Temple and the king’s palace had been exceedingly heavy. They asked for some relief. Rehoboam told them to come back in three days and went to see his advisors. There were two sets of advisors: “the old men that stood before Solomon . . .” and “the young men that were grown up with him.” Unsurprisingly, the two sets of advisors gave him two different kinds of advice. The old men advised humility whereas the young men urged him to defend his honor. The old men counseled patience with long-term benefits in mind. The young men counseled a display of power with short-term benefits in view. The old men counseled Rehoboam to surrender his rights. The young men counseled him to exercise his rights. Rehoboam followed the counsel of his peers with disastrous consequences.
Here are few thoughts in regards to this portion of Scripture which I hope will be pertinent to our service for the Lord Jesus today.
- It is clear from the story that Rehoboam had already identified with the “young crowd” and separated himself in his mind from the old crowd. He said to the old counselors in v. 6, “How do ye advise that I may answer this people? (emphasis mine)” He said to the young counselors, “What counsel give ye that we may answer this people?”
- Of course, we should identify with truth more than with age; with that which is right more than with that which we are comfortable.
- There is a reason most counselors are old. It takes time to live life and learn lessons from the Lord.
- The people that we “grow up with” make wonderful friends and helpful co-laborers. They seldom make great counselors.
- Rehoboam’s demise did not begin when he chose to follow the advice of the young men. After hearing the advice of the old men, the Scripture says (I Kings 12:8), “But he forsook the counsel of the old men which they had given him, and consulted with the young men that were grown up with him . . .” In other words, Rehoboam did not weigh both sides and then choose wrong. The Scripture tells us that he was turning his back on the counsel of the old men when he decided to even listen to counsel of the young men. One might reasonably ask why the Word of God and the testimony of our forefathers is not sufficient for us; why we spend so much time reading that which is current and so little time reading that which has stood the test of decades and even centuries.
- Rehoboam had a problem with his attitude, not just with his actions and his advisors. The Bible tells us in v. 13 that Rehoboam “answered the people roughly . . .” His was not a reasoned approach. He did not reluctantly explain that he could not, at this time, reduce taxes. No, he was feeling his oats, strutting his stuff and demonstrating his power. How often do we observe a chip on the shoulder; a defiant or rebellious spirit in those who challenge Biblical positions that have been long held. Seldom do we see a meek, humble, sincere seeker of truth who works diligently to obey the admonition: “Rebuke not an elder.”
- Rehoboam paid a terrible price for following the wrong advice. I can imagine Rehoboam as he gives his speech. I can see him swaggering off the stage, proud of his exercise of authority, smiling smugly and saying in his heart, “Well, I guess I told them!” But these emotions, if they existed, did not last long. In short order, he lost ten of the twelve tribes he had been given by God and inherited from his father.
I have been blessed all my life with godly advice from older men. My father, Dr. Ken Ouellette, taught me, trained me, encouraged me and exhorted me. I still seek his counsel today though I will be 60 at my next birthday. Dr. Jack Hyles took time when he came to preach for us and answered multitudes of my questions. Dr. Curtis Hutson would stay up late as I peppered him with inquiries about the work of God. He would patiently give me his thoughts and I would drink in every word. Dr. Paul Vanaman befriended and encouraged me when I was a young, new pastor. I can hear his voice today as he would impart to me words of wisdom. May God help us to love the truth, appreciate the counsel of the “old men” and “continue . . . in the things that [we have] learned.” (II Timothy 3:14)