The Reading: 1 Kings 11:41-12:16
“… the king did not hearken to them …” (12:16) RSV
The tragedy of schism is illustrated by the foolish reign of Solomon’s son, Rehoboam. He had grown up in the glory days of Israel. His father had been wise and rich. The country had prospered and had become a power to be reckoned with in that area of the world. He had had a privileged upbringing and had never had it so good. But now he wanted to continue bleeding the people dry in order to maintain his privileged status and way of life. His father had been tough, but at least he had earned the right to be tough. Rehoboam felt he could be tougher just because of his background – what a disaster!
Rehoboam did not have the wisdom of his father. And when he sought counsel he rejected the advice of his elders and followed the advice of his peers. All of those young men wanted power and privilege, but did not realise that their first responsibility was to their people. God raises leaders and kings not primarily for their own benefit but for the benefit of their citizens. Rehoboam neglected the duty of any caring leader, he “did not hearken to them …” (1 Kings 12:6).
God cares for people, and his servants, all of us, are to care for people too. We are not to oppress them, withhold their pay, or in any way be unjust to them. We are called to follow the example of Jesus who was a shepherd to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. A shepherd is prepared to lay down his life for the sheep.
Rehoboam’s crass and immature repression of his people resulted in a split that was never to be healed. The ten northern tribes hived off under Jeroboam and became ‘Israel’, and Rehoboam was left with the remaining two, known as ‘Judah’. Woe betide us if we do not “hearken” to the cries of the poor and needy.
Lord, forgive me when I am arrogant and simply want my own way. Help me to listen to others, and above all listen to you. Teach me to be kind and gentle. Amen.
1 What did Jesus teach about leadership?
2 Read more on Jesus the good shepherd.