Last Thursday night, we read of the death of King Solomon, and his subsequent replacement by his son Rehoboam. Tonight, we will be covering the three chapters of Chronicles that chronicle for us the reign of Rehoboam.
You may wonder why Israel gathered at Shechem to make Rehoboam king, rather than going to Jerusalem. It may have simply been because Shechem was centrally located in the middle of Israel, between the northern region of Galilee and Jerusalem in the south. However, it would seem that although the Davidic dynasty was being honored, the people had some issues that they wanted discussed before they unilaterally affirmed their new king.
There were political storms brewing behind the scenes. Taking advantage of the situation was a man named Jeroboam.
The Chronicler has only briefly mentioned Jeroboam in his book (1Chron. 5:17), clearly making the assumption that you know who this guy is. But since most of us aren't as familiar with him as the Chronicler's audience, let's refresh our memory.
1Kings 11 tells us the story of Jeroboam, the son of a widow woman from the tribe of Ephraim. He had rebelled against King Solomon because of the building projects that Solomon was undertaking. Why?
1Kings 11:28 Now the man Jeroboam was a valiant warrior, and when Solomon saw that the young man was industrious, he appointed him over all the forced labor of the house of Joseph.
The house of Joseph consisted of Manasseh and Ephraim, Jeroboam's own people. While Solomon had not enslaved these Israelites (2Chr. 8:9), they were being forced to work. Apparantly, Jeroboam opposed this policy vehemently.
When word got around that the prophet Ahijah had said that ten tribes of Israel would be given into Jeroboam's hand as king of Israel,
1Kings 11:40 Solomon sought therefore to put Jeroboam to death; but Jeroboam arose and fled to Egypt to Shishak king of Egypt, and he was in Egypt until the death of Solomon.
Jeroboam was still living in Egypt when he heard the news of Solomon's death. He decided it was time to return to Israel. When the Israelites heard that he had returned, it seems that they thought he would be a good spokesman for their cause, and sent for him.
As magnificent as Solomon's reign was regarding wealth and buildings, these wonders had come at a costly price on the people. There was too much forced labor, heavy taxation, and unrelenting pressure put on the people. Solomon had been wise, but he hadn't been gentle or caring about his citizens. They had put up with enough. They hoped that Rehoboam's reign would bring about a change in public policy.
Rehoboam told them that he would give his answer to their request in three days' time.
The first counsellors Rehoboam sought out were the ones that his father Solomon had used. They had seen the oppression of the people during Solomon's reign, and agreed that it was time to show kindness to them. If Rehoboam was known as a gentle ruler, the Jews would serve him faithfully.
Rehoboam didn't like the idea of a kinder, gentler king. This would mean that he could never be as productive and prosperous as his father had been.
And so, as many people are prone to do, when he didn't get advice he liked, he simple sought another bunch who would tell him what he wanted to hear. It wasn't hard to find them, he simply consulted his high school yearbook! The young men who'd grown up with him and served him were the ones he asked next. Not surprisingly, they told him what he wanted to hear.
Not only would things not be changing for the better in Israel, they would change for the worse. "You thought my father King Solomon was mean? Just wait'll you get a load of me!"
Solomon had wondered what his son's kingdom would be like. He said that everything he'd worked for would be left...
Eccl. 2:18-19 ...to the man who will come after me. And who knows whether he will be a wise man or a fool?
Solomon died before finding out the answer, but I think it is clear to us now. It really is hard to believe that this was the man whose father had written,
Prov. 15:1 A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
And yet, we must not forget that
2Chr. 10:15 ...it was a turn of events from God that the LORD might establish His word...
Even when the king is acting wickedly and unjustly, we need to remember,
Prov. 21:1 The king's heart is like channels of water in the hand of the LORD; He turns it wherever He wishes.
The destiny of nations is ultimately in the hands of the Lord.
Just as God had said, the ten nations in the north had been torn from the descendant of David. Only the tribes of Judah and Benjamin were left to Rehoboam.
Rehoboam's first inclination was to ignore the rebellion. Pretending like it hadn't happened, he sent Hadoram in to do his job of supervising the forced labor. This was quite a mistake. In a crystal clear message of rejection, they stoned Hadoram to death.
Once Rehoboam realized that this rebellion and rejection was for real, he gathered his remaining armies in Jerusalem. He was going to rule this nation by right or by might.
Before Rehoboam could lead his army to march into the north, Shem-aw-YAW the prophet brought in the word of the Lord: "Stop this immediately. These are your relatives."
"These 'enemies' are your brothers." How we need to hear this today! I am sickened and disgusted by the infighting and factiousness that Christians demonstrate towards one another. Going to war with their own brothers. Isn't this what our enemy does?
In the days of Gideon, the Midianites and the Amalekites were thrown into confusion and turned their swords against each other (Jud. 7:22).
In the days of Jonathan, the Philistines were thrown into confusion and turned their swords against each other (1Sam. 14:20).
But today it is the church who is thrown into confusion and turns their swords against one another! Saints, these are our brethren. We are on the same side, opposing the same enemy.
On March 23, 2003, a sergeant in the 101st Airborne Division stationed in Kuwait threw fragmentation grenades into tents, killing two officers, and wounding 14 other fellow soldiers. His treasonous actions mean that he will be facing the death penalty in a trial to begin this summer.
If this sickens your stomach, imagine how your behavior of faultfinding, gossip, and character attacks against your fellow Christians make God feel?
As the acting commander in this camp, I will not tolerate this behavior here. Factions and divisions, gossip and faultfinding, attacks against your brothers - why not just frag them with a grenade? It's faster and does less damage than this sort of behavior.
Hear this now: point your arrows at the enemy, or you will be charged with treason and removed from the camp.
Don't be dumber than Rehoboam. Even he received this warning:
2Chr. 11:4 ...So they listened to the words of the LORD and returned from going against Jeroboam.
The next eight verses list the cities that Rehoboam strengthened defensively in case of attack.
Jeroboam was not a godly leader. He was worried that people would leave his team and join the other team. 1Kings tells us,
1Kings 12:26-27 Jeroboam said in his heart, "Now the kingdom will return to the house of David. If this people go up to offer sacrifices in the house of the LORD at Jerusalem, then the heart of this people will return to their lord, even to Rehoboam king of Judah; and they will kill me and return to Rehoboam king of Judah."
The Jews had a mandate from God to worship at the place He'd established His name. This was Jerusalem. Jeroboam was afraid that if he let the people go to Jerusalem, they would want to stay there. He had to find a way to prevent them from leaving his territory.
1Kings 12:28-31 So the king consulted, and made two golden calves, and he said to them, "It is too much for you to go up to Jerusalem; behold your gods, O Israel, that brought you up from the land of Egypt." He set one in Bayth-ALE, and the other he put in Dan.
Every time I read this, I can't help but think of those pastors who are so territorial and afraid of losing their people to another church, that they will do anything and everything to keep the people in their church from going anywhere else.
I ran into a person at a function the other night who expressed regret to me that her pastor had forbidden her from attending our Thursday night studies. Others have told me that their pastors won't let the teens in the church attend any other church's youth group. All they're doing is building golden calves to keep the people penned in, and it's a sin. This became a sin to the people of Israel in the north:
1Kings 12:30-31 Now this thing became a sin, for the people went to worship before the one as far as Dan. And he made houses on high places, and made priests from among all the people who were not of the sons of Levi.
As a result, we read here in 2Chronicles that the priests and Levites who were faithful to the Lord moved down south to Judah and Jerusalem. The rest of the people who were faithful also followed their example, and moved south as well.
By the way, this is the answer to those who claim that there are "lost tribes of Israel." When the Assyrians came in and attacked the Northern Kingdom, the people were killed, others were carried away and died in captivity. God said through Amos regarding the Assyrian Captivity,
Amos 9:4 "And though they go into captivity before their enemies, from there I will command the sword that it slay them, and I will set My eyes against them for evil and not for good."
Those who stayed in the north would eventually die. God's preservation of the twelve tribes of Israel would be through those who moved south during the days of Jeroboam's apostasy.
These verses give us Rehoboam's family situation. He ended up with 18 wives and 60 concubines, and fathered 28 sons and 60 daughters.
His favorite wife was Mah-ak-AW (a cousin through his uncle Absalom). Their son Abijah was Rehoboam's choice for his successor.
Rehoboam is a guy that I just can't figure out. He foolishly responds to the people's request, but then wisely heeds the warning against attacking his relatives. Now, he wisely distributes his sons throughout Judah, but then foolishly forsakes the Law of God.
I think that Rehoboam is a good example of the "double-minded man, unstable in all his ways" (James 1:8).
This is a dangerous man. His wise leadership causes people to follow after him, but then his departure from the Word makes people fall with him. Beware of people who are wise in their actions, but walk in defiance of God's commands.
The first three years (2Chr. 11:17) had been devoted to God, and the people were faithful to follow David's example of worship, which Solomon had also (2Chr. 8:14) appointed. But then the next two years of Rehoboam's reign was marked by unfaithfulness to the Lord.
1Kings 14:23-24 For they also built for themselves high places and sacred pillars and Asherim on every high hill and beneath every luxuriant tree. There were also male cult prostitutes in the land. They did according to all the abominations of the nations which the LORD dispossessed before the sons of Israel.
God was sickened by this idolatrous behavior and was about to get their attention in the form of Shee-SHAK, the king of Egypt, attacking and capturing the cities Rehoboam had fortified, invading the land of Judah as far as Jerusalem. The Egyptian army had 1,200 chariots, 60,000 horsemen, and mercenaries from Ethiopia, Lybia, and other nations.
Five years previously, Shem-aw-YAW the prophet had come to Rehoboam with the word of God regarding the impending attack on his relatives to the north. Now, he tells it straight again: God was saying, "You have forsaken Me, so I also have forsaken you to Shee-SHAK."
Fortunately, Rehoboam and the other leaders listened. They humbled themselves and acknowledged that the Lord had indeed said this. It was their actions towards the Lord which had brought about this attack from Egypt.
They had humbled themselves just in time. And, because God is gracious and merciful to the repentant sinner, He committed that Jerusalem would not be destroyed. They would receive some measure of deliverance.
The Egyptians did not destroy Jerusalem, but the temple treasures were looted. God wanted Israel to see the difference between serving the Lord and serving another kingdom.
Solomon had made 500 shields of gold (1Kin. 10:16-17; 2Chr. 9:15-16) for his royal palace. These were all taken by the Egyptians.
As replacements, Rehoboam made bronze shields, which were kept in storage and only brought out when Rehoboam was going into the temple.
I think this paints an interesting picture for us. Remember, shields in Scripture tend to be a symbol of faith (Eph. 6:16). Solomon's shields had been on display for all to see, 24 hours a day. But Rehoboam's shields are made out of an inferior material, and are only brought out when he goes to church. Sounds like the faith of many today, doesn't it?
As we see again, Rehoboam's double-mindedness lasted throughout his lifetime. He humbled himself, but then did evil. Next week, we will see what the reign of his son Abijah was like.