This Week's Focus Passage

Seek Wise Counsel

Focus Passage: 2 Chronicles 10:8

‘But he forsook the counsel of the old men.’

This is the lamentable response of Rehoboam when the people of the tribes apart from Judah and Benjamin came to him after the death of his father, Solomon, asking of him that he would remove some of the oppressive dictates that his father had imposed. Solomon had died and Rehoboam went to Shechem to be made king in his father’s stead. All Israel had come to make him king. The people were most willing to comply with the succession; they only said to Rehoboam—

Thy father made our yoke grievous: now therefore make thou the grievous service of thy father, and his heavy yoke which he put upon us, lighter, and we will serve thee.

They expressed their certain willingness to serve Solomon’s son; they only asked that he might (if we may be pardoned the vernacular) ‘cut them a little slack.’ Rehoboam refused to give attention to the advice of the old men that had faithfully served his father for many years; their counsel was as simple as it was wise—

If thou be kind to this people, and please them, and speak good words to them, then they will be thy servants for ever.

But Rehoboam forsook that advice, choosing rather to listen to the counsel of the young men with whom he’d grown up. Thus was the kingdom divided according to the prophecy; Jehovah established his word, as we see in the following.

It is to our great interest that we pay close attention to the words of explanation found in verse fifteen—

So the king hearkened not unto the people; for it was brought about of God, that Jehovah might establish his word, which he spake by Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam the son of Nebat.

This, of course, in no way excuses the behavior of Rehoboam in the matter. It only teaches us that the heart of the king is in the hand of God, and He turns it whither He wills; it teaches us that nothing surprises God; that He is absolutely sovereign in all things. None can say unto Him, what doest thou? Though God knows the folly that we will do tomorrow, it does not remove in the least our responsibility. Though it was of His foreordination that His Son would be slain by wicked hands, the fault and the guilt belong unto the Roman governor and the leaders of the Jews who cried out, ‘Crucify him, crucify him,’ so that Peter could charge those people at Pentecost with the truth, ‘ye by the hand of lawless men did crucify and slay.’ So Rehoboam could not argue in his defense that he only did that which had been ordained of God. He himself foolishly abandoned the counsel of the old men, those that had been the counselors of Solomon, and listened rather to the young men with whom he had grown up—if indeed he ever did grow up. Ahijah had told Jeroboam the son of Nebat—1 Kings 11:31—‘thus saith Jehovah, the God of Israel, Behold, I will rend the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon, and will give ten tribes to thee.’ What God had determined, He now was bringing about.

We see this very sort of thing repeated again and again in the history of mankind. Why is it so? Why is it men so seldom learn from their predecessors folly and mistakes? Why must every man learn for himself, and so often only after it is too late? We are reminded of the story told about Mark Twain, and how he was supposed to have spoken about this matter—perhaps the story is an urban legend—that when he was eighteen, he thought that his father was not all that intelligent, but after that he had turned twenty-one, it was amazing to him how much his father had learned in only three years. Something seems to happen when youths turn that ‘miraculous’ age of eighteen; at one striking instant they arrive at the place where they know everything. Because they ‘know everything,’ they will listen to virtually nothing unless it comes to them from other eighteen year-old ‘know-it-alls.’

This was really the very same case with Rehoboam. We may infer that he, like youths in every generation—yes, ours too!—held some resentment toward those older folk that had experienced much and presumed to make an attempt to share that experience with the younger, often with the sincere desire that they might not fall into the same folly. So the result is, not only that the counsel of the old men was disdained, but that the kingdom was rent in two; Jeroboam taking with him the ten tribes that began to be called Ephraim, and later Samaria. He led them into great apostasy, beginning almost immediately by setting up false worship. Out of fear that at the times appointed for the tribes to gather together for the three annual occasions of gathering, namely, Passover, Pentecost, and the feast of tabernacles, they would be drawn by their own hearts, traditions, or associations to stay rather than return to the ten tribes, Jeroboam instituted his own policies of worship. He set up golden calves in Dan and Beth-el, the northern and southern parts of his kingdom, for the people to gather there and worship. He then installed his own priesthood, but not according the prescriptions of God. He therefore corrupted the true worship of Jehovah, bringing things out of his own heart and turning the hearts of the people away from the true worship of the true God.

All of this led eventually to both the destruction and the captivity of the ten tribes, and it all began with a young king refusing to give heed to the counsel of his elders, and choosing to follow the ‘men of the age’ and their advice. Well had it been if Rehoboam had read and followed the words of his father, Solomon, recorded in Proverbs 20:28-29, ‘Kindness and truth preserve the king; and his throne is upholden by kindness. The glory of young men is their strength; And the beauty of old men is the hoary head.’

David Farmer, elder,

Fellowship Bible Church


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