Lead Through Influence or Command With Power?

(Today's post by James Rooks)

1 Kings 12:1- 32

The dawning of a new age has begun in Israel. Solomon has died and Rehoboam takes the throne. We don't have a lot of backstory on Rehoboam's upbringing, but we can make certain assumptions from our reading yesterday in 1 King 11. There we see that Rehoboam's father, Solomon, had 700 wives plus 300 concubines. If Solomon was even a little bit fertile, Rehoboam would have had at least a couple hundred siblings. Between ruling a kingdom and having close to a thousand partners, how much quality time could Solomon have possibly spent imparting his world-renown wisdom into Rehoboam?

Rehoboam's reign begins with a moment of truth — a test of character — for the new king. Jeroboam and the entire assembly of Israel came to pledge their loyalty to Rehoboam with one condition…”lighten our yoke”. Solomon had gone to great lengths to expand his kingdom and rarely spared any expense in doing so. The growth of the kingdom came at a heavy price, and the people of Israel were the ones left with the bill. They had faced many, many years of harsh labor to support the price tag of King Solomon's growing government and hoped that the new leader would ease up a little.

Rehoboam consulted the elders who advised him to back off the harsh taxing labor he'd required of the people. The conventional wisdom was that if he were to serve them today, they would serve him always. He had a golden opportunity to win them over while showing kindness and grace at the same time. Rehoboam rejected the wise advice and consulted with the young men who he'd grown up with. These guys told him to do the exact opposite. You see, Rehoboam was about to make a point. He was about to draw a line in the sand and show how powerful he was.

As we find out, this does not work out well for Rehoboam. Jeroboam takes his people and goes home. And true to words of the prophet Ahijah, ten of the tribes break off and follow Jeroboam. Rehoboam's coming out party as the iron fisted king had back fired in the worst way. Only by the grace of God was the house of David preserved. Now if we read closely, we see that all these events had been prophesied by Ahijah because of Solomon's pursuit of women and false gods. Despite man's worst intentions, God's plan to bring a savior through the line of David was still intact.

For a moment though, let's look at Rehoboam as a leader and pick out a couple of things. Lesson number one: no matter what your opinion is, you will always be able to find someone to be your 'yes man' if you try hard enough. Important to note, just because you can find someone to agree with you doesn't make your actions the correct actions. Lesson number two: Rehoboam had no clear connection with the people that he was leading. There is a huge difference between leaders who are connected vs. leaders who are disconnected. If you are unwilling to do the work (or have never done the work) that you are asking others to do, it's a good sign that you're going to lose followers in a hurry.

While it might be easy to let your thoughts lead to Washington, D.C., try to keep it close to home. This happens in our work places, our churches, and homes. We are sometimes guilty of the very same prideful attitudes and actions displayed by Rehoboam. Has someone given me sound advice, but I discarded it in favor of someone who will side with me? Yep. As a dad, have I gone over-board with discipline to make a point and show that “I'm in charge”, but at the end of the day realize that I had picked the wrong battle to win? Yep. As a leader or manager at work, have I benefited off the handwork of others and then dared ask them for more while I never lift a finger? Yep. At one time or another, I've been guilty of all of these things.

When we read about the selfishness, pride, and arrogance of Rehoboam, it can be very easy to picture someone else who has gotten it all wrong. But if we look closely and honestly, there are times where we've acted out those very same patterns. We have to admit that it's not always the other guy. Sometimes we're that guy. When faced with this, as believers, all we can do is repent. When we view our own lives through the lens of scripture, the imperfections stand out. This is one way that God uses His word to show us His goodness and our desperate need for Him My challenge for us today is don't just read the Word for the sake of trivia, examine yourself. “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness. 2 Timothy 3:16”

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