Is not wisdom found among the aged? Does not long life bring understanding? Job 12:12
The people of Israel had high hopes for their new king. Would the son of Solomon be like his father? Would he be wise in his ruling? Israel under Solomon’s reign was a Kingdom of beauty, splendor, and wealth. However, grand as it was, the glory came at the price of intense labor. The people knew this, joined hands at building the kingdom, but they were weary—oh, so weary. Would their new king hearken to their cries?
Rehoboam first consulted the elderly. Their advice was good: “If you will be a servant to this people today, and will serve them and grant them their petition, and speak good words to them, then they will be your servants forever” (1 Kings 12:7). These old men had wisdom. They knew that the Kingdom’s greatest asset was her people. They had experience in serving under Solomon and knew the wonders of gracious speech, genuine care, and the compassionate ear.
Yet Rehoboam’s young mind tickled dangerously. He knew his father was great. Maybe he could be greater? His peers who grew up with him, knowing no forced labor, advised him to say words contrary to the elders. “My little finger is thicker than my father’s loins! Whereas my father loaded you with a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke; my father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions” (1 Kings 12:10b, 11). It was brashness and the pride of youth. The words spilled with the desire to outdo the older generation instead of learning from them. This was pride speaking; leadership forgetting the age-old truth that TO LEAD meant TO SERVE.
Sadly, Rehoboam listened to his peers. He spoke to the Israelites harshly and with pride. His own father had written the proverb: “Pride leads to destruction, and arrogance to downfall (Prov.16:18). Solomon’s wisdom and achievement could have been the starting point of Rehoboam’s reign. But no, foolish immature boasting resulted in Israel’s revolt and separation from their king. The people drew to Jeroboam, a common man who would listen to them. Only one tribe, Judah, rallied behind Rehoboam.
The story of Rehoboam gives us many things to reflect upon. Whenever God thrusts us into leadership, it is always good to surround ourselves with the counsel of experience. New ways of doing things are good and can be wonderful innovations, but the voice of experience will always bring necessary boundaries and insight. Also, leadership should never be about proving oneself as better than a predecessor. Anyone who is thrust into greatness should remember the wise counsel of Jesus: “Whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant” (Matthew 20:26).
Rehoboam’s attitude resulted in a costly mistake. We can find ourselves with irreparable consequences if we shun the wisdom of the wise. Let us be careful when seeking advice. It is always wise to listen to the voice of experience.