This morning I read about King Rehoboam, the son of Solomon. I feel sorry for Rehoboam. He had a very tough act to follow. Imagine being the son of King Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived and the richest man of his age. Imagine inheriting an empire that took a genius to build. Imagine the pressure.
Imagine also growing up knowing nothing but extravagant wealth and privilege: The household utensils, we are told, were all of gold--silver being common.
Rehoboam didn’t have a chance.
At the beginning of his reign we hear about his fatal decision to ignore the counsel of his father’s advisors and to follow the advice of his peers. Really, what else do you expect him to do? He had probably spent all of his time growing up with peers--his teachers would have been from a class far below him--probably slaves. His father and his father’s counselors had a kingdom to build. They didn’t have time to build a relationship with the up-and-coming generation. Rehoboam knew his peers, so of course he trusted them.
However, at the end of Rehoboam’s reign we learn something about him that, I think, helps us understand his failure a little more deeply. After all, Solomon was raised with wealth and privilege and he began his reign by calling on the Lord for wisdom. Just about everyone knows of people who have had all of the spiritual “advantages” as a child, and yet have made a wreck of their lives; and we also know of others who from the gutter have come to have relatively healthy lives rooted firmly in Christ. Human life is far too complicated to apply determinism to any aspect of it. Nevertheless, some knots are easier to untie than others--assuming you want to untie the knot.
And this is the issue for Rehoboam. We read the following commentary made at the end of his life, “And he did evil because he did not direct his heart to seek the Lord” (2 Chron. 12:14).
I find it interesting that it does not say that he did evil because he sought evil or did not seek good. It says that he did evil because he did not set his heart to seek the Lord. What it looks like when one sets one’s heart to seek the Lord, how such a set heart would be manifest in words and actions, I think, varies by culture, generation and person. There is no way to judge another in this matter. We can only reflect: Do I set my heart to seek the Lord?
The story of Rehoboam is, however, not all bad news. After losing almost all of his father’s wealth (having been plundered by the Egyptians), Rehoboam repents and “the Lord does not destroy him completely” (12:12). The theme of the Prodigal Son here is too obvious to ignore. God always receives the repentant, even at the eleventh hour. Really, all that is lost is prestige, power and wealth--nothing of any value in the age to come. However, and this brings me back to why I feel sorry for Rehoboam, repentance at the eleventh hour is brought about by the hell of the first ten hours.
Those of us who live in relative wealth and privilege, and that probably includes everyone who reads this, might learn a lesson from the life of Rehoboam. It doesn’t take intention to do evil, to do evil. All it takes is a heart that is not directed to seek the Lord.