Thursday, September 10, 2009

A Rebel With A Cause

When Israel rebelled against Judah, Jeroboam against Rehoboam, it is with Jeroboam that I have the most sympathy, although it is to Jerusalem that “those who had set their hearts to seek the Lord” continued to come to offer their sacrifices. Jeroboam had only asked for what was reasonable. After the great achievements of Solomon in the areas of architecture and the building up of cities, achievements accomplished by the almost slave labor of his people, Jeroboam and “all Israel” asked that Rehoboam lighten the hard service placed on them by his father.

In telling the story of Rehoboam’s rejecting the advice of his father’s counselors and following the advice of the “young men who had grown up with him,” the chronicler leaves no doubt that Rehoboam had made a foolish choice. Wisdom flows from humility, and in this quality the young Rehoboam did not follow the example of his father, the young Solomon. Nevertheless, bravado eventually leads to humiliation, and we are told that “this was from the Lord….”

When I read history I often find myself in sympathy with the complaints of those who rebel, yet appalled by the consequences of rebellion. In the case of Israel, rebellion leads to apostasy, civil war and the eventual exile of Israel then Judah. And yet I can’t help sympathizing with the complaint: Rehoboam was clearly foolish in not listening to the advice of his elders to care for his people who were suffering.

I wish I could draw a neat conclusion. There is none. But I offer this observation: while unjust and corrupt (and inept) leadership should be confronted, rebellion almost never brings about a better condition, but rather only makes matters worse, sometimes much worse. The example, I think, that we should follow is the prophets who spoke the truth boldly and then humbly submitted to the consequences—entrusting themselves to Him who judges justly.

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