Rehoboam’s Failure to Tell Good Advice From Bad (2 Chronicles 10:1-19)
An example of Israel’s failure of leadership occurs when King Rehoboam finds himself in need of advice on a difficult matter. Jeroboam and all of Israel ask him to lighten the burden of forced labor that his father, King Solomon, had laid on them (2 Chron. 8:8). In return they promise him, “We will serve you.” (2 Chron. 10:5). Rehoboam begins wisely by taking counsel from the elders of his kingdom, who advise him to reduce the burden as the people ask. “If you will be kind to this people and please them, and speak good words to them, then they will be your servants forever” (2 Chron. 10:7) Rehoboam, apparently, doesn’t like this answer. So he asks his younger friends’ opinion. They advise him to lord it over the people and boast, “My little finger is thicker than my father’s loins. Now, whereas my father laid on you a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke. My father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions” (2 Chron. 10:10-11). Rehoboam decides to heed his younger friends’ advice, seemingly because it strokes his ego. He replies to Jeroboam and the people as his young friends suggest, then appoints a new taskmaster over forced labor (2 Chron. 10:18). The people respond by killing the new taskmaster and rebelling against Rehoboam, who never succeeds in quelling the rebellion (2 Chron. 10:19).
Difficult decisions are part of leadership today too, whether we are leading a whole kingdom or simply ourselves. Where do you go for advice, and how do you make good use of advice? Rehoboam began by asking advice from people he recognizes as spiritually mature. Age itself does not make you wise, nor are devout people necessarily wiser than non-believers. But the elders he consults had demonstrated spiritual maturity and wisdom over many years serving King Solomon. One sign of this is their responsiveness to new facts and situations. Although they had been appointed by Solomon, they listen to Jeroboam with an open mind, resulting in their advice to overturn Solomon’s policies. In contrast, Rehoboam’s younger friends seem to have only one claim on his attention—they’re his pals. It’s easy to ask for advice from the people who already think like you do. But do you have access to people who are spiritually mature, who can listen with an open mind, who are not afraid to tell you something you’d rather not hear?
When we are faced with a tough decision, seeking counsel as Rehoboam did is a great first step. The next step is discerning which advice applies the Bible to your situation properly, and which advice merely confirms your own biases. To find the difference requires you to carefully sort through advice, comparing it to God’s word and asking whether it would promote the greater good. In Rehoboam’s situation, the good advice would have required him to exercise patience, kindness, generosity, gentleness, and self-control. These are five of the nine “fruits of the Spirit” listed in Galatians 5:22. These are not merely virtues one may obtain by practice and hard work, but gifts of God’s spirit (Gal. 5:25). Had Rehoboam been willing to receive God’s spirit, this good advice would have led to peace for the whole nation (2 Chronicles 10:7). In contrast the bad advice tempted Rehoboam to give into his own envy, haughtiness, boastfulness and ruthlessness, and to gratify his own ego. These are four of the “things that should not be done” described in Romans 1:29-31. It’s no coincidence that good advice often requires you to grow spiritually, while bad advice tempts you give into temptation. The best counselor is often someone who can help you understand and apply God’s word and encourage you to come to your own decision grow in God’s spirit.