In this passage (I Kings 12) we have a sad narrative of another poor choice resulting in a further splintering of Israel. I have heard it quipped many times that, "Everything rises and falls on leadership" and we have so many examples in Scripture of how weak, self centered, and cowardly decisions grind on the glory of a nation.
Here is the son of Solomon, King Rehoboam, standing between two paths. The followers of Jeroboam made a request "Lighten the load and we will serve you."
As in any large decision, Rehoboam sought out counsel.
First was the elders. Those who has served with Solomon. Their advice? Rule as a servant. "...serve them and speak good words.. and they will be your servants forever."
Then his peers. The young men. Their advice? Say to the people "my little finger is thicker than my father's thighs (yeah, that's how I read it as well)" "My father beat you with a whip, I will discipline you with scorpions."
And we know what he did.... and the kingdom was divided... and the path to destruction was planted as an inevitability.
My thoughts on the choice?
1) In making big decisions, we basically choose what we want to do. Even our prayers often are a covering of manipulation.
2) In making big decisions, what our peers think is usually more important than what God thinks.
3) When making big decisions, we often pick a position of power and pride over humility and service.
4) When making big decisions, our tentacles are up to catch the information that supports our presuppositions and we are not dissuaded by countering arguments.
To do otherwise takes nothing short of a miracle.
I know I have mentioned this before, but I wish I had read the book, "The Call" by Os Guinness so much earlier in my youth. I don't know if I was mature enough to 'heed' the advice there as a 25 year old- but I would have chosen differently in some big decisions if I had.
Don't get me wrong..God's sovereign rule and love has still stood tall over the choices- just as He does here in I Kings 12- but the heart level submission to the King would have allowed me to do much more in the things that really matter.
So is there a point of application here is making a grid on how to make decisions and who to listen to.
Though I have had times where I did things my way- like a type of Jacob- scheming and pulling the strings- I did have a time where I can honestly say I did it right. And here is what I did:
It started with a 'DECISION GRID' that I sent to my wife. One that we could pray over AS A FAMILY.
We searched Biblical passages for HIS GENERAL WILL and the boundaries. A VERY helpful passage is I Thessalonians 4. It says:
1) God's WORD is my authority.
2) It sets my motive- To Please God by:
a- spending time in prayer
b-reading the Bible
c-fellowship- especially with my wife
d-practicing discipline which honors God
e- the priority of loving others (especially my wife and children)
I Thessalonians also tells me what to aspire to:
- A QUIET LIFE
- A LIFE IN WHICH I EVALUATE MYSELF INSTEAD OF OTHERS
- A LIFE WHERE I WORK WITH MY HANDS AND USE MY TALENTS
- A LIFE THAT IS NOT DEPENDENT ON OTHERS
I also had some great questions to ask:
- IS IT LOVING?
- WILL I BE A GIVER OR A TAKER?
- CAN I PROCLAIM THE GOSPEL?
- DOES IT PROMOTE ME OR GOD?
- IS IT RESPONSIBLE (PROVIDES FOR FAMILY)?
- WILL IT CREATE A DEPENDENCE ON OTHERS?
- WHAT DOES MY WIFE THINK?
- DOES IT CHALLENGE ME?
- WIL OUR FAMILY GROW?
- WILL I BE ABLE TO SERVE AND BUILD GOD'S KINGDOM?
Finally there were two big reminders:
God guides: But not like a horse or a mule (Psalm 32:8,9) He expects me to use common sense and my mind.
Be peaceful: I am His child and He will be with me...no matter what.
What if Rehoboam had done that?
For me... it meant I took a less prestigious road, one where I put it all at the foot of the cross and trusted in the King. And I haven't looked back since.
My prayer is that you will really listen to Him in your next big decision.
The biggest decision is to give your life to HIM!
A final warning from Os Guinness:
Those who transgress boundaries in their all-consuming life search for knowledge, riches, power, and prowess will overreach themselves until their pact with the devil destroys them.
or, as the Nashville musician, Rivers Rutherford said:
A man doesn't have to die to go to hell.