In Living Like a King, Richard Rohlin will be examining the kings of Israel and Judah during the Divided Kingdom period. He’ll look at the good, the bad, and the ugly, and from them we’ll learn together what kind of men we ought – or ought not – to be.
Historically and culturally, men and manhood are important. The kind of man you decide to be will affect future generations in ways you can’t possibly understand. Prideful, willful men like the one we’ll be studying today have been responsible for more conflict, turmoil, and bloodshed than perhaps all other kinds of people combined. That’s not to say that women don’t have an important and crucial impact – to say that would be a little like discussing Ahab’s sins but then glossing over Jezebel’s – but we’re talking about men and masculinity here. Specifically, masculinity out of control.
There is a biblical model for the Worshipful Man – the warrior poet who, like David or Jesus, is at times both sensitive and passionate and valorous and dangerous. And then there are the human perversions of each of these two extremes. The man who is all warrior – who oozes masculinity untempered by the Law of Grace – destroys marriages, families, working relationships, and even nations. And we see it typified for us by Rehoboam, Solomon’s son and the first king of the nation of Judah.
The story, if you aren’t already familiar with it, is in 1 Kings 12. Essentially, after Solomon’s death and because of Solomon’s sin, God (via prophet) declares that ten of the twelve tribes will be torn from the house of David and be given to another – in this case Jeroboam, a member of Solomon’s cabinet. That’s the Divine Aspect of history in this story. The Human Aspect – and the one we will be focusing on – is the tremendous arrogance and foolishness demonstrated by Rehoboam that leads to his losing more than half the kingdom.
When Solomon had been king he had, by his various building projects and expansions, greatly burdened the people of Israel through both taxation and forced labor. When Rehoboam ascended to the throne, the people of Israel came to him with the following request:
“Your father made our yoke heavy. Now therefore lighten the hard service of your father and his heavy yoke on us, and we will serve you.” (1Ki 12:4)
Rehoboam, unsure how to respond, asks for three days to consider their request. Essentially, these three days are the days in which Rehoboam will determine his social and economic policies as a ruler. But they are more than that: this is when young, inexperienced Rehoboam gets to decide what kind of man he will be. Unlike Rehoboam, we don’t get three days to decide this. Each morning when we get up, we have the chance to decide if we want to serve and lead our wives, children, and employees, or if we want to oppress them by demanding our will and demanding the respect we feel we merit.
It’s precisely those to choices that are presented to Rehoboam, in the form of two groups of counselors. First, there’s the advice from his father’s counselors (and we’ll talk more next week about who these men are and how important they were):
Then King Rehoboam took counsel with the old men, who had stood before Solomon his father while he was yet alive, saying, “How do you advise me to answer this people?” And they said to him, “If you will be a servant to this people today and serve them, and speak good words to them when you answer them, then they will be your servants forever.” (1Ki 12:6-7)
Then, Rehoboam takes counsel with his buddies – the young men he’s grown up with:
And the young men who had grown up with him said to him, “Thus shall you speak to this people who said to you, ‘Your father made our yoke heavy, but you lighten it for us,’ thus shall you say to them, ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s thighs. And 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.'” (1Ki 12:10-11)
So there it is. The choice. You can love your wife, your children, and your employees. You can be a servant to them and lead them. If you do, they will follow you to the ends of the earth.
Or you can flex your muscles. You can demand respect. Demand obedience as your just due. You can discipline them with verbal scorpions. It’s your choice, and you get to make it every single morning. Every single day.
Rehoboam gets a choice too. Somewhat predictably, he makes the wrong one. He goes with the scorpions. And that’s what’ll lead into next week’s post as we discuss the characteristics of masculinity out of control.