131 - The Kingdom Is Divided
Before Solomon died, he promoted a brave, hardworking young man named Jeroboam to an important position in the kingdom. What Solomon did not know was that this was part of God’s plan to take most of the kingdom away from his descendants (see #127 - May 7). God was preparing Jeroboam to become the ruler of ten of the tribes of Israel. One day while Jeroboam was on a business trip, he met a prophet who was wearing a brand-new coat. When the prophet saw Jeroboam, he took the coat off, ripped it into twelve pieces and said, “I have a message for you from God. Ten of these pieces are for you. Solomon’s heart was not completely mine—he worshiped false gods. Therefore, I am going to rip apart the kingdom he ruled and give you ten of the tribes. But because of my promise to David, Solomon’s son will rule over the remaining tribes—the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. If you follow me and obey my commandments, you will have a lasting dynasty just like the one I promised David.” When Solomon was told about this, he tried to kill Jeroboam. But the young man fled to Egypt and hid. When he learned that Solomon had died, he returned to Israel. Rehoboam, one of Solomon’s sons, was next in line to become the king of Israel. He went to Shechem expecting the ten northern tribes of Israel to accept him as their new king. However, the leaders were aware that Jeroboam had just returned to Israel. They wanted to get his advice first. With Jeroboam’s help, the northerners came up with a petition to present to Rehoboam. It said, “Your father burdened us with heavy taxes to pay for all his great building projects. If you promise to lower our taxes, we will gladly serve you.” Rehoboam told them he needed three days to think this over. During those three days, he consulted with some of the older counselors who had advised his father. They recommended: “You should do as these people ask. If you are kind to them, they will serve you the rest of their lives.” But Rehoboam wasn’t happy with this advice. So, he discussed it with some of the young men he had grown up with. They said, “Tell them, ‘No way!’ Say, ‘My father was easy on you compared to how harsh I’m going to be. He hit you with whips. I’m going to sting you with scorpions!’’’ Rehoboam chose to follow the unwise guidance of his immature friends. When the leaders of the northern tribes of Israel received Rehoboam’s response, they were angry and started a rebellion. Rehoboam sent an official to restore order, but they stoned him to death and asked Jeroboam to become their king. Rehoboam gathered an army of all the able-bodied men from the tribes of Judah and Benjamin to go to war and regain control of the entire nation. But before they left for battle, a prophet showed up with a message from God: “Don’t fight your brothers! Go home. I’m the one who caused them to rebel against you.” Everyone listened to the prophet and went home. But the nation was now divided. The Northern Kingdom kept the name Israel, and the Southern Kingdom was called Judah. Solomon’s divided heart and his son’s foolish choice left a broken nation.
Rehoboam was too arrogant to value the advice of the older generation. He was not interested in anything that did not immediately enhance his pleasure or increase his power. As a result, God’s nation was shattered forever. Are you willing to listen to the advice of older believers? Are you humble enough to ask them to pray for you?