It is said that studying history will help us to avoid the mistakes of the past. That is sometimes a fearful thing when you so easily recognize yourself in stories from the days of old. For that reason, I both love and hate reading the books of Kings and Chronicles in the Bible.
Take, for instance, King Rehoboam. As the son of King Solomon, the grandson of King David, he expected to step right in and rule Israel. Instead, he unwisely listened to his friends rather than his father’s older advisors and all but Judah and Benjamin rejected his authority and followed another king. (1 Kings 12:1-17; 2 Chronicles 10:1-16) This foolishness might be excusable in a youth, but Rehoboam was 41 years old! (1 Kings 14:21; 2 Chronicles 12:13) He obviously wanted to exert his authority, to prove he had power rather than be kind and gracious and to humbly lead the people God has given him to rule. A large portion of them walked away, leaving him, I’m sure, open-mouthed and sputtering.
As kings (and we) are wont to do when authority is spurned, Rehoboam gathered his people to war against his brothers turned enemies. But the Lord came to him and said no. So they put down their weapons and didn’t fight. (1 Kings 12:24; 2 Chronicles 11:4) Rehoboam listened to the Lord’s instructions, apparently now content with the small portion of Israel that the Lord had given him to rule. And things were good. All the priests and Levites came to live under Rehoboam’s rule in Judah. (2 Chronicles 11:14-15) As did “those from every tribe of Israel who set their hearts on seeking the Lord, the God of Israel.” (2 Chronicles 11:16) For three years, Rehoboam led Judah and Benjamin as they walked in the ways of David and Solomon. (2 Chronicles 11:17)
Great story, right?
Not exactly. Here’s the part where I cringe— and maybe you will, too. “After Rehoboam’s position as king was established and he had become strong, he and all Israel with him abandoned the law of the Lord.” (2 Chronicles 12:1)
Once Rehoboam and his people were established and strong, they disregarded God. We are told that God sent Egypt to discipline them in the 5th year of Rehoboam’s reign. (1 Kings 14:25; 2 Chronicles 12:2) Just two years to go from walking in the ways of David and Solomon to abandoning the law of the Lord and falling into great depravity. (1 Kings 14:22-24)
Rehoboam and the leaders humbled themselves before God after the Egyptians arrived. (2 Chronicles 12:12) God graciously regarded their repentance. But there were still consequences for their sin. Consequences that lingered beyond their own generation. Consequences that still speak to me today.
As I read these annals of the past and see my own fickle heart, the words of Come,Thou Fount of Every Blessing sprang to mind.
Prone to wander, Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love;
Here’s my heart, O take and seal it, seal it for Thy courts above.
This is my prayer today. Is it yours, too?