Summary: Kings of Judah, Pt. 1
EVERYTHING TO PROVE (1 KINGS 11:42-12:20)
I have been teaching preaching since 1998. I enjoy seeing students master the basics, watching them develop their confidence and grooming them for immediate impact. However, most teachers enjoy one thing least: evaluation. When I first started, lecturers were evaluated at the end of each course. Three years later, teachers had student evaluation midway through the course. Another three years later, students give feedback about teachers’ performance on the first day of the class, too. The only consolation is that I survived and thrived.
None of us like the pressure of meeting others’ expectations, fulfilling one’s potential and showing one’s worth. Last year’s NBA champions have to prove they were worthy champions, no fluke and not a flash in the pan. Champions have to prove they were not lucky; also-rans have to prove they are not losers. Teachers and students have to prove themselves. Professionals have to prove they know what they are doing. Voters need proof of residency and identity, drivers their proof of insurance and customers their proof of purchase. Scientist have to prove their findings, mathematicians their calculation, chemist their formula, archaeologist their discovery, prosecutors their evidence, athletes their fitness, producers their ratings and CEOs their salary. Laggards have something to prove, rookies and veterans have something to prove, young and old have something to prove. Sooner or later and to a greater or lesser degree, everyone has something to prove to oneself, if not to others.
Rehoboam had big shoes to fill. His illustrious grandfather was the beloved King David and his distinguished father was the sage King Solomon. The new king was not left without help. His father’s advisors were ready to help the young man make a good start, succeed his father and complete the transition, but the young Rehoboam took things too personally, lightly and immaturely. He had more to prove than he thought, more to lose than he thought and was more to blame than he thought for his misfortune.
What kind of path do you want to take in life? How do you want to be known? Why is there improvement to make no matter how much you’re given and what advantage you have?
Prove Yourself Compassionate, Not Callous or Cold
12:1 Rehoboam went to Shechem, for all the Israelites had gone there to make him king. 2 When Jeroboam son of Nebat heard this (he was still in Egypt, where he had fled from King Solomon), he returned from Egypt. 3 So they sent for Jeroboam, and he and the whole assembly of Israel went to Rehoboam and said to him: 4 “Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but now lighten the harsh labor and the heavy yoke he put on us, and we will serve you.” 5 Rehoboam answered, “Go away for three days and then come back to me.” So the people went away. (1 Kings 12:1-5)
During an operation, an experienced surgeon asked a young intern, “Who is the most important person in this operating room?”
The intern groped for an appropriate answer. He didn’t believe that this mentor was asking for personal compliments, so trying to sound gracious, he replied, “I suppose that it would be these nurses who assist you in such an efficient manner.”
The surgeon shook his head and said, “No, the most important individual in this room is the patient. (Remember that.)” (Daily Bread 9/29/93)
Peter Drucker said that what Andrew Carnegie wanted on his tombstone were these words: “Here lies a man who attracted better people into his service than he was himself.” (Bits and Pieces 1/2/97)
The forty years of Solomon’s reign had exacted a heavy toll on commoners’ lives. The expenses for building expensive projects (1 Kings 10:4), entertaining foreign dignitaries (1 Kings 10:24), buying expensive toys (1 Kings 10:26-29) and supporting 1,000 families (1 Kings 11:3) came directly from the government coffers. The Israelites told Rehoboam frankly how much they suffered when his father was king. The first “heavy” word in verse 4, meaning fierce, rough, severe, is used for Rachel’s great difficulty in giving birth (Gen 35:16), the hardening of the hearts of foreign kings such as Pharaoh (Ex 7:2-3), Sihon (Deut 2:30), Nebuchadnezzar (2 Chron 36:13), and the recurring word for being “stiff-neck” (Deut 10:16, 2 Chron 30:8, Neh 9:16, 9:17, 9:29, Jer 7:26, 17:23, 19:15).
Even then, “heavy” is not the most emphasized word. The most used word in the chapter is the word “yoke,” which is used eight times (vv 4, 4, 9, 10, 11, 11, 14, 14). The delegates’ frequent mention of the word was calculated to dramatize the problem and draw a reaction. Ironically, the Hebrew word “yoke” has always been used in the Bible for the burden placed upon by enemies (Deut 28:48) and foreigners (Jer 30:8), and never upon or by fellow countrymen. The yokes Israel had suffered included the yoke of Egypt (Lev 26:13), Midian (Isa 9:4), Assyria (Isa 14:25), and Babylon (Isa 47:5-6, Jer 28:2). The Israelites complained frankly that their own king was no better than foreign kings that enslaved them.