Summary: Rehoboam was almost a hero. He stood at the threshold of greatness but chose poorly and destroyed everything his father and grandfather had built. Through his example we can perhaps learn to better follow the ways of Jesus.
February 15, 2009
In 1997, Reeve Lindbergh, daughter of aviator Charles Lindbergh, was invited to give the annual Lindbergh Address at the Smithsonian Institution’s Air and Space Museum to commemorate the 70th anniversary of her father’s historic solo flight across the Atlantic. On the day of the speech, museum officials invited her to come early, before the facility opened, so that she could have a closeup look at The Spirit of St. Louis, the little plane suspended from the museum ceiling that her father had piloted from New York to Paris in 1927.
That morning in the museum, Reeve and her young son, Ben, eagerly climbed into the bucket of a cherry-picker, a long-armed crane that carried them upward until the plane was at eye level and within their reach. Seeing the machine that her father had so bravely flown across the sea was an unforgettable experience for Reeve. She had never touched the plane before, and that morning, 20 feet above the floor of the museum, she tenderly reached out to run her fingers along the door handle, which she knew her father must have grasped many times with his own hand.
Tears welled up in her eyes at the thought of what she was doing. "Oh, Ben," she whispered, her voice trembling, "isn’t this amazing?"
"Yeaaaaaah," Ben replied, equally impressed. "I’ve never been in a cherry-picker before!"
This morning we are going to diverged from the standard hero expectations and look at someone who might be called an anti-hero or a villain. He was almost a hero. He stood right at the threshold of becoming a great king and a great leader. He was faced with a decision that literally would make or break him as a leader and hero and would make or break the Israel nation. This man was Rehoboam, son of Solomon.
Last week we looked at Solomon in the prime of his life. However, I did not tell you about the end of his life. For some reason, Solomon strayed big time and unlike his father, David, he doesn’t seem to have repented. Solomon began to worship the false gods and idols. He seems to have a big problem with sex and women. His ambitions and pride grew well beyond his wisdom and his love for God. As a result, his son, Rehoboam, whose mother was a foreigner, did not see the best example. Ray grew up where a lifestyle of excess was embraced, which probably was Ray’s own downfall.
Yet, in a way Ray was a hero (at least by our culture’s standards). He was selfish. He was self-centered. He was egotistical. He was self-absorbed and was focused too much on power, privileges, and the pleasures that excessive wealth could bring. I say he was a hero because basically Rehoboam was not any different than us. He really wasn’t any different than the average human. The heroes of today are those who live excessive lifestyles like sports figures and those in the entertainment industry. He was the Hugh Heffner of his day except we have to wonder if Rehoboam’s empire was built more around Playgirl, if you know what I mean.
For the follower of Jesus he was really the anti-hero. He stood at a turning point and could have made a simple decision to be a servant and probably would have propelled him to greatness but he couldn’t and wouldn’t humble himself before others let alone God. He was almost a hero but even in this, Ray points us to move toward God in areas that he would not. Let’s look at 1 Kings 12:1-14.
Rehoboam traveled to Shechem where all Israel had gathered to inaugurate him as king. Jeroboam had been in Egypt, where he had taken asylum from King Solomon; when he got the report of Solomon’s death he had come back.
Rehoboam assembled Jeroboam and all the people. They said to Rehoboam, "Your father made life hard for us—worked our fingers to the bone. Give us a break; lighten up on us and we’ll willingly serve you."
"Give me three days to think it over, then come back," Rehoboam said.
King Rehoboam talked it over with the elders who had advised his father when he was alive: "What’s your counsel? How do you suggest that I answer the people?"
They said, "If you will be a servant to this people, be considerate of their needs and respond with compassion, work things out with them, they’ll end up doing anything for you."
But he rejected the counsel of the elders and asked the young men he’d grown up with who were now currying his favor, "What do you think? What should I say to these people who are saying, ’Give us a break from your father’s harsh ways—lighten up on us’?"