Summary: In Rehoboam, the people saw a “second Moses” who would deliver them from their oppression. But the king turned a deaf ear to their requests.
THE INSENSITIVE LEADER
"16 Now when all Israel saw that the king did not listen to them, the people answered the king, saying: “What share have we in David? We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse. To your tents, O Israel! Now, see to your own house, O David!” So Israel departed to their tents." 1 Kings 12:16.
At the height of his glorious reign, Solomon excelled in wealth and power. He was a great king; built cities and God's Temple in Jerusalem. But this was at a cost to the people of Israel. So at the beginning of Rehoboam’s reign, the representatives of the children of Israel asked him to make the proper adjustments. They wanted relief and release from the heavy taxation and forced labor of Solomon’s reign, and they offered loyalty to Rehoboam if he agreed to this. The people were really desperate for a leader that was sensitive to their needs. And in Rehoboam, they saw a “second Moses” who would deliver them from their oppression. “Your father made our yoke heavy; now therefore, lighten the burdensome service of your father, and his heavy yoke which he put on us, and we will serve you.” 1 Kings 12:4. The yoke is an instrument of toil. It is something you put on a beast of burden to get work out of it. A yoke could be symbolic of being in captivity or under slavery or bondage. So by reducing the suffering of the children of Israel, Rehoboam could have won their support. But the rude king turned a deaf ear to their requests. The young men labored hard all through the years of Solomon. But in his insensitivity, he lost a golden opportunity to be one of the great kings of Israel. The ten northern tribes of Israel walked out on the united kingdom. The country was split in half. From that moment on, the name “Israel” referred to the ten northern tribes, and the name “Judah” referred to the tribe of Judah, made up of tribes of Benjamin and Judah.
Rehoboam failed to understand the meaning of true greatness. Sadly, thousands of years after him, nothing much has changed. The temptation to 'lord' over others rather than to serve is as much alive today as it was in the days of Rehoboam. For us to lead people wisely, we need to know what it feels like to walk a mile in their shoes. Even if we have never been in their place, we must have empathy to perceive their situation, from their point of view. A leader who genuinely empathizes can relate well. But Rehoboam must have spent most of his time in luxury and grandeur. He likely had servants all his life attending to his every need. So, he had never experienced what ordinary people went through.
According to the Cambridge English Dictionary, "insensitivity" is "not feeling or showing sympathy for other people's feelings, or refusing to give importance to something." To be insensitive means to be unconcerned with the feelings of others. Insensitivity is to be heartless, uncaring, unkind, unresponsive, inconsiderate, aloof, and lacking empathy. Insensitive people don’t care. Their own opinion, needs, and pride are so important that they can’t think beyond that. Insensitive people are selfish and self-centered. It is very difficult to change such people as they consider themselves to be far superior. Even if you give them evidence that they are wrong, they will argue it. Insensitive people don't take responsibility. When something goes wrong, they find someone or something else to blame. Sensitive people tend to get very defensive. So are you sensitive to the physical, material needs, and environmental needs of people with whom you spend time?
"32 Now Jesus called His disciples to Himself and said, “I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now continued with Me three days and have nothing to eat. And I do not want to send them away hungry, lest they faint on the way.” Matthew 15:32. Most leaders demand to be served. But not Jesus. He served! He's our model leader. Whenever He found someone who was hurting or in need of help, Jesus looked at them and had compassion for them. He was prepared to serve everyone, even the one who would eventually betray him. Jesus taught His disciples that greatness is in serving. "25 But Jesus called them to Himself and said, “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those who are great exercise authority over them. 26 Yet it shall not be so among you; but whoever desires to become great among you, let him be your servant. 27 And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be your slave— 28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:25-28. Serving is an act of love. It moves the hearts of others and offers them comfort. To serve means we genuinely care about people. If you are too big to serve, then, you are too small to lead. Being a servant is one of the qualities of a good leader.