If I were to guess, I would say that the following three pieces of information are what many people remember most about Rehoboam:
– He was the son of Solomon.
– After Solomon’s death, he was the first king of the Southern Kingdom (Judah).
– He unwisely chose to increase the burdens of God’s people rather than lighten them.
All of these are undeniable facts. What are some of the lessons which we can learn from his life and reign over God’s people?
The Bible’s general appraisal of Rehoboam reveals a lot about the man: “And he did evil, because he did not prepare his heart to seek the LORD” (2 Chronicles 12:14). Say no more; we get the picture. Why? Because man’s choices come from the heart (Luke 6:45). If we fail to seek the Lord with our heart, then our choices and actions will demonstrate that. We need to put supreme emphasis on having a good heart before God, as it is written, “Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life” (Proverbs 4:23).
A man’s choices and actions as a husband and father often are repeated in the lives of his sons. Solomon is renowned for having hundreds of wives and concubines. Rehoboam did not match his father’s numbers, but he did have eighteen wives and sixty concubines (2 Chronicles 11:21). He grew up in such an environment, observing his daddy’s lifestyle, so his decisions as an adult are not surprising. Fathers, our sons are observing our speech and actions. We need to set forth habits that show “a pattern of good works” (Titus 2:7) which our sons can emulate and be pleasing to the Lord.
“And there was war between Rehoboam and Jeroboam all their days” (1 Kings 14:30). Jeroboam, the first king of the Northern Kingdom, was a spiritual rebel. Yet, how tragic to think that the people of God could not unite on God’s teachings and solve their differences without going to war. There is a “good fight of faith” for us to wage (1 Timothy 6:12), but at the same time, our Lord calls us to put forth our greatest effort to live peaceably with all men (Romans 12:18).
When Rehoboam came to the throne, he fortified a number of cities in the tribes of Judah and Benjamin. Following that, he “dealt wisely” and dispersed his sons throughout those areas (2 Chronicles 11:5-12,23). Rehoboam’s decision in this matter reminds us of this truth: just because one acts wisely in a sense that the world admires and praises does not mean that he is acting wisely in God’s sight (and vice versa). “For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God” (1 Corinthians 3:19). The fleeting, fickle praises of men will mean nothing when we stand before our Creator in judgment. Let us resolve to be wise in the ways and eyes of the living God!
There is a huge difference in the manner that Rehoboam strengthened himself and the way in which his grandfather David strengthened himself. Rehoboam strengthened himself over the kingdom of Judah – his focus was on earthly matters and his control over the people (2 Chronicles 12:1). That was a far cry from the approach that David took when he faced challenges: “David strengthened himself in the LORD his God” (1 Samuel 30:6). Being strong in the Lord is of greater importance than material/earthly strength. That is true in this life as well as in the life to come. We need to send that message to our families.
When one forsakes the Lord’s instructions/law, that is the same as forsaking the Lord Himself. Such happened in the case of Rehoboam. The Bible says that “he forsook the law of the LORD” (2 Chronicles 12:1). Four verses later we read that a prophet of God accused the king and other leaders of Judah with these words: “You have forsaken Me . . .” (12:5). One who is faithful to God is one who submits to His word. Those who have convinced themselves that they can be faithful to Jehovah without being faithful to His word are self-deceivers. People who draw near to God are those who submit to Him according to His teaching (James 4:7,8).
Rehoboam and Judah were blessed to have Levites, priests, and other devoted Israelites of the Northern Kingdom come to support them. When King Jeroboam established his corrupt worship in Israel (the worship of golden calves and allowing unauthorized people to serve as priests), those noted above headed south to Judah (2 Chronicles 11:13-16). Why? Because they were people who “set their heart to seek the LORD God of Israel” (11:16). With that attitude, they refused to be a part of something which they knew was unacceptable in God’s sight. It takes courage to make such a stand. We need people like that today, saints of God who are committed to doing what He wants, regardless of the consequences that they must face or the effort and sacrifice which they must put forth in order to please the God of heaven.
May God help us to “gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12) as we contemplate lessons from the life and reign of Rehoboam. In the end, he went “the way of all the earth” via death (1 Kings 2:2). That reality hits home with me, as I am now the very age that Rehoboam was when he left this world.
— Roger D. Campbell