Deja Vu in Israel – 1 Kings 12

Scripture Reading: 1 Kings 12; 2 Chronicles 10

Key Verse: “So the king did not listen to the people, for it was a turn of affairs brought about by the LORD that He might fulfill His word…” – 1 Kings 12:15a

Today we will be diving into 1 Kings 12 and taking a look at the kingdom of Israel prior to the split of the kingdom into the Northern and Southern kingdoms. I will first dive head on into the text, dissecting each section of the first fifteen verses of chapter twelve and prayerfully we will see four striking parallels with the people of Israel when they were under the oppression of Pharoah in Egypt as well as three major implications for our own lives. May God be glorified through the study and meditation of His Word and may we all receive true and lasting satisfaction and joy from it.

The Dilemma & Plea (Verses 1-5)

Here is the scenario: Solomon has died and his son Rehoboam has been given the throne to reign all of Israel in Solomon’s place. His coronation service took place at Shechem, the place of the renewal of the covenant (Joshua 24:1-27) and the place where the first brief intrusion of kingship occurred in the tribal life of Israel (Judges 9). Following this coronation service, Rehoboam faces his first issue as king. His father Solomon had dealt harshly with the people of Israel as he “made [their] yoke heavy”. They come with Jeroboam as their leader with a plea to have this yoke and “hard service” lightened. With new leadership beginning a new reign, they are seeking redemption from this oppression they had been under while Solomon was king. The terms of the agreement expressed by Jeroboam and all the assembly of Israel were very simple. If Rehoboam would lighten the burden of harsh work left by his father, the people would “serve [him]”. Rather than responding out of mercy, compassion, and love for his people, Rehoboam sends them away for three days so that he can think it over. This hesitation led to steep consequences as he was more concerned with his own glory and success than anything else. Nevertheless, Rehoboam seeks counsel on the matter.

Refusal of Humility & a Filling of Pride (Verses 6-11)

This young and newly crowned king firstly seeks counsel from those advisors of Solomon, his father. Wisely, they advise humility. They urge Rehoboam to serve the people of Israel and make this agreement with them which they have proposed. They advise him that if he would lighten the great burden of harsh service, the people of Israel would be his “servants forever.” However, Rehoboam “abandoned the counsel that the old men gave him.” Going against their advice, he seeks counsel from his buddies. The foolish advice that these “young men who had grown up with [Rehoboam]” was to not only refuse to lighten the workload on the people of Israel, but to increase it. They fill up Rehoboam’s pride by alluding that his power far exceeds that of his father (1 Kings 12:10). While work under Solomon was harsh, work under the power and might of Rehoboam would be much more harsh. While punishment under Solomon was great, punishment under the power and might of Rehoboam will be far greater. You can just feel the evil oozing from the pages of Scriptures through the counsel of these young men: “My little finger is thicker than my father’s thighs. And now, whereas my father laid on you a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke. My father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions” (1 Kings 12:10-11).

An Evil Response on a Sovereign Backdrop (verses 12-15)

Now, three days after pleading their case before Rehoboam, “Jeroboam and all the people” returned to receive his response. “Forsaking the counsel that the old men had given him”, Rehoboam spoke very “harshly” with Jeroboam and all the assembly of Israel. He delivered to them the prideful and cruel message of self-seeking glory derived from the counsel of his young friends. Despite the cries and pleas of his own people, “the king did not listen to [them]”. Nevertheless, verse fifteen assures us that behind all of these evil thoughts, motives, and actions of these young men and this young king, God is in control as all of this unfolds. These events were “affairs brought about by the LORD that He might fulfill His word”. In other words, just to be clear, God is the One who had a hand in this hardened and evil heart of Rehoboam and his foolish counsel. God was behind the scenes totally in control of this situation.

Four Parallels

  1. The people of Israel were under oppression and harsh workloads under Solomon with a heavy yoke on them. In the same way, the people of Israel were slaves in Egypt under Pharoah with harsh workloads and a heavy yoke on them. (Exodus 1:14; 2:23)
  2. Under the leadership of one man (Jeroboam), the Israelites brought their case before the king (Rehoboam). Likewise, in Egypt, the Israelites were led by one man (Moses) as they brought their case before the king (Pharoah). (Exodus 3-5:1)
  3. The workload on the people of Israel is only increased after they plead their case before Rehoboam. Similarly, the workload on the people of Israel in Egypt is only increased after they plead for release before Pharoah. (Exodus 5:2-21)
  4. The reason for Rehoboam’s hardened heart, as he abandoned and forsook the counsel of the old men while not listening to the cries of the people, is God’s sovereignty. God brought about these affairs. Also, the reason for Pharoah’s hardened heart, as he refused to release God’s people despite witnessing great plagues and destruction by God on his own people, was God’s sovereignty. God caused Pharoah’s heart to be hard against his people in order to display His glory. (Exodus 4:21; 7:3-4, 13)

 Three Implications

  1. Respond to hardship and suffering with the love and mercy of Christ in you. If those around you are suffering and they reach out to you, do not seek to further your own glory as you prolong their time of need. Provide their needs with love and mercy without hesitation not letting your right hand know what your left hand is doing. Demonstrate genuine Christ-like love to those in need by responding immediately to their cries in order to glorify God rather than to glorify self.
  2. Seek wise, godly counsel from those men or women who are truly following the Lord Jesus Christ and are submitting to His lordship on a daily basis. Trust in those who are living lives in obedience to God over your friends simply because they make you feel better about yourself. It is better to trust counsel which encourages humility over that which encourages pride.
  3. Trust in the Sovereign God of the universe as He is at work behind the scenes in your life despite the evil deeds of men. Realize that while men who commit evil acts, which come from an evil heart, are ultimately responsible for those acts to God, it is God who is at work behind them. He may be hardening their hearts in order to glorify Himself and purify your faith and joy in Him. During times of persecution, we need God the most and our helpless trust in Him will bring Him great glory. He is worth suffering for and because of His sovereignty in all things, we can be sure that He will work even the most evil of acts for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28). When you feel lost in the midst of tremendous evil acts of men, be assured that God is in control and behind even the most horrendous of situations. Trust in His sovereignty and submit to His lordship over life and death today!

Closing Encouragement

Find your full satisfaction in His Word today! Experience lasting joy from the Father as you walk with Him today. See His hand in the course of history as well as His sovereignty in all of Scripture. Do not fear to submit to the sovereignty of God. It is clear through all of Scripture that God is sovereign in the good as well as the bad. From creation, to the fall of man, to the giving of the law, to the redemption of the cross, to the glorious second coming of Jesus who is the Christ, God is in control! Will you trust Him today? Jesus Christ is Lord of all heaven and earth. Will you submit to Him now or when it is too late?

By His Grace — For His Glory — For our Joy


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