1 Kings 12:7
And they spoke to him, saying, If you will be a servant to this people this day, and will serve them, and answer them…
These words are of deep-reaching import, and contain a principle of universal application. They especially apply to starts in life. When the son leaves the parental home for his new calling, for foreign land, to make his way in the world, our text contains a sentence which the father may, at the last moment of departure, whisper in his ear as an expression of the deepest thoughts in his heart for the guidance of the young beginner. To fulfil these words beautifies life, to have fulfilled them softens death. They contain a prescription which one can never repent of following.
I. THE FOLLY OF REHOBOAM. In the ancient, town of Shechem, a town that recalls to the Israelite memories of patriarchal limes, a king is about to be crowned. Solomon the Great has gone the way of all his fathers, and by right of succession the crown falls to Rehoboam his son. All Israel assembled at Shechem to make him king. For ages that old city had retained traces of its ancient dignity, just as Rheims, the old capital of France, continued to be the scene of coronations long after it had ceased to be the national capital. There was a time when Amsterdam was threatened to be deprived of its right of Royal Coronation, but since the severance of Belgium and Holland, the New Church here holds that honour undisputed. Shechem was full of representatives from all parts of the country. The king came down in royal state from Jerusalem. No opposition was offered to Rehoboam's succession. He was the only son of Solomon, and the people were prepared. to receive him as such. They had, however, many grievances which they wished to have redressed. Solomon had not been everything that a king should be.
II. THE PREROGATIVE OF SERVICE. A wise king would have at once acceded to such a request. But Rehoboam, although the son of a wise father, had not the common sense to do so. Wisdom is not inherited. "Who knoweth whether his son will be a wise man or a fool?" He was the king. The people had no rights but what he chose to give them. They were his servants, not he their servant. His will was their law. He knew nothing and would hear nothing of the rights of the individual. According to the mind of Jesus, he is the greatest who renders the greatest service to others. "They assert that the strength of a monarch's throne is service for and sympathy with his people." A throne built on such a foundation will last unshaken for ever. Oh, happy king to have such counsellors! Oh, foolish man to turn aside from them! The consequence of this incredibly foolish reply was such as might have been expected. "The work of two generations was undone in a moment." Under the leadership of Jeroboam, who promised them the reforms they wanted, the Ten Tribes revolted.
III. SELFISH AUTOCRACY. It is the old story of the consequence of selfish and inconsiderate autocracy. It is a lesson which makes but slow progress in the minds of men. The old heathen idea of forcible dominion is still largely the governing one of politics — that to be great is to receive much service, not to render it. Politics has too often been a game of ambition rather than a sphere of service.
(W. Thomson, M. A. , B. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: And they spake unto him, saying, If thou wilt be a servant unto this people this day, and wilt serve them, and answer them, and speak good words to them, then they will be thy servants for ever.