1 Kings 12:12-16
So Jeroboam and all the people came to Rehoboam the third day, as the king had appointed, saying, Come to me again the third day.…
The name of Rehoboam is remarkable as seen in the light of the facts of his history. The "enlarger of the kingdom" becomes the chief instrument in its disruption. The one strong nation, the throne of which he inherited from his father, is changed by his folly into two comparatively weak and distracted kingdoms, which maintain towards each other an attitude of perpetual jealousy and strife. The revolt of the ten tribes was a calamity from the ill effects of which the land never recovered. Both politically and religiously the unity of the chosen people was hopelessly broken, and the career of each separate division became henceforth one of ever deepening corruption. The northern kingdom was governed for two hundred and fifty years by a succession of men who followed only too closely in the steps of "Jeroboam, the son of Nebat, who made Israel to sin." Their reigns were little else than a story of crime and bloodshed and confusion. And though the history of Judah was not quite so dark, it tells very much the same tale. Few of its kings were wholly free from the prevalent wickedness. The efforts of the noblest of them, aided by all the moral influence of a long line of inspired prophets, were powerless to arrest the downfall of the state; till at last, after three hundred and eighty years, it sunk into the shame and misery of the Captivity. How can it be said of all this, that "The cause was from the Lord"? Look
(1) at the human element,
(2) at the Divine element, in this transaction. It is full of meaning forevery age.
I. THE HUMAN ELEMENT. The rending of the kingdom was not a sudden event that came without warning. As in all such cases, a variety of circumstances prepared the way for it. There were slumbering sources of mischief, certain conditions of thought and feeling, specially old jealousies between the tribes of Ephraim and Judah, that made it inevitable. But having regard to the nearer occasions, note
(1) How the seed of evil sown in one generation bears deadly fruit in the next. Trace the calamity back to the time when Solomon's heart first began to turn from the Lord. The root of it lay in his idolatry, and in the oppressions into which his luxury led him. That idolatry undermined the deepest foundation of the nation's unity in its loyalty to Jehovah, the Great Invisible King; that tyranny violated the public sense of righteousness, which is the strength of every nation, and kindled smouldering fire of discontent, which was sure, when occasion served, to burst into a flame. So true is it that the evil, as well as the good, men do "lives after them." Through the subtle relations that exist between man and man, generation and generation, the possible influence of any form of wrong doing can never be measured. It spreads in widening circles. As in the line of individual history every man reaps what he sows -
"Our deeds still travel with us from afar,
And what we have been makes us what we are" - so in the line of succeeding generations. Germs of evil sown by the fathers spring up among their children. There is a conservation of moral forces as of material. Let a corrupting power be once set in motion, and, though hidden for awhile, it is sure to appear again in some riper and more extended form. The nation retains its visible unity under Solomon, but when the charm of his personal reign is over the disintegrating work that has been going on beneath the surface is made manifest.
(2) The danger there is in following the prompting of foolish inexperience and headstrong self will. Rehoboam was wise in taking counsel of his advisers in this emergency. His folly lay in listening to those who flattered his vanity, rather than those whose prudence was a safer guide; and in supposing that, whether the discontent that urged the plea of oppression was reasonable or not, heavier oppression would cure it. It is a familiar picture of human life that we have here. "Days should speak, and multitude of years teach wisdom" (Job 32:7); but how often is the counsel of youthful incompetence followed because it is more agreeable. There is a time to resist as well as to yield; but experience shows that the pride that refuses all reasonable concession, and perhaps adds insult to wrong, defeats its own end. To stoop is often to conquer. To humble one's self is the way to be exalted. Imperious self will rushes blindly to its own ruin. Kindly human sympathy and generous self abandonment win honour and power. "He that would be great among you," etc. (Matthew 20:26, 27).
II. THE DIVINE ELEMENT. This is seen in two respects.
(1) So far as these events were the result of the wrong doing of men, God ordains the laws by virtue of which that result comes to pass. All sin is a defiance of the Divine Authority. But the sovereignty of God is proclaimed in the very disasters that follow it and avenge it. What is the punishment of sin but an assertion, in a form that cannot be avoided, of the authority against which it is a rebellion? We can no more avert the penalty that treads on the heels of trangression than we can escape from our own shadow, or change the course of nature, and that because we cannot get beyond the reach of God. The law that governs it is backed by all the forces of Omnipotence. It is but a phase of the Will that is "holy and just and good." Learn to look through all the wayward and uncertain forms of human action to the majesty of that Eternal Righteousness that "cannot be mocked," but will vindicate itself in unfailing sequences of reward and punishment.
(2) Evil as these events and doings may be, God works out through them His own all-wise purposes. The principle involved in this may be profoundly mysterious to us, but the fact is too manifest to be denied. Jeroboam may have been utterly wrong in the spirit that moved him, taking advantage of tribal jealousy for the purposes of his own ambition; and yet he did but fulfil the Divine decree expressed through Ahijah the Shilonite (1 Kings 11:29 seq.), and even through the prediction of the patriarch Jacob, which gave to Joseph the ascendancy and declared that the seed of Ephraim should "become a multitude of nations." Rehoboam's high-handed policy was without excuse, and yet he and his foolish counsellors were but ministers of the Divine purpose, maintaining God's choice of the house of David, and helping to fulfil the prophecy that the "sceptre should not depart from Judah until Shiloh come." All history is full of illustrations of the way in which God makes the evil of the world, in itself essentially at variance with His will, to serve Him. All streams of human folly and wrong, wandering and tortuous as they may be, become tributary to the great river of His purpose, "He maketh the wrath of man to praise Him." The highest example is the sacrifice of Jesus, man's iniquity working out the world's redemption. "Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands," etc. (Acts 2:23). The final verification of this truth belongs to the time when, out of all the sin and strife and sorrow of the ages, God shall bring forth the glorious triumph of His gracious sovereignty, the gathering together into one of all things in Christ." - W.
Parallel VersesKJV: So Jeroboam and all the people came to Rehoboam the third day, as the king had appointed, saying, Come to me again the third day.