Rehoboam and the Power of Discernment
For all of you fathers who have daughters about to leave home out there, I want to give you something to give them. Having handed my own stradaverius to a gorilla, I offer these up as pieces of advice to share with your daughters:
Number 1: Don't imagine you can change a man - unless he's in diapers.
Number 2: What do you do if your boyfriend walks-out? You shut the door.
Number 3: If they put a man on the moon - they should be able to put them all up there.
Number 4: Never let your man's mind wander - it's too little to be out alone.
Number 5: Go for younger men. You might as well - they never mature anyway.
Number 6: Men are all the same - they just have different faces, so that you can tell them apart.
Number 7: Definition of a bachelor: a man who has missed the opportunity to make some woman miserable.
Number 8: Women don't make fools of men - most of them are the do-it-yourself types.
Number 9: If you want a committed man, look in a mental hospital.
It’s that number 9 that we saw come true again last week. Do you remember this guy? This is Mark Sanford. Seems he thought that he could sneak down to Argentina and have a fling with his mistress for the weekend and get back before anyone missed him. Seems his staff thought they could cover for him by simply saying that he was hiking the Appalachian Trail . . . alone.
There was only one problem: Mark Sanford’s the governor of South Carolina. All of his time is accounted for and, as a governor, he must be under the watchful eye of his security team at all times. Not only that, but there are news reporters in South Carolina who follow him around constantly just to see what he is doing. To think you can sneak to Argentina as the governor of a state is nothing short of lunacy. He may have belonged in a mental hospital, but he obviously wasn’t a committed man.
Now, please understand, I don’t just want to take shots at the guy. I’ve been pretty foolish in the midst of my own sin, too. The reason I bring it up is to simply illustrate how unwise and undiscerning we all can sometimes be, especially when it comes to our sin. Even as believers, we desperately need discernment.
Well, he wasn’t the governor of a state, but he was the King of Israel. At least, that’s how he saw himself. After all, as Solomon’s son, he was the heir of the greatest Jewish king who ever reigned. The throne was his and he was ready to claim it. There was only one problem: He didn’t have a lot of discernment. Read his story with me in 1 Kings 12:1
Then Solomon rested with his fathers, and was buried in the City of David his father. And Rehoboam his son reigned in his place.
12 And Rehoboam went to Shechem, for all Israel had gone to Shechem to make him king. 2 So it happened, when Jeroboam the son of Nebat heard it (he was still in Egypt, for he had fled from the presence of King Solomon and had been dwelling in Egypt), 3 that they sent and called him. Then Jeroboam and the whole assembly of Israel came and spoke to Rehoboam, saying, 4 “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.”
So he said to them, “Depart for three days, then come back to me.” And the people departed. 6 Then King Rehoboam consulted the elders who stood before his father Solomon while he still lived, and he said, “How do you advise me to answer these people?” 7 And they spoke to him, saying, “If you will be a servant to these people today, and serve them, and answer them, and speak good words to them, then they will be your servants forever.” 8 But he rejected the advice which the elders had given him, and consulted the young men who had grown up with him, who stood before him. 9 And he said to them, “What advice do you give? How should we answer this people who have spoken to me, saying, ‘Lighten the yoke which your father put on us’?” 10 Then the young men who had grown up with him spoke to him, saying, “Thus you should speak to this people who have spoken to you, saying, ‘Your father made our yoke heavy, but you make it lighter on us’—thus you shall say to them: ‘My little finger shall be thicker than my father’s waist! 11 And now, whereas my father put a heavy yoke on you, I will add to your yoke; my father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scourges!’ ”
So Rehoboam does as his younger advisers urge him. V. 15 adds this
15 So the king did not listen to the people; for the turn of events was from the Lord, that He might fulfill His word, which the Lord had spoken by Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam the son of Nebat. 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. 17 But Rehoboam reigned over the children of Israel who dwelt in the cities of Judah.
18 Then King Rehoboam sent Adoram, who was in charge of the revenue; but all Israel stoned him with stones, and he died. Therefore King Rehoboam mounted his chariot in haste to flee to Jerusalem. 19 So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day. 20 Now it came to pass when all Israel heard that Jeroboam had come back, they sent for him and called him to the congregation, and made him king over all Israel. There was none who followed the house of David, but the tribe of Judah only.
Rehoboam was a king who desperately needed discernment that he obviously didn’t have.
You may feel the same way. You may be facing a decision today that is absolutely crucial to your future.
Hey, some of you teenagers are deciding what college God wants you to attend and you’ve looked in this direction and in that direction and you’re still not sure what to do: You need discernment.
Some of you single adults are trying to decide about marriage. You may have already said “yes” to the proposal, or maybe you were on the asking side, but now you’re beginning to have misgivings. You’re questioning some things and you don’t know if you’re doing the right thing or not: You need discernment.
Some of you are uncertain about what God’s calling you to do. You have this sense that God has His hand on you and you’ve even thought about going away to the Bible College or to seminary. You need to make a decision about your calling and you just aren’t sure what to do: you need disernment.
Some of you are about to make a decision and you need to make a good one and others of you have already made a decision and it was a bad one. Maybe you trusted someone who really let you down and you feel betrayed, angry, and ashamed. Maybe you failed in your own walk with the Lord in some major way and you know you’ve blown it. Now you’re suffering the consequences of bad choices, may I tell you, you still need discernment. Sometimes it takes more discernment to pull out of a bad decision and cut your losses than it took to avoid it in the first place. You may need discernment to refuse to cover up your foolishness anymore.
Whatever your circumstances, I want you to know this morning that godly discernment is something everyone needs. If that is true, how can we find it? Well, Rehoboam’s story provides us with some clear answers to that question. You see, you can have godly discernment when you:
DIV 1 - EVALUATE YOUR CIRCUMSTANCES
Since you just read the story, you obviously realize that Rehoboam made some fairly serious miscalculations in this situation. When you really analyze the text, you discover that he didn’t make a good evaluation of the circumstances he was facing. For one thing, he misunderstood his opponent. Now by his opponent, I mean Jeroboam. You meet Jeroboam back in chapter 11. You remember that God rejected Solomon because of his tolerance for idolatry. Jeroboam was the one whom God had Ahijah anoint as the next king of Israel to serve in Solomon’s place. Well, being anointed king while the current king is still there can be a fairly risky proposition, so, not wanting to lose his head, Jeroboam flees to Egypt. V. 2 of chapter 12 tells us that, when Solomon dies, the people of Israel send for Jeroboam. They were thinking coup-de-tat. These people weren’t exactly asking nicely. They were pretty much demanding that Rehoboam make some changes. By his response, Rehoboam shows us that he either thought he was strong enough to overcome their opposition, or he totally misunderstood what he was up against. Either way, he made a poor evaluation of his circumstances and he did a very foolish thing.
And it wasn’t just his opponent he misunderstood, he also misunderstood his people. For years they had labored under a harsh king. We sometimes think of Solomon as a glorious ruler and I suppose he was, but all that glory came at a huge price . . . a price, by the way, that his people paid, not him. Northerners in the kingdom had been forced to travel to build southern projects. One commentator said that it was so bad that it could have been compared to being back in Egypt. Some of these people looked to Jeroboam as their “second Moses.”
Rehoboam misunderstood his opponent and his people, and he also misunderstood his place in God’s plan. A very interesting verse divides this chapter in two. V 15 says:
So the king did not listen to the people; for the turn of events was from the Lord, that He might fulfill His word, which the Lord had spoken by Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam the son of Nebat.
God was involved in the revolt that was about to occur. To fulfill the judgment He had spoken to Solomon because of his idolatry, it was God’s will that Rehoboam not be the king of all of Israel. But Rehoboam lacked the insight or at least the willingness to accept that. He made foolish choices because he didn’t do a very good job of evaluating his circumstances.
And, by the way, discernment begins with a good evaluation of what you’re up against. One reason you may make bad decisions is that you just don’t understand the issues involved. You just don’t take the time to really evaluate your circumstances.
And I know some of you might be saying right now: “But I do that, Rusty. I take the time to analyze my circumstances and things still go badly.” Well, if that happens, perhaps you’re seeing without really seeing. Maybe you’ve not got the right perspective.
(Show the old lady/young lady pic). Take a minute to look at this picture (Wait a few seconds, then say) How many of you see a young lady? How many of you see an old lady? The point is your perspective makes all the difference.
When it comes to evaluating our circumstances, so often we have the wrong perspective. We look at things from a very human, fleshly point of view, never realizing that there is a completely additional dimension from which to view our lives. It’s the Holy Spirit dimension. You don’t enter it through some “worm hole” or an interruption of the space-time continuum. You enter it through prayer.
You see, a lot of people have eyesight. They see their circumstances and they may even be able to accurately describe to you what they are up against. They have eysight, but they do not have insight. They see the physical, human side of the problem, but they’re missing the Biblical, Holy Spirit dimension, and it is that dimension we must have if we are to make a godly evaluation of our circumstances.
You may say, “That’s great, Rusty, but how do I gain that kind of insight? How do I enter the “Holy Spirit” dimension.
Well, right of the bat, you must be a follower of Jesus Christ. If you do not know Him as your Savior, you don’t have the Holy Spirit and you certainly can’t be led by Him. Without His Spirit, your evaluation will always be missing its most valuable asset.
And if you are saved, you still must have the humility to ask God for His insight. You see, Spirit fullness and Spirit leadership are not automatic. If I want His leadership, I have to ask Him for it and expect Him to give it.
And when He does give it, I have to have the courage to obey it. That was really Rehoboam’s problem by the way. He already knew that Jeroboam had been anointed to King of part of the kingdom. He just wouldn’t admit it to himself.
Is that you? Has God already shown you His evaluation of your circumstances, but you aren’t willing to accept it? If so, I tell you that you are about to make some big mistakes. Only obedience to His Spirit brings His discernment into your life. Godly discernment comes from evaluating your circumstances, but it also comes from
DIV 2 FOLLOWING GODLY ADVICE
Now you will have to at least give Rehoboam credit for this: He did ask for advice. In that he was ahead of many people you and I know. At least he had the humility to ask for help. That is so unlike you and I sometimes. We plow through our lives making one life-changing decision after the next, never stopping to ask. If I am really seeking Godly discernment, I must have the humility to ask godly people for their input.
But, once you ask, you’ve got to be able to evaluate the advice you get. This is where Rehoboam struggled. While he had the humility to ask, he didn’t make a good evaluation of the advice he received. V 8 says “But he rejected the advice that the elders had given him.” Why did he reject their advice? Well he was prejudiced by a couple of things:
First he was prejudiced by his preferneces. Notice v 8 says: “But he rejected the advice which the elders had given him, and (watch) consulted the young men who had grown up with him . . . Hey, these were his “homeboys” you might say. They were the kids that he had grown up with and played with. The elders were the ones who were close to his father. This younger crew were the ones he trusted. He listened to them because he trusted them. He allowed his prejudice to color his decision.
And he was prejudiced by his position. The last phrase of v 8 indicates that not only had these younger advisers grown up with Rehoboam, but they also “stood before him.” In other words, Rehoboam ruled over them and they were able to eat because they pleased him. Now which one of them was going to tell the king something he didn’t want to hear. No, they told Rehoboam exactly what his position demanded they tell him. Rehoboam didn’t follow the right advice because he was prejudiced against it.
And you know what else I suspect. Just reading about this spoiled brat of a king, I rather suspect that, even if they had the courage to tell him the truth, he wouldn’t have had the character to hear it. He lacks discernment because he refuses to follow godly advice.
Ever gotten advice you didn’t ask for? If you’ve lived through your teenage years, I’m sure you’ve gotten plenty of it. Well, I’m not a teenager but some time ago I got some advice just like that.
It was a beautiful summer day, just right for biking. By the way, this is my favorite time of the year and I love to bike. On this particular day (probably over a year ago), I was in such a hurry to get away and ride, that I forgot to put on my helmet. By the time I remembered, I was already a mile or two from home. I wasn’t about to turn around and go all the way back there to get it. I would just take my chances, I thought. Besides, there was no law that said I had to wear one.
I was riding down a street when I spied another biker coming out from a side street to my left. I was headed downhill, and had a pretty good head of steam. I passed the street and she entered behind me. I thought, I’ll surely be able to stay ahead of her. I’m going pretty fast and . . . she’s just a woman.
I was feeling pretty macho until I heard something coming up behind me. I was pumping as hard as I could, but here came this lady passing me as if I was standing still. If that wasn’t humiliating enough, she added insult to injury. As she breezed by me, she shouted back over her shoulder, “You know, you really need to wear a helmet.”
That ticked me. I’d never fallen before so my past argued against her advice. I really thought that helmets were hot and bothersome, not to mention the fact that I thought they made you look like a dork! My preferences argued against her advice. I was 40-something years old, and I should know if I need to wear a helmet or not. My position argued against her advice.
But whether it was her advice or not, I really did begin to wear my helmet, and a few weeks ago, I discovered that her advice was golden. I fell off my bike while on vacation, and you want to see what happened to my helmet. (Show helmet) Now, that would have been my head. Listening to her advice may have saved my life.
Discernment comes when I follow godly advice.
If you’re here this morning and you aren’t sure you have a relationship with Christ, or if you know beyond any doubt that you don’t, may I ask you this question? Why are you here? Why did you come? You see, I really believe you came because you, like Rehoboam, were actually seeking some good, godly advice, so may I give you the very best piece of advice I can? Here it is: Give your heart to Jesus Christ and make Him the Lord of your life. That’s the best advice you’ll ever get. See, you’ve come here today seeking godly advice, but seeking it isn’t enough. You must follow it. Receive Christ as your Savior this morning.
And Christians who are here: Are you facing a decision that you are finding difficult to make? Are you considering divorce? Are you deciding what college to go to? Are you deciding whom to date? Are you deciding whether to make that purchase or not? Are you deciding what job to take? If you are looking for discernment in these, or in any area, let me ask you two questions: Are you seeking godly advice? Are you willing to follow the godly advice you receive?
We can discern God’s will when we evaluate our circumstances and follow godly advice. But, also, we can discern God’s will when we
DIV 3: ACCEPT GOD-IMPOSED LIMITATIONS
An interesting subplot permeates this story of Rehoboam’s foolishness. It is clearly stated in a couple of places in this chapter. In v 15, we are told that the “turn of events,” that is the foolish response of Rehoboam, was “from the Lord.” Later in v 22 when Rehoboam threatens to go to war over the divided Kingdom, it says:
But the word of God came to Shemaiah the man of God, saying, 23 “Speak to Rehoboam the son of Solomon, king of Judah, to all the house of Judah and Benjamin, and to the rest of the people, saying, 24 ‘Thus says the Lord: “You shall not go up nor fight against your brethren the children of Israel. Let every man return to his house, for this thing is from Me.” ’ ”
This is the part of discernment that, quite frankly, nobody likes. Rehoboam surely didn’t. In fact, he fights against it at first. Something tragically comical happens in v 18. There the Bible says:
Then King Rehoboam sent Adoram, who was in charge of the revenue; but all Israel stoned him with stones, and he died. Therefore King Rehoboam mounted his chariot in haste to flee to Jerusalem. 19 So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day.
King Rehoboam, not willing to take “no” for an answer, sends his IRS agent out to the northern tribes to audit a few “loyal” subjects. They in essence say, “You want your taxes? I got your taxes right here” and the Bible says they picked up stones and stone the IRS agent to death. And Rehoboam runs back to Jerusalem like a scared chicken. Because he lacked discernment, he refused to accept the limitations God was placing on him.
You see that constantly in the Christian life. Unwilling to let God be God, we chafe under His “restraints.” We think we’ll do better on our own, and we often launch out on our own trying to break through the limitations God has imposed. But a discerning person doesn’t do that. A discerning person evaluates their situation through the power of the spirit, follows the advice God sends, and accepts the limitations God imposes.
It was a small adjustment that could make a big difference. Sure, it was against NASCAR rules, but almost everyone else was doing it. So crew chief Tim Shutt crawled under the No. 20 car of Mike McLaughlin, who races on the NASCAR Busch circuit.
"Joe [Gibbs, team owner] is adamant that we don't cheat," says Shutt, a relatively new believer who encountered Christ at a Christian retreat for participants in the racing industry. "Most teams figure that as long as you get away with it, it's not cheating."
"I said to Mike that morning in practice, 'If we're no good in practice, I'll put this piece—the illegal piece—on. Probably 30 other teams are doing it." I was justifying it.
"I got up under the car, I got halfway through putting it on, and that verse, 'Seek ye first the kingdom of God,' came flashing in red in front of me, and whoa, that was it. I said, 'I'm leaving this up to you, God.'" Shutt didn't put the piece on the car.
McLaughlin won the race. It was Talladega, one of the biggest races of 2001.
"When we won, the first thing that came to my mind was that verse," Tim says. "God wanted to show himself to me."
You see, God imposes limitations on all our lives, in one way or another. A discerning person doesn’t fight those; he receives them and sees them as God’s blessing, not God’s curse.
And it is those limitations that are keeping some of us from coming to Jesus Christ. I’ll never forget Greg Savchuck. He used to come to church here and he was converted from abject atheism to Christianity. He had a background in science and used to love to argue evolution with Christians, often making them look foolish. But his wife was saved and eventually, through reading Creationist literature, came to a personal faith in Christ himself.
I’ll never forget asking him one time: “Greg, why were you so adamantly opposed to Christianity? Did you feel as if you had some slam-dunk scientific fact that no believer could refute?” You know what he told me? He said, “Rusty I didn’t believe in God because I didn’t want to acknowledge a God who could tell me what to do.”
Can I tell you my unsaved friend, part of the reason you are resisting Christ is because you don’t want a God who can tell you what to do. You don’t want to give up control of your life. Like Rehoboam, you don’t want to accept the limitations that God would place on you. But I must tell you that you have no idea what you are missing! God’s limitations don’t stifle you, nor cramp you, they really set you free to become all you can be! I am praying this morning that, by the power of the Holy Spirit, God will give you the discernment to receive him this morning.
And Christian, what about you? We also want to resist God’s limits sometimes don’t we? Singles, you want to marry the nice, but unspiritual guy or girl you just met because you’re afraid it’s your only chance to be happy. The problem is God has told us not to be unequally yoked together with unbelievers. And we don’t like those limits.
Husbands or wives, you’re entertaining the notion of divorce, even though you have no biblical grounds because you say you’re just not happy. The problem is God hasn’t given you permission to break your marriage vow. And you don’t like those limits.
You’re suffering some sickness and it is debilitating, perhaps. God has limited you severely and you are suffering and, in your heart, there it this rebellion going on because of our limitations.
A discerning heart accepts the limitations God places on it. So my question is this: Are you accepting the limits God may have placed on you?
What could happen in your life if you became a man or woman of godly discernment? It might mean that you
. . . Avoid that relationship that will lead you only to heartache and disaster.
. . . Launch a career that is more than a way to make money. It’s a genuine call that not only meets your financial needs in life, but gives you joy all along the way.
. . . Avoid bankruptcy and salvage your finances just when you think you’re about to go under.
. . . Close that business that is pulling you away from God.
. . . Return to that spouse that you have no business leaving in the first place
. . . Today you make a decision for Christ that not only changes your life now, but changes your destiny for eternity.
You all know what this is, right (hold up GPS)? It’s a global positioning satellite device. It’s really neat. It draws you a map of where you’re going; tells you if you’re speeding; tells you how long it takes to reach your destination; it even tells you what time you should arrive.
Here’s the deal: You can get the box. You can have the lady in the car, but that doesn’t mean that you trust her. If you trust her, what do you do? You do what she says. You go where she tells you to go. She says, “turn left,” you turn left. If she says, “Turn left,” and in your heart you think, But I want to go right, you remember, There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof is death, Okay?
John Ortberg tells of a time he was following a GPS system. He says, At one point when we were driving in this car, I was quite sure the lady was wrong. She said to go left, and I didn't go left. I went right, because I knew she was wrong. Then as an interesting response, she said, "Recalculating route. When safe to do so, execute a U-turn." I knew she was wrong, so I unplugged her. That's the beauty of that little box. You can unplug her.
I got lost as a goose. My wife enjoyed that immensely.
So we plugged that lady back in, and you know what she said? "I told you so, you little idiot." She said, "You think I'm going to help you now? You rejected me. You just find your way home by yourself." No—she didn't say that. She said, "Recalculating route. When safe to do so, execute a U-turn."
Now see, that's grace. As soon as you're ready to listen, as soon as you're ready to surrender, God will say, "Here is the way home. Execute a U-turn." That's repentance. "I'll bring you home." That is grace. That's Jesus. He is the only one with authoritative wisdom about how to live. He is the only one who brings about the possibility of forgiveness for your sin and mine. He is the only one to give any kind of realistic hope of conquering death, of life beyond the grave.
He is speaking this morning. He wants to lead you. Do you have the discernment to listen?