A Tale of Two Kings

March 12, 2013

This post was adapted from my book Authority: The Leader’s Call to Serve. You can get a copy free on Amazon for a limited time.

In the later years of King Solomon’s reign, he made conditions for the Israelites extremely harsh. The people referred to his reign as a heavy yoke. In the period after Solomon’s death, the void in leadership resulted in a division between the people of Israel. In hopes of bettering their working conditions, the people wanted to have a man named Jeroboam made king instead of Solomon’s son,   Rehoboam. They were so fed up with Solomon’s rule, Rehoboam had to flee to the city of Shechem, afraid for his life.

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Jeroboam came to Rehoboam in Shechem with a deal. “Your father made our yoke heavy. Now therefore lighten the hard service of your father and his heavy yoke on us, and we will serve you” (1 Kings 12:4). In response, Rehoboam asked for three days to seek counsel.

Bad Legacies Lead to Bad Leaders

Initially, Rehoboam went to the older advisers who served under his father. Their advice? “If you will be a servant to this people today and serve them, and speak good words to them when you answer them, then they will be your servants forever” (1 Kings 12:7). They called Rehoboam to be a servant leader who ruled for the good of the people.

The Bible records, “But [Rehoboam] abandoned the counsel that the old men gave him and took counsel with the young men who had grown up with him and stood before him” (1 Kings 12:9). When the third day came and the people of Israel came to hear Rehoboam’s answer to their request, he said, “My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to your yoke. My father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions” (1 Kings 12:14). Rather than choose to be a servant leader, Rehoboam demanded to be served. The result? A kingdom divided and thrown into chaos for decades.

Authority Equals Responsibility

As king, Rehoboam had a responsibility to serve and lead his people well. Instead, he abused the authority given him and ruled selfishly. Rehoboam’s downfall was ultimately the result of a complete disregard for the true meaning of authority.

Authority equals responsibility. Those of us who are leaders have responsibility, which means we have the opportunity to respond faithfully and steward what we are given for God’s glory. We are entrusted with the blessing of authority in order to be a blessing to our people.

The most blessed man ever to walk the earth was Solomon. He appeared to have it all—wealth, wisdom, a strong military, food and drink, women, and more. But he lacked one thing: a legacy. At the end of his life, when it was time for his son Rehoboam to assume the mantle of responsibility, Rehoboam instead brought devastation to his people and his kingdom. 

Leaders have the power to drive an organization towards health or towards disaster.

For me, this rings strongly true when I think of my family. I want to lead my family well, and I want to leave behind a good legacy. At times, I am afraid I won’t be able to do this. The temptation to be like Rehoboam is strong; to place my career over my family, leading so that I am served rather than leading to serve—choosing myself over my family.

Will You Build or Destroy Your Legacy?

Rehoboam’s life reveals a challenging truth: a single decision or indiscretion can determine your legacy. When I am tempted to sin (or do sin), it has the potential to destroy my legacy. But it also allows for the opportunity to further establish my legacy through repentance as grace changes everything. How we view and respond to authority will determine the legacy of our authority.

Who are you looking to for counsel and wisdom? Do they have you and your legacy’s best interest in mind? Where might your leadership need repentance?

Find out more about Authority: The Leader’s Call to Serve, or download it free on Amazon.