Posted: 10 Dec 2010 11:00 PM PST
THE CHRONICLER PROVIDES SOME fascinating insights into the reign of Rehoboam, the first king of Judah after the end of the united monarchy (2 Chron. 11–12). We note two of them.
(1) Predictably, many of the Levites who lived in the north drifted south (2 Chron. 11:11–17). Their entire life centered on the temple, and this was the connection that Jeroboam, king over the northern ten tribes, wanted to break. Not only therefore did he establish his own idol gods, but he sacked all the Levites. The effect, at least initially, was to strengthen the hand of Rehoboam (2 Chron. 11:17). Sometimes the principle of "unintended consequences" is quietly used by God's providence to bring blessings out of what at first appears to be unmitigated disaster. The most stellar example of this, of course, is the cross.
(2) Rehoboam proves to be a mediocre king whose total effect is bad. Certain early elements in Rehoboam's reign were good. He chose the right son, Abijah, to be his "chief prince" (2 Chron. 11:22), preparing him for the throne. Learning from the stupidity of the initial decision that had cost him the unified kingdom (2 Chron. 10:8; cf. 1 Kings 12:8), Rehoboam worked hard at maintaining contact with the people, dispersing his many sons around the districts and fortified cities of Judah. Sadly, once he had become comfortable, once his kingdom was more or less secure, he drifted away from the Law of the Lord, and so did his people (2 Chron. 12:1). God responded by unleashing Shishak, king of Egypt, against this small nation. The prophet Shemaiah thundered, "This is what the LORD says, 'You have abandoned me; therefore, I now abandon you to Shishak' " (2 Chron. 12:5).
King Rehoboam and the leaders of Israel humble themselves (2 Chron. 12:6, 12). The result is that God does not permit the Egyptians to destroy Judah. Nevertheless, God says that his people will "become subject to [Shishak], so that they may learn the difference between serving me and serving the kings of other lands" (2 Chron. 12:8). This development reminds us of God's reaction when the people of Israel entered the Promised Land and promptly compromised their faithfulness. The result was that instead of the clean sweep they might have had, they were embroiled in squalid skirmishes for generations.
There is a kind of evil that is not very bad and not very good, not too terribly rebellious yet not hungry for righteousness, a stance that drifts toward idolatry and hastily retreats at the threat of judgment. What it lacks is David's heart, the heart of a man who, despite failures, sets himself to pursue God with passion and delight. The final verdict on Rehoboam's reign explains the problem: "He did evil because he had not set his heart on seeking the LORD" (2 Chron. 12:14).
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