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To serve or not to serve?

Rehoboam was the son of the illustrious King Solomon.  When the king dies and Rehoboam is ready to assume the throne, a contingent of Israelites have a meeting with him.  They tell the would be king that if he will lighten their burden (i.e., taxes, conscription, etc.), they will serve him (I Kings 12:2-4). He asks for three days to think over their proposal. 

During that time Rehoboam consults with two different groups.  The first is his father’s advisers.  They tell him, If today you will be a servant to these people and serve them and give them a favorable answer, they will always be your servants,” (v. 7).    The contemporaries of Rehoboam form the other group.  Their counsel is the opposite.  They essentially say, “If you’re going to be the man, then you to show the people you’re the man!” I guess the pressure of his peers and the need to step out of his father’s shadow overpowered his common sense because he meets with the delegation and tells them, My father made your yoke heavy; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions,” (v. 14).  So much for enlightenment and sensitivity.    

The results are predictable.  While the people from Judah (Rehoboam’s tribe), and Benjamin recognize him as king, no one else will.  When he tries to force them to do so they kill one of his officials and he barely makes it back to Jerusalem.  Instead of Rehoboam, Jeroboam becomes king of the rest of the tribes.  Where there was one nation, now there are two.  The ten tribes Jeroboam rules are known as Israel and the two tribes Rehoboam rules are known as Judah.

The long term consequences are even more devastating.  A kingdom divided against itself cannot stand and eventually Israel is taken off into captivity by the Assyrians and returns only in a fragmented fashion.  The southern kingdom of Judah experiences exile at the hand of the Babylonians.  Both countries suffer humiliation, tremendous heartache, and great suffering.

While the root cause of the nation’s division goes back to Solomon’s idolatry (1 Kings 11), the immediate origin is traceable to Rehoboam’s decision not to “be a servant.”  One man makes a decision not to serve and it affects the destiny of a nation.  How much pain could have been avoided if Rehoboam would have simply made the decision to serve? He chose the love of power over the power of love.   

Fast forward several centuries to a room where thirteen men are meeting.  Several of them are arguing about which of them is the greatest.  Their leader puts a halt to it by reminding them, “I am among you as the one who serve,” (Luke 22:26).  And so He was.  He grew up in a carpenter’s shop.  He washed the feet of His disciples.  He used His extraordinary power to help others. He went around “doing good” (Acts 10:38).  And how the world has been blessed by His example!  One man makes a decision to serve and it affects the destiny of the world (Philippians 2:5-11).  He chose the power of love over the love of power.
 
Whatever choice we make for our lives, we can be sure it will make a profound difference.  
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