The kingdom of Israel is disintegrating in today’s reading. Rehoboam makes the decision to follow unwise counsel which creates a deep division as the unified kingdom splits into the kingdoms of Israel and Judah. Running out of options, Rehoboam decides to bring the kingdom back together by force.
What happens regarding Rehoboam illustrates the importance of gaining a balanced view, and weighing it and offering it to God. Rehoboam rejects the counsel of elders, preferring instead the advice of his peers, which seems to align more easily with what he wants to hear. Only listening to people with the same views as us doesn’t necessarily give the whole picture. It can be difficult and challenging to seek advice from those who may tell us something we don’t want to hear. Following in the footsteps of predecessors might be wise, but it might also be wise to do a new thing. Rehoboam continues the harsh aspects of his father’s rule rather than taking the opportunity to break the cycle, and offering, as the elders suggest, “kindness” (see 10:7).
How do we know if advice we are given is good advice? How do we respond if the advice we are given, even if it is good, isn’t something we want to hear? You may remember the Daily Briefings which were held with a member of the government and a scientific or medical examiner at the start of the pandemic. It is an example of the importance of seeking advice from those who may have more experience, a wider view and will not necessarily offer what people want to hear. The advice the elders give to Rehoboam would have required him to be patient, kind, gentle and self-controlled – in other words many of the ‘Fruits of the Spirit’ (See Galatians 5:22). It would perhaps have challenged him to spiritual growth, rather than giving into what he wanted to do.
Sometimes in our lives a person will come along with wise counsel which we may or may not have sought out. Shemaiah does exactly this in 11:2, offering words directly from God which put an end to the immediate threat of violence, “Go home, every one of you, for this is my doing” (11:4). Why would God be for the splitting of the nation? Amongst other things, preserving the lineage of David of which the Messiah would come.
The Bible has a lot to offer on the subject of advice. You might want to look at Proverbs 2 today and consider again the importance of wisdom.