Article: Rehoboam’s Folly

King Solomon wrote, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 1:9

The above verse from King Solomon is the ancient variation of: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Keep these quotes in mind as I tell you a story from the Bible…

Have you ever heard of King Rehoboam? He was King Solomon’s son. King Solomon’s wisdom was legendary. Unfortunately, King Solomon didn’t seem to pass on any of his wisdom to his son. 

Aside from Jesus, we know that King Solomon was the wisest human to live (1Kings 3:10-12).  After King Solomon died, his son Rehoboam became king of Israel.  Despite having a most excellent role model in his father as it related to wise leadership, Rehoboam’s reign had immediate and dire consequences for the Kingdom of Israel.

Shortly after ascending the throne, a labor leader went to the king and asked for easier working conditions. If they were granted, King Rehoboam would have a happy and loyal workforce. 

King Rehoboam told this labor leader he needed to think it over and he consulted two completely different groups of people who gave him two completely different answers. 

First the king consulted his father’s oldest and wisest advisors. These were people with experience and proven track record. They advised King Rehoboam to ease the working conditions and all would go well for him and the nation because these laborers would be loyal.

Then the freshly minted king went to his friends. These were people with no experience and no expertise. They told King Rehoboam to exert his power and to make things harder for those who served as laborers—and this is exactly what the king wanted to hear!

The young and inexperienced king had two sets of advisors who presented him with two wildly different solutions. If only Rehoboam had listened to his father (King Solomon) when he sat on the throne. Solomon wrote, “The way of a fool seems right to him, but a wise man listens to advice.” Proverbs 12:15

King Rehoboam did not take the counsel of his father’s wise and more experienced advisors. Instead he acted upon the advice of his young friends who only told him what he wanted to hear. 

We know this because King Rehoboam went to his friends AFTER he heard the recommendation of his wisest counselors. Listen to this, “But Rehoboam rejected the advice the elders gave him and consulted the young men who had grown up with him…” 1Kings12:8 The young king surrounded himself with “yes people.” He listened only to the people who affirmed his point of view. 

A similar scenario is playing out throughout our communities and our nation in the midst of this pandemic. Many are not listening to mainstream experts or physicians or even the Centers for Disease Control. Instead some are listening only to points of view that reinforce their personal point of view. 

As Solomon said, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 1:9  If we do not heed the advice of our wisest and most knowledgeable medical and scientific experts, we  risk repeating “Rehoboam’s Folly” and what happened in the 1918 pandemic.  

We are all prone to want to listen to our own point of view.  Myself included!  However, scripture tells us differently. We should heed the advice of those who are experts in their field.  Shouldn’t that be true especially when facing a global medical crisis? 

If we don’t learn from King Rehoboam’s mistake, we will repeat history. 

Unfortunately, for King Rehoboam, he followed the advice of his friends and it caused the country of Israel to be divided in two. Yes, King Rehoboam’s poor judgement and arrogance caused the nation of Israel to be fractured! 

I know that some of you who read this will think that I am making commentary on our president or other government officials. I AM NOT. 

Instead, I am asking members of our community—the CLC family—to prayerfully and objectively consider to whom we are listening?  Who is guiding our decisions and actions?  Are we listening to the mainstream experts and wise counselors in this moment?  Or, are we listening to those opinions that reflect our own point of view? 

As the pandemic began in the United States, Kristen Theile asked a friend of Community Lutheran Church who is a medical doctor to come and talk to a few of us about what we should be doing at the church to respond to this crisis. We listened intently as they educated us on the dangers of COVID-19. We encouraged people to stay home and a few days later we closed the buildings. I talked to this doctor again this week and they still see this situation as dangerous.

Believe me!  No one is more anxious to return to our “normal” way of life at CLC than me!  But we will continue to be closed until we know it is medically safe to be together. I will listen to the experts and not just what I want to hear. 

Saint Paul instructed his protégé Timothy on such things too. Although Paul was referring to theology and not a global medical crisis, his words have application in this situation too:

For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine (facts). Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. 1Timothy 4:3-4

I trust our medical community. I give thanks for our nurses and doctors who serve this city and our nation. I value their expertise in this moment. Please say a prayer for them this day. I just did.

God bless you,

Pr. Ben


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