Today I would like to share with you a text that reminded me a bit of "Game of Thrones", this series that started strong and ended so weak that there were even petitions to shoot the last season again. I would find other petitions more important, but I also found the last season stupid ;-)
So in the Bible text there are no dragons and no white walkers, but it's about who gets the throne, and: It's a true story.
The main character is a son of Solomon named Rehoboam.
Most people have certainly heard of Solomon; his wisdom has become proverbial when one speaks of Solomon's judgement. His son Rehoboam is probably rather unknown.
Solomon had just died and his son Rehoboam wanted to take over the throne, as is often the case. Sometimes on such occasions the siblings make a fuss because they also wanted the throne, but this time it was clear that Rehoboam was the successor.
A few words about the back story: His father Solomon had a quiet life for a long time and there was peace in Israel and the surrounding area. Then Solomon also turned to other religions. He married many women from other cultures and religions, unfortunately plural marriage was still common at that time, and built them various temples and places of worship and also prayed with them there.
So after an intense encounter with God and a consistent life in his youth, he became arbitrary in his old age.
Then God, through a prophet named Ahijah, promised a young man named Jeroboam the northern part of Israel as his own kingdom to take away from Solomon's descendants.
This somehow became known and Solomon wanted to have Jeroboam killed, but he left in time.
The prehistory ends with the following verses (1 Kings 11:42-43; NL):
Confirmation as king
It all seemed so simple. His son Rehoboam became king. But it was not quite there yet (1 Kings 12:1-5; NL):
How now? Conditions are imposed? What is this now? He is the rightful king, isn't he?
And Jeroboam is now suddenly playing along again. The leading men of Israel have taken him. Alternatives are never bad, are they? And you might be able to get something out of it for yourself.
Spiritual questions, e.g. what does God want, are not asked here at all. The focus is solely on one's own benefit.
Rehabeam's first reaction here is the right one. He wants to have time to think and consult. That is not wrong in difficult situations.
The good advice
(1 Kings 12:6,7; NL):
That is certainly good advice. The situation is quite tense.
Now you could say, but I am the king. That is my right, how dare they. They should accept my authority!
Surely the Council is also being tactical here. They talk about "today". Be friendly today and meet them, then they will be loyal subjects to you.
We actually see here also a reference to Jesus who says of himself (Mark 10:45; NEÜ):
But Jesus also came as a king, as is also made clear in the conversation with Pilate (Matthew 27:11, NL):
So Jesus Christ is a servant king, he meant that and he lived and lives that.
Let us come back to Rehoboam. He could have made the right decision here, but (1 Kings 12:8-11; NL):
Why do they talk like that? Apparently, these people have grown up well off and have never experienced how hard life is in simple circumstances. life is in simple circumstances. They have obviously never taken the perspective of poor people, I can't explain it any other way.
Only pressure helps, what kind of logic is that?
But the pressure usually only goes downwards, and that is still the case today. Times are bad, we have to do without, etc., but that mostly hits the poorer. Why, for example, is there no excess profits tax on extra profits in the energy sector? The model capitalist Maggie Thatcher already did that in the 80s.
So then, as now, some people thought "applying pressure" was a good thing, mostly those applying the pressure. Rehoboam's advisors, I believe, were not punished with the whip.
In addition, young people often have less understanding for the problems of others. They are often more absolute and often more black and white.
We also do not read of Rehoboam asking about God's will. He could have prayed like his grandfather David, he could have consulted a prophet, but God does not seem to play a role in this question. Was his father a bad example? Perhaps this arbitrariness of religions, which Solomon exemplified to him in his last years, made him believe that it is not so important to ask God. But we can only assume that.
Now disaster takes its course.
You need pressure
(1 Kings 12:12-15; NL)
What do you think Rehoboam was thinking? The people have no choice, I am in the right, I can do what I want. I am the king!
The boss decides. One has to bang on the table now and say how it is done. We all have to make sacrifices. Times are tough.
In business, depending on the sector, that is often no longer the case. People who are really wanted make demands, and if you don't meet them, they're gone. And you need these people, because in some sectors there really is a shortage of skilled workers.
And the authoritarian way no longer works in the church sector either. In the past, we sometimes had an authoritarian world view in the Christian sphere, in the sense that someone had to tell us where to go. I don't think that works, at least not today. It only works together and in partnership.
In all this, one must not forget that kingship itself, as it was described here, i.e. one determined, was not actually God's will. The people demanded a king against God's will because the other nations also had kings.
A king is actually a dictator who is accountable to no one. Such power must corrupt in the long run. In 1 Samuel 8 it is described how the people want a king and how evil that is. And in 1 Samuel 8, 7; NL God says to Samuel the judge who was to introduce kingship:
God as King is much more difficult for the individual. You have to read the Bible yourself to put it into your own life, pray yourself, wrestle with decisions yourself and also do this together with others in the church.
Of course, it is much easier if someone tells us where to go, but that is not what God originally wanted.
The north is gone
Let us return to Rehoboam.
What happens now? How does Israel react
The north is gone.
One could sum up the Israelites' response with the expression "Fuck you", but that is not permissible for a worship service ;-)
Apparently Rehoboam did not really believe that, because he tried something else (1 Kings 12:18, NL):
Well, what are we to make of that? Israel didn't ask God either. They rather let themselves be guided by what they could get out of it.
Let's take a look at the end:
21 When Rehoboam arrived in Jerusalem, he gathered the armies of Judah and Benjamin, 180,000 chosen men. They were to fight against Israel and regain the kingship for him. 22 But God said to Shemaiah, the man of God, 23 "Tell Rehoboam son of Solomon and king of Judah, and all the people of Judah and Benjamin and the rest of the people, 24 `Thus says the Lord: Do not go up and fight against your kinsmen the Israelites. Go back home, for what has happened was my will!'" And they obeyed the Lord's message and went home as he had commanded them.
In the end, God implemented his will without the people involved having asked for it.
This happens often enough, but we should not presume to interpret events in this way. Every now and then, God lifts the curtain so that we are allowed to see why something happened. But most of the time we don't know.
I come to the end and would like to list once again what has become important to me from the text.
- There are few things that can be taken for granted. Just because his father and grandfather were king of all Israel does not mean that Rehoboam will be. And there are few things we can take for granted today. The world is changing and we must do the same without deviating from the message of the Bible.
- One needs understanding for the others. This "we'll put more pressure on" is a way of thinking that refuses to accept the other person's perspective and thus one loses access to the other. This does not necessarily always have to be pressure; "I know better anyway" can also have similar consequences. One is then no longer heard, the other person stays away.
- Jesus Christ served the people, took time for the individual and although he occasionally had a harsh message, he always met people with love. And he was the only one who deserved to be king.
- Authoritarian thinking in the sense that one believes one has the natural right to determine does not work either. The others turn away, especially in the community. It can only work together.
- And we want to have Jesus Christ as King. We don't need a human king who tells us everything and determines everything. We want to wrestle together about where God wants to go with us.