WE SERVE Jehovah and want his favor, do we not? But to whom will God grant his favor and blessing? Some in Bible times enjoyed his approval even though they had formerly committed grave sins. Others who had admirable qualities failed to win God’s approval. So we might ask, “What is Jehovah primarily looking for in each of us?” The example of Rehoboam, king of Judah, can help us find the answer.
A SHAKY START
Rehoboam’s father was Solomon, who reigned in Israel for 40 years. (1 Ki. 11:42) Solomon died in 997 B.C.E. Then Rehoboam traveled north from Jerusalem to Shechem to be anointed as king. (2 Chron. 10:1) Do you imagine that he was apprehensive about following in the footsteps of Solomon, who was known for his extraordinary wisdom? How could Rehoboam foresee that soon his own ability to resolve complex issues would be tested?
Rehoboam must have found the atmosphere in Israel thick with tension. In time, representatives of the people came to him and set their concerns squarely before him: “Your father made our yoke harsh. But if you make the harsh service of your father easier and you lighten the heavy yoke he put on us, we will serve you.”—2 Chron. 10:3, 4.
Rehoboam may have felt trapped! If he met the people’s demands, he, his family, and those of his court might have to cut back on some luxuries and make fewer demands on the people. On the other hand, if he refused, the people might rebel. What would he do? The new king first consulted with the older men who had been counselors to Solomon. However, then Rehoboam sought advice from younger men, those of his own age. Following their advice, Rehoboam decided to treat the people harshly. He answered: “I will make your yoke heavier, and I will add to it. My father punished you with whips, but I will do so with scourges.”—2 Chron. 10:6-14.
Do you see a lesson for us? Clearly, there is often wisdom in listening to older, spiritually mature ones. Having the benefit of experience, they may perceive the likely outcome of a decision and thus give us good advice.—Job 12:12.
“THEY OBEYED THE WORD OF JEHOVAH”
In response to the revolt, Rehoboam mustered his army. But Jehovah intervened through the prophet Shemaiah, saying: “You must not go up and fight against your Israelite brothers. Each one of you must return to his house, for I have caused this to happen.”—1 Ki. 12:21-24.*
Not even put up a fight? You can imagine how that would have troubled Rehoboam! What would people think of the king who threatened to punish his subjects “with scourges” yet soon yielded to this flagrant rebellion? (Compare 2 Chronicles 13:7.) Nevertheless, the king and his armies “obeyed the word of Jehovah and went back home, as Jehovah had told them.”
What is the lesson for us? It is wise to obey God even if doing so might expose us to some ridicule. Obedience to God leads to his favor and blessing.—Deut. 28:2.
What was the result for Rehoboam? Obediently abandoning his plan to fight the newly established nation, he turned his attention to building cities in the tribal territories of Judah and Benjamin over which he still reigned. He reinforced a number of cities “to a very great degree.” (2 Chron. 11:5-12) More important, for a time he adhered to Jehovah’s laws. As the ten-tribe kingdom of Israel under Jeroboam sank into idolatry, many from there “supported Rehoboam” by traveling to Jerusalem to take their stand for true worship. (2 Chron. 11:16, 17) Thus, Rehoboam’s obedience strengthened his kingship.
SIN—AND A MEASURE OF REPENTANCE
When his kingship was firmly established, however, Rehoboam did something unexpected. He abandoned the law of Jehovah in favor of pagan worship! But why? Was he acting under the influence of his mother, who was an Ammonitess? (1 Ki. 14:21) Whatever his reasons, the nation as a whole followed him. Jehovah therefore allowed King Shishak of Egypt to capture many Judean cities, despite Rehoboam’s having fortified them!—1 Ki. 14:22-24; 2 Chron. 12:1-4.
Matters came to a head when Shishak reached Jerusalem, where Rehoboam reigned. At this point, Shemaiah the prophet delivered God’s message to Rehoboam and his princes: “You have abandoned me, so I have also abandoned you to the hand of Shishak.” How did Rehoboam respond to that message of discipline? Commendably! The Bible reports: “The princes of Israel and the king humbled themselves and said: ‘Jehovah is righteous.’” Hence, Jehovah rescued Rehoboam and Jerusalem from destruction.—2 Chron. 12:5-7, 12.
Thereafter, Rehoboam continued to reign over the southern kingdom. Before his death, he generously distributed gifts among his many sons, evidently to discourage any revolt against their brother Abijah, his successor. (2 Chron. 11:21-23) In this, Rehoboam showed a measure of insight that he did not display earlier.
GOOD OR BAD?
His merits notwithstanding, Rehoboam failed to gain God’s favor. The Bible sums up his reign, saying: “He did what was bad.” Why? Because “he had not resolved in his heart to search for Jehovah.”—2 Chron. 12:14.
Think of the implications: Rehoboam obeyed God sometimes. And he did some good things in behalf of Jehovah’s nation. But he failed to cultivate a close bond with Jehovah or a fervent desire to please him. Thus, he fell into wrongdoing and false worship. You might wonder: ‘When Rehoboam did respond to divine correction, was he acting primarily under the influence of others rather than out of heartfelt repentance and a desire to please God?’ (2 Chron. 11:3, 4; 12:6) Later in life he returned to doing what was bad. How different he was from his grandfather, King David! Yes, David made mistakes, but his life was characterized by love for Jehovah, devotion to true worship, and genuine repentance over his transgressions.—1 Ki. 14:8; Ps. 51:1, 17; 63:1.
We certainly can learn a lesson from Rehoboam. It is commendable when people provide for their families and strive to accomplish something worthwhile. But to enjoy divine favor, we must first and foremost support true worship and stick to it.
This we will likely do if we strive to maintain a deep love for Jehovah. Just as we stoke a fire to keep it alive, we need to keep our love for God burning by regularly studying his Word, meditating on what we read, and persevering in prayer. (Ps. 1:2; Rom. 12:12) Our love for Jehovah will, in turn, ignite our desire to please him in all that we do. It will move us, if at times it is needed, to genuine repentance. Unlike Rehoboam, we will remain steadfast in true worship.—Jude 20, 21.
Because of Solomon’s unfaithfulness, God had already indicated that the kingdom would be split.—1 Ki. 11:31.