“Rehoboam went to Shechem, for all Israel had come to make him king…and they said to Rehoboam, ‘Your father made our yoke heavy. Now therefore lighten the hard service of your father and his heavy yoke on us, and we will serve you.’ He said to them, ‘Go away for three days, then come again to me.’ So the people went away. Then he took counsel with the old men, who had stood before Solomon his father while he was yet alive, saying, ‘How do you advise me to answer this people?’ And they said to him, “If you will be a servant to this people today and serve them, and speak good words to them when you answer them, then they will be your servants forever.’ But he abandoned the counsel that the old men gave him and took counsel with the young men who had grown up with him and stood before him.” – 1 Kings 12:1,4-8
“Follow God? Don’t follow God?” That is the question. As we go through thousands of years of history in Israel it becomes evident that people are set on finding their own way. We do not like being told what to do or how to do it. We want to be the architects of our own lives and figure things out on our own. “Can I help you with that?” “No thanks, I’ve got it.”
We do not want to recognize our need for God. In the verses above we see that Solomon, one of the greatest kings of all time, has died. His son is stepping into his shoes. What to do? It is a defining moment. We learn through the conversations that Solomon, although wise had his faults. He was not only a ladies man (1 Kings 11:3) but he was also hard on the help. So, when taking the throne Rehoboam wisely asked for advice. “You might want to lighten up a bit. Your dad was pretty hard on people. If you want to be successful, be loving and kind to your people and they will love you back.” But Rehoboam decides to go his own way and ignore the godly guidance of the elders. And so begins the downhill slide during the time of the kings.
You see, God has made an abundant life simple achieve. We are the ones that make it complicated. When we get in the driver seat and pride takes the wheel, things go south quickly. The stories we read in the Kings and Chronicles are a bird’s eye view of our attempts to find our own way. Most of the time it is not a pretty picture but occasionally, there is a glimmer of hope. The only thing consistent in this summary of Israel’s early history is God. He is the same loving, guiding, forgiving Father that walked with us in the garden. His plan to reconnect with us has never changed. He has laid out the principles for your success in this life! Jesus said,
“Abide in me and I in you…I am the vine and you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” – John 15:4,5
Simple yet in direct conflict with our sinful nature. Trust God…follow His direction…live by His design. What is that plan? It has never changed. We try to change it. We add to it and subtract from it. We complicate things, water down things, “trust our gut” and soon we have tainted the divine recipe and poisoned the stew. Why is this so hard? “How could a god that is so good not give me everything I want? God needs to get His act together and do it my way or hit the highway! No thanks God! I got this. I know what’s best for me.”
The next thing you know we are playing our favorite party game, “If I were God I would…” We have been playing it since the garden of Eden. In this part of Scripture we find Israel going back and forth between “follow God” and “don’t follow God”. We witness the steady decline of a people set on following their own way and we see a God who is faithfully calling them to trust and follow Him.