Public Life Begins in Private
who succeeded Solomon as king.
He starts out badly. We might think it was a rookie mistake, something a young man without experience might do. But Rehoboam was forty-one when he became king (12:13) so he was no kid when he chose to listen to his buddies instead of the wiseer, older heads who had advised him to be nice to his people if he expected them to serve him.
Rehoboam also ended badly, leading his people into idolatry. Though he humbled himself before the Lord and avoided total destruction, his reign was described this way: “He did evil because he had not set his heart on seeking the Lord” (12:14, NIV).
In the middle of the story there is a bright spot, no doubt a part to which the writer refers when he says: “Indeed, there was some good in Judah” in 2 Chronicles 12:12 (NIV). It seems that things in the northern kingdom of Israel were even worse. Priests who had sworn loyalty to God flocked to Samaria and Jeroboam to practice pagan rituals and drag the people down into evil. But those who wanted to follow God “Those from every tribe of Israel who set their hearts on seeking the Lord, the God of Israel, followed the Levites to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices to the Lord, the God of their ancestors” (11:16, NIV).
Unhappily, this only lasted three years (11:17) before darkness closed in again in the southern kingdom.
Why didn’t this burst of dedication to God last? Chapter 12:1 holds the clue: “After Rehoboam’s position as king was established and he became strong, he and all Israel with him abandoned the law of the Lord.” The human tendency is to follow the strongest alpha male, the leader, even if he is going in the wrong direction.
Which is why Paul wrote to a young pastor by the name of Timothy and instructed, “…set an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity…devote yourself to the public reading of Scripture, to preaching and to teaching…Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth…Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction…keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry” — 1 Timothy 4:12, 13; 2 Timothy 2:15, 4:2, 5, NIV.
Paul was a realist. He knew very well that not everyone would take heed to the young preacher, but he also knew that quite apart from the responsibility Timothy had personally to follow the Lord, he also carried as a leader, the responsibility before the Lord to set a good example.
Rehoboam had a chance to make a difference. But because he made a conscious decision and did not set his heart on seeking the Lord personally, he failed both personally and publicly. The spark of goodness that lasted for three years fizzled out largely due to leadership that didn’t nourish it.
When we pray for our leaders, we need to begin with a prayer for their own personal spiritual journey, for hearts that will set their focus on truly seeking the Lord. It is out of that personal encounter with God that good example will come.
Lynda is a missionary, speaker, educator, writer, editor, and cat lover. She was born and raised in Timmins, the heart of gold mining country in northeastern Ontario, Canada. Lynda has served with Fellowship International for more than thirty years, first in Colombia, a brief stint on home staff in Toronto, Ontario and, more recently in Venezuela. She is currently on staff at First Baptist Church in Timmins, Ontario where her primary focus is spiritual formation. The author of Divine Design for Daily Living, a 365 day devotional journey through the entire Bible (published in Spanish and English), Lynda blogs Lynda’s Grain of Sand, maintains her own website Northern Breezes , and has been seconded by Fellowship International to serve on the Communications team of The Fellowship of Evangelical Baptist Churches in Canada.