The Rehoboam Syndrome (III)
Rather than give you a step-by-step program I will attempt to point you to what Scripture says and thereby simply to press the claims of the Word of God upon all of us. I have chosen to use King Rehoboam as an example of a man who acted foolishly in the face of good counsel and advice. Rehoboam proves to be a “nice fit” because I can use him both for the parents and for the kids. You see Rehoboam was not a little child or teenager when he began to rule. He was forty-one. (NIV, 1 Kings 14:21, “Rehoboam son of Solomon was king in Judah. He was forty-one years old when he became king, and he reigned seventeen years in Jerusalem, the city the LORD had chosen out of all the tribes of Israel in which to put his Name. His mother’s name was Naamah; she was an Ammonite.”) Yet, in many ways he was a combination of an adult (at least he had a grown-up body) and an unwise child. We’ll develop this notion as we go along. I shall also include a description of the New Testament parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-32).
My Approach to the Subject
Allow me to add one “disclaimer” before we proceed. I’m not going to present the “Rehoboam Syndrome” to you in the form of a “redemptive-historical” description. “What in the world is that?” you might ask. There are many today who present the Bible to us “piecemeal” in the form of taking examples from the lives of the biblical characters without every pointing us to what God was doing. We’re merely given a litany of “examples” to follow and we’re to try to live up to those models. In its most simplistic form, this type of preaching is simply “moralistic” in nature. Although most preachers would not say so, the bottom line of this type of preaching and teaching goes something like this: Be a good person because ________ was a good person. I believe this is an incorrect approach to the Bible. ________ was not a good person. That is why he or she needed the grace of God so desperately in his life.
At the same time, I disagree with the redemptive-historical approach that never takes into account or understands what God is teaching through the people of Scripture. Let me give you a couple of quick examples of what I mean and then we can move on. The book of Daniel has always fascinated me. I grew up knowing about Shadrach, Meschach, and Abednego, the lion’s den, and a host of other narratives in that book. The characters are intriguing, but there is something else very important going on in that book. In giving the covenant of grace, God made certain promises and swore particular oaths. God will always be faithful and trustworthy to his word even when it appears to man that he won’t be. The book of Daniel is a classic case in point. The line of David is whittled down to four teenagers! Now there’s a scary thought if there ever was one! God’s people are in exile. How in the world can these four “kids” carry on the line that God promised? The answer is that they cannot but God is faithful and trustworthy to his covenant promises and he will ensure that the line continues. The book of Daniel is one glorious exposition of God’s faithfulness and trustworthiness in maintaining his covenant of grace, even in the face of what appears to be an impossible situation.
Something similar is true in the case of Rehoboam. God’s covenant dealings with his people are steady and constant through Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses, and David. Rehoboam is the son of King Solomon. His dad was the wisest man on earth (1 Kings 10:23). Historical books like Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles are just one of the many clear examples in Scripture of how God is faithful to his words and oaths. The correct focus ought to be—first and foremost—upon God.
That does not rule out, however, that there are truly “examples” from which we can and should learn. Christ left us an example so that we should “follow in his steps.” (1 Pet. 2:21; comp. John 13:15.) The apostle Paul called upon Timothy and Titus to set “examples” by their lives. (1 Tim. 4:12; Tit. 2:7.) Paul exhorted others to follow his example, since he followed the example of Christ. (1 Cor. 11:1; Phil. 3:17; 2 Thess. 3:7.) Elders are to be examples to the flock of Jesus Christ. (1 Pet. 5:3.)
Twice in 1 Corinthians 10 (10:6, 11) Paul speaks about how examples given in the Bible were written down as warnings for us, i.e., the New Testament Church. (Comp. 2 Pet. 2:6; Jude 7.) Therefore, the focus of this little work will be on the idea of the “example” Rehoboam has left for us, notwithstanding the redemptive-historical truth that is prominent in his narrative.
The Rehoboam Syndrome & Life’s Regrets
In one very real sense, this is either an exercise in futility or the sequel to Mission Impossible II. God’s Word must be put into practice. (Phil. 4:9.) To the extent that both parents and young people take this to heart and pray for the power to apply it in their lives will be the extent to which they will not look back on life with “regrets.” A recent example of a “regret” was driven home to me forcefully. Early in June of 2003 I traveled to North Carolina and then on to Toronto, Canada. On my return trip back to Southern California, I jokingly said to the woman at the ticketing counter in Toronto, “I’d like this bag sent to Dallas, Texas.”
“But, sir,” she replied, “you’re going to Los Angeles. We can’t do that!”
“Why not?” I smiled. “You did it last time I flew with you.”
Very funny. Anyway, somewhere between Toronto and Charlotte, where I met my connecting flight, my bag disappeared! So I did the drill of hoping against hope that it might come miraculously sliding down the chute at LAX after everyone else had his. No such luck/predestination. So, long story short, I walked into the office where you report lost baggage. I was wearing a Durham Bulls baseball cap and the agent and I struck up a conversation while he was gathering all the pertinent information. It seems that he had been drafted by the Montreal Expos as a left-handed pitcher. I told him that I had a son that had been drafted by the New York Yankees as well. What follows is a synopsis of our conversation.
“You know,” he said, “I could have made it to the ‘bigs,’ but I just wouldn’t listen to those who tried to talk to me.”
“What did they say to you?” I asked.
“The usual. Work hard. Keep your nose clean. Learn as much as you can and you’ll have a future in Major League Baseball.”
“Well, I thought they were too old to know what they were talking about. I figured they were as dumb as they were old,” he said, with a knowing smile on his face. “I had a lot of young friends and we partied. The result was that I didn’t progress through the minors like I could have and eventually, I quit.”
“Do you regret it now?” I queried, asking the obvious.
“You have no idea!” he replied. “What do I do now? I stand here and wait for irate passengers to come in here and swear—often at me—because their bags are lost. I could have been playing professional baseball, but here I am doing this. I have huge regrets.”The man was in his early 50s. Now don’t get me wrong. There is nothing sacrosanct about playing professional baseball. As far as I could tell, the man was earning decent, honest days living. My point is simply that he had not listened to the voice of reason and the results were far-reaching in his life. Our conversation was brief, but it left me again with the realization that if people would just stop and listen to the voice of Scripture, we’d all be a lot better off!