Wiser is Better

Like most people who grow up in Bible-believing homes, my earliest memories revolve around church. I grew up in a family whose history was distinctly linked with loving the Lord and His Word and attending worship services regularly.

Sometimes I’d have questions about a Sunday school lesson or a message. When that occurred, I knew exactly whom to go to: Nelson Bettinger. He and his wife, Dorothy, had served the Lord for many years as missionaries. Mr. Bettinger taught the men’s Bible class at church, and his wife taught the women. They knew the Word, loved the Lord, and always had time for a young boy and his questions.

As I grew older, the Lord provided other godly influences, like my loving and wise pastor, John Goodhart, and Mr. and Mrs. Earl Emmons. As with the Bettingers, Earl taught the men, and Jean ministered to the women. Both of them loved the Lord and always made time for me.

In these saints, I had a treasure trove of biblical knowledge and wisdom that would have taken many years to acquire on my own.

Such mentoring is exactly what the Lord had in mind when the apostle Paul instructed his protégé Titus that “older men be sober, reverent, temperate, sound in faith, in love, in patience” (Ti. 2:2). Wise, mature believers need to instruct the young and immature. This principle affects all areas of life. Heeding the voice of wisdom and experience can prevent much heartache.

King Solomon’s son Rehoboam should have known all these things and heeded the advice of the men who had counseled his father. But he chose instead to listen to his peers, and the cost to both him and his kingdom was enormous.

Scripture says, “Rehoboam went to Shechem, for all Israel had gone to Shechem to make him king. And the whole assembly of Israel came and spoke to Rehoboam saying, ‘Your father made our yoke heavy’” (1 Ki. 12:1, 3–4).

Taxes are nothing new. Solomon had taxed his people heavily to build his palace, the Temple, and the many cities he established for Israel’s protection. As his kingdom grew, the monetary burden increased; and the people felt they needed a break.

So they implored their new king, “Now therefore, lighten the burdensome service of your father, and his heavy yoke which he put on us, and we will serve you” (v. 4). They asked for relief and promised their unflinching loyalty in return.

“Depart for three days, then come back to me,” Rehoboam told them (v. 5).  He wanted time to consider the situation. He showed some wisdom here in taking time before answering his subjects. He then “consulted the elders who stood before his father Solomon while he still lived, and he said, ‘How do you advise me to answer these people?’” (v. 6).

Rehoboam first went to the advisors of the previous administration and requested their input. They advised him, “Be a servant to these people today, and serve them, and answer them, and speak good words to them, then they will be your servants forever” (v. 7).

However, Rehoboam “rejected the advice which the elders had given him, and consulted the young men who had grown up with him, who stood before him” (v. 8). In other words, he went to his buddies. He did not really consider the wisdom of his elders.

His young friends told him to increase the tax burden, not lessen it. Rehoboam took this extremely bad advice, which infuriated 10 of the 12 tribes and led to their rebellion against his authority. To make matters worse, he unwisely dispatched Adoram, the revenue man, to collect taxes from the rebelling tribes. The result? They “stoned him [Adoram] with stones, and he died” (v. 18).

And thus ended the united kingdom over which Saul, David, and Solomon had presided. For the next 209 years (931 B.C.-722 B.C.) there would be a northern kingdom called Israel, composed of 10 tribes; and for the next 345 years (931 B.C.-586 B.C.) there would be a southern kingdom called Judah, composed of two tribes. All of Jewish history changed with Rehoboam’s bad decision.

Of course, the Lord foretold the division of the kingdom through the prophet Ahijah (11:29–36). So God tore the kingdom from Solomon’s son because Solomon became an idol worshiper. And God used Rehoboam’s foolishness to get the job done.

Although most bad decisions don’t result in the division of a kingdom, they can still ruin your life. Young people should not only seek but also heed godly wisdom and instruction from their spiritual elders. Even today I think back on the choices I’ve made and realize the great blessing I received by having Pastor John, the Bettingers, and the Emmonses in my life.

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