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—I. KINGS 12:6-16.—JANUARY 1.—
"He that walketh with wise men shall be wise; a companion
of fools shall be destroyed." (Proverbs 13:20.) "Wherewithal
shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking
heed thereto according to thy word."—Psalm 119:9 .
THE opening of the New Year with all the possibilities thereof for good or for evil strongly resembles the opening of life's maturity to a young man or a young woman. To the thoughtful and experienced there is something very pathetic in the life start of bright boys and girls. Their hopes and anticipations run so high, their ideals are so grand, they have so many air castles. Experience shows that, alas, the great majority of these result disastrously and usually from unwisdom. How often would loving counsels from their seniors assist them and save them from wrecks and calamities! We may well thank God that in his Providence the mistakes of youth, while serious, do not necessarily spell eternal disaster. Once, perhaps, we wrongly so misunderstood the Divine purpose—understood that all who do not become saints will suffer eternally. Thank God for our better vision of the present, which shows us that the saintly ones indeed choose the better part and its exceeding great reward; nevertheless those not favored with the hearing ear and the understanding heart and the call Divine in the present time will share the great privilege of human restitution under Messiah's Kingdom. Thus the mistakes of nine hundred and ninety-nine out of every thousand, in not choosing the better part, may not only bring bitter lessons, sorrows and tears, but eventually bring greater wisdom and lead on to bliss in Eden restored.
When the great king, Solomon, died he left the kingdom to his son Rehoboam—a kingdom extending from the wilderness on the South to the Euphrates on the North, in all nearly as large as England and Wales. It was God's Kingdom; as we read, "Solomon sat upon the throne of the Kingdom of the Lord." Rehoboam was about twenty-one years of age when he came to the throne at the death of his father, Solomon. He was inexperienced. His mother was a princess from a nearby heathen kingdom and apparently she never renounced her heathen religion. Evidently she was very beautiful and the favorite of Solomon's household. The son probably inherited personal beauty from both of his parents. The riches of the kingdom had been chiefly gathered to its capital, Jerusalem, and King Solomon's annuity is supposed to have been more than ten million dollars. No young man probably ever stepped suddenly into greater opportunities than Rehoboam, and few ever dissipated good fortune more rapidly; but while few have so great opportunities financially and politically to lose, yet each has character possibilities and a kingdom of his own will, valuable beyond all monetary calculations. Let us all learn lessons from the successes and failures of others. Let us all set before us proper ideals that their attainment may be a blessing and not a curse.
Although the nation of Israel was a monarchy, it had connected with it elements of a democracy. That is to say, each of the tribes, except the Levites, maintained a political organization and a measure of independence. Thus King David reigned for seven years over Judah and Benjamin before he was accepted as king by the other ten tribes. Although the nation was a theocracy in the sense that God was their King, and the earthly monarch merely his representative, it can readily be seen that the religious faith of the nation had much to do with the regulation of the king.
King Solomon, the wise, although reverent toward God, was evidently much less zealous, much less religious than his father David. His heathen wives, the riches of the kingdom and his political intercourse with the surrounding nations made him what might be termed a bright-minded man rather than a religious one. This was reflected upon his son and successor and also upon the people he governed.
Besides this, Solomon's great enterprises, palatial buildings, etc., brought the revenue and glory to his capital city, Jerusalem, and did not evenly distribute it throughout the nation. Indeed, following the custom of other kings, wealth was gathered largely from the enforced labor of his subjects, who were compelled to labor at his capital for the common weal without pay. They were drafted and put under task-masters. In Solomon's day this was borne, though sometimes resentfully, but when his son came to the throne the northern tribes determined that they would not acknowledge him as king unless he gave them what might be termed a bill of rights—a Magna Charta.
They sent to Egypt for one of their leaders, whom Solomon had exiled for his outspoken criticisms. Through him the ten tribes had a general conference of tribe leaders and informed Rehoboam that they were not satisfied with the way they had been treated by King Solomon. They inquired what he would promise them in the way of a reform government. Rehoboam, who had already been recognized king by the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, was at the conference and properly enough asked for three days in which to consider the question. He and all realized that a crisis in the affairs of the kingdom had come. The matter was too weighty to be decided hastily. He called for the secretaries of the kingdom, his father's counsellors, elderly men, to know their advice. Their recommendations were good. They recommended that he be a servant of the people; that instead of accumulating wealth at the capital and being personally great, he should serve the entire nation, looking out for all of its interests and forwarding the same—exactly what the ten tribes desired.
Next, Rehoboam called the young men, his friends and acquaintances, his schoolmates, whom he was disposed [R4723 : page 378] more and more to bring into power with himself. Their advice was that the one way for a monarch to be successful is to intimidate his subjects and rule them with a heavy hand. The young king had not been rightly taught the principles of justice in human affairs. Wise as his father was, he had neglected to prepare his son for a proper decision in the crisis upon him. Pride and inexperience said, Hold to your power. If you yield an inch they will consider you weak and inefficient and will ask for more and more until shortly you will be a king in name only. Pride and ambition are dangerous counsellors.
The king followed the advice of the young men and, in figurative language, said, "You claim that my father made your load heavy, and you ask me to make it light. Instead, I will add to your load; my father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions—a whip with metal pricks at the ends of the thongs." The unwise decision lost the king the greater part of the kingdom. The ten tribes revolted, and the adjacent kingdom, which had been under Solomon's sovereignty also, deflected, and left the king but a small minority of his empire, although it was the richest, most influential portion. The ten tribes answered, "What interest have we in David and his family? He belongs merely to the tribe of Judah." Thus they separated.
There is a lesson in this study for all, namely, the importance of wisdom in our decisions, especially at the start of life and at various partings of the ways, as we come to them in life's journey. To all there is a lesson worth learning in the matter of pride and ambition, threats and attempted coercions and the unwisdom of such courses, as well as their injustice. Wealth, power, influence, gained through oppression and injustice, are unworthy of noble minds, and this principle can be applied on the smaller scale as well as on the larger. In homes the principle operates between parents and children, between husbands and wives. Alas! too often in the home control is held by force rather than by love and esteem and the appreciation of justice and the general welfare. Such a headship or rulership in the family is an unworthy one and should be remodeled forthwith.
Another lesson is that in every enterprise of life we should seek counsel. In this connection let us remember the words of the Apostle that we seek the wisdom that cometh from above, that is "first pure, then peaceable, easy of entreatment and full of mercy and good fruits."—James 3:17.