Ruling comes with much pressure. That burden is an opportunity to either submit to the LORD God or to rebel against Him. Both Rehoboam and Jeroboam instruct us on what it means to be objectively evil, regardless if our relativistic culture denies this reality.
First, Rehoboam shows us the brazen foolishness of youth. He discards the wise council of the elders to gently and kindly deal with the people for the foolish advice of those with whom he grew up. Instead of being gentle, he was counseled to be brutal with the people:
“6 Then King Rehoboam consulted with the elders who had served his father Solomon while he was still alive, saying, “How do you counsel me to answer this people?” 7 They spoke to him, saying, “If you will be kind to this people and please them and speak good words to them, then they will be your servants forever.” 8 But he forsook the counsel of the elders which they had given him, and consulted with the young men who grew up with him and served him. 9 So he said to them, “What counsel do you give that we may answer this people, who have spoken to me, saying, ‘Lighten the yoke which your father put on us’?” 10 The young men who grew up with him spoke to him, saying, “Thus you shall say to the people who spoke to you, saying, ‘Your father made our yoke heavy, but you make it lighter for us.’ Thus you shall say to them, ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s loins! 11 Whereas my father loaded you with a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke; my father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions.’” 12 So Jeroboam and all the people came to Rehoboam on the third day as the king had directed, saying, “Return to me on the third day.” 13 The king answered them harshly, and King Rehoboam forsook the counsel of the elders. 14 He spoke to them according to the advice of the young men, saying, “My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to it; my father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions.” 15 So the king did not listen to the people, for it was a turn of events from God that the Lord might establish His word, which He spoke through Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam the son of Nebat.” (2 Chron.10:6-15)
This ultimately came from God’s hand (v.15) and yet they were culpable. This tension in Scripture is rife where one’s actions while evil are somehow ordained by God and He is not unjust in punishing their evil deeds. Rehoboam did what so many kings before had already done, “…he and all Israel forsook the law of the LORD (12:1)” and because of this “He did evil because he did not set his heart to seek the LORD (12:14)”. It is evil to turn a deaf ear to God’s word and thus seek some other “word” by which to ultimately live; it is evil to have a predisposition to listen to the creatures’ voice above and beyond the Creators.
Why, because the creature is finite and contingent, whereas the Creator is infinite and self-existent; because as Creator He owns everything and thus the creature owes its very existence to the Designer of all things. When we as people look to creatures for ultimate understanding, purpose and meaning for life; “empty will be our fill”.
Rehoboam was not the only ruler who did evil in God’s sight, so too did Jeroboam for the king set-up “teflon” priests in order to worship other gods:
“14 For the Levites left their pasture lands and their property and came to Judah and Jerusalem, for Jeroboam and his sons had excluded them from serving as priests to the Lord. 15 He set up priests of his own for the high places, for the satyrs and for the calves which he had made.”
“6 Yet Jeroboam the son of Nebat, the servant of Solomon the son of David, rose up and rebelled against his master, 7 and worthless men gathered about him, scoundrels, who proved too strong for Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, when he was young and timid and could not hold his own against them. 8 “So now you intend to resist the kingdom of the Lord through the sons of David, being a great multitude and having with you the golden calves which Jeroboam made for gods for you.” (2 Chron.11:14-15; 13:6-8)
To worship any “god” (which is no god at all), instead of worshipping the One True God of Israel, is ultimately damnable. Too many around me think this statement is truly “nonsensical” poppycock! (Look up this word).
The two characteristics that were evil and remain to this day is first that God’s word and thus His law are neglected and replaced for the creatures’ word and law in order to rule. And secondly such neglect leads to idolatry and the worship of false gods. But another king did not do evil in the eyes of the LORD.
Asa, unlike these previous two evil kings, “…did good”:
“2 Asa did good and right in the sight of the Lord his God, 3 for he removed the foreign altars and high places, tore down the sacred pillars, cut down the Asherim, 4 and commanded Judah to seek the Lord God of their fathers and to observe the law and the commandment. 5 He also removed the high places and the incense altars from all the cities of Judah. And the kingdom was undisturbed under him. 6 He built fortified cities in Judah, since the land was undisturbed, and there was no one at war with him during those years, because the Lord had given him rest.” (2Chron.14:2-6)
Redirecting people who have gone astray into idolatrous living are never just told to stop, instead they are told to turn to the LORD God, which means to repent! This king models an amazing prayer for divine help in the face of war and a foe far too great for the people to overcome:
“11 Then Asa called to the Lord his God and said, “Lord, there is no one besides You to help in the battle between the powerful and those who have no strength; so help us, O Lord our God, for we trust in You, and in Your name have come against this multitude. O Lord, You are our God; let not man prevail against You.” 12 So the Lord routed the Ethiopians before Asa and before Judah, and the Ethiopians fled.”
In this petition for help, king Asa affirms first a personal relationship to the Creator by means of the covenant name of Yahweh; he secondly recalls the rescue through the Red Sea from Pharaoh’s army and in his plea he continues, thirdly to confess human weakness comparing it to God’s might which is incomparable. Moreover, he acknowledges that it’s because of the renown of the LORD that they are meeting the enemy in battle (God’s glory is at the core of this event), and finally, he reaffirms the covenant relationship between Israel and God thus “Your name be exalted!” is the final cry.
I see this petition as a model for doing spiritual warfare, especially with the idea of scientific naturalism that blatantly and brazenly mocks God’s existence. But I also see that this prayer is for the churched, the influential who are in charge, who unwittingly have forsaken the God of Creation, while giving lip service to His name. LORD, act swiftly and let not man prevail against You. As if we could.