A Kingdom Divided

KEY VERSE: “If thou wilt be a servant unto this people this day, and wilt serve them, and answer them, and speak good words to them, then they will be thy servants forever.” —I Kings 12:7

SELECTED SCRIPTURE: I Kings 12:13-17, 20, 26-29

THESE words were good advice given to King Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, after he succeeded his father to the throne of Israel. Representatives of the people had come to the king asking to be relieved of some of the heavy taxes that Solomon had imposed upon them.

Rehoboam put off making a decision for three days, to consult with his advisors to consider the politically expedient thing to do. First, he met with the older men who had been trusted advisors of his father. Their counsel was that a wise and just ruler should consider himself a servant of the people—that if he had their interest at heart, and listened to their requests, and treated them well, then he would have the support of his subjects, and they, in turn, would serve him well as long as he ruled.

Unfortunately for Rehoboam, as it turned out, he also had as advisors young men with whom he had grown up. These ill-informed and inexperienced youths believed that to be an effective ruler a king should be ruthless, high-handed, and dictatorial, keeping the people in subjection with heavy burdens to bear. Heeding their advice, this is what is recorded as the king’s reply when the people returned for his answer to their request: “The king answered the people roughly, and forsook the old mens’ counsel that they gave him; and spoke to them after the counsel of the young men, saying, My father made your yoke heavy, and I will add to your yoke. My father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scorpions.” (vss.13,14) Ah, bad advice! Advice which nearly destroyed the king! Speaking to Rehoboam face to face, all but two tribes withdrew their support, rebelling against him, and sought out his brother, Jeroboam, to rule over them.

Rehoboam, in retaliation, assembled a large army from Judah and Benjamin, two tribes over which he still ruled, to reclaim his authority over the ten tribes that withdrew. But before he struck, the Lord, through the Prophet Shemaiah, told the king and his army to lay down their arms, saying it was his purpose that Israel should be divided. And thus it remained until their respective captivities centuries later.

In contrast with the general spirit and motive of earthly rulers and concurring with the advice that Rehoboam did not heed, Jesus said, “Whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant.” He continued, saying of himself, “even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for m any.”—Matt. 20:27,28

The word ‘minister’ has the same import as the word ‘serve’. He did not come into the world to have servants, and to get all he could in return for using a small amount of his own energy. He came not from any selfish motive whatever, but to serve others—to do good. As he himself testified, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13) This he did in harmony with the Father’s plan.

We do not understand, however, that our Lord refused to have anyone serve him. He accepted service from others. The thought is that he came to render a service, not that he might be served; and in order that he might carry out his purpose it was necessary for him to become a servant. Had there been no need for that service, we cannot think that the Lord would have humbled himself and taken the bondsman’s form, or have undergone the severe trials of his earthly existence. But he came to render a service that was necessary to the well-being, happiness, yea, the very life of the entire human family.

Our Lord, when he takes his great power to reign, will not have the same motive as have many of the rulers of the present time—merely to assume power for his own glory, and for vaunting himself. He will, indeed, have great power and authority, but it will be in harmony with what the Heavenly Father has arranged. It will be a manifestation of glory and power, not to crush the world, but to bless and uplift it. This work will be accomplished from the standpoint of service, with a view to helping mankind to be the real rulers of the world; for the messianic kingdom will cease when the world shall be able to take care of itself.

The Lord’s kingdom, we see, will be very different from any other ever instituted!

Dawn Bible Students Association
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