When Power is Misused

KEY VERSE: “They spake unto him, saying, 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 for ever.” —I Kings 12:7

SELECTED SCRIPTURE: I Kings 12:6-11, 16, 17

AS GREAT AS King Solomon was in many ways, the latter part of his life was a contradiction of his wise utterances. The record shows no rebellion or protest against King Solomon, yet the people concluded that they desired a change in the kingdom during the reign of his successor, his son, Rehoboam. The northern tribes had become discontented, weary of Solomon’s heavy burden of taxation and labor conscription. Solomon had placed an industrious servant, Jeroboam, in charge of the forced laborers. One day, upon leaving Jerusalem, Jeroboam met the Prophet Ahijah, who was clad in a new garment, which he tore into twelve pieces. He said to Jeroboam, “Take thee ten pieces: for thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel, Behold, I will rend the kingdom out of the hand of Solomon, and will give ten tribes to thee.” (I Kings 11:31) Because of this Solomon threatened to kill him, whereupon he fled to Egypt for safety.

When Solomon died and his son succeeded him as king, the people were given a hope in a new ruler whom they felt might make life better for them. Jeroboam, upon learning of Solomon’s death, returned from Egypt. Meanwhile, “Rehoboam went to Shechem: for all Israel were come to Shechem to make him king.” (I Kings 12:1) “Jeroboam and all the congregation of Israel came, and spake unto Rehoboam, saying, Thy father made our yoke grievous: now therefore make thou the grievous service of thy father, and his heavy yoke which he put upon us, lighter, and we will serve thee.” (I Kings 12:3,4) The elders, who had been his father, Solomon’s, advisors, told Rehoboam that the people desired to be led by a kinder and gentler ruler.

They said, “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 for ever.” (I Kings 12:7) But Rehoboam preferred the counsel of the young men who told him that only naked displays of raw power were in the king’s best interest. Following the unwise advice of the young men, the ten tribes revolted and lost King Rehoboam the greater part of the kingdom.

Power in and of itself is neither good nor bad. It is how that power is exerted that determines its true value. All will agree that the wise older men advised King Rehoboam properly, to the effect that the ruler should be the servant of his people, and that if he does this faithfully his kingdom would be enduring and his people would be blessed. Their advice amounted to an admonition that the king should observe the Golden Rule—that he should do to his people and for them as he would that they should do to him. Soon, the Golden Rule will have a worldwide application, and will demonstrate that it is the only rule by which human happiness can be permanently secured. This is the promise of the Bible, which tells us that Messiah’s kingdom will give the world compulsory education along the Fines of the Golden Rule for a thousand years.

The Lord, through the prophets, the apostles, and Jesus himself, testifies to the success of the Golden Rule—that it will bring in everlasting righteousness, peace, joy, and blessing; and that God’s favor will be upon those who thus conform to his law, giving them ultimately deliverance from sin, sickness, pain, death, and bringing the whole world of mankind to glorious human perfection, utterly destroying those who will refuse to be governed by the Golden Rule.

A child of God should learn to give soft answers, even under anger-provoking conditions. “A soft answer turneth away wrath: but grievous words stir up anger.” (Prov. 15:1) “The wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy.”—James 3:17

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