Principles of Kingdom Management 101
I’ve been part of a human race long enough to see the importance of proper management. You know it probably seems like it would be really easy for us to live in a world without so many institutions, organizations, and bureaucracies. This week I’ve dealt with some frustrating things that could easily be solved by better management. For several months I have been trying to get some work done on my wheelchair. But for some reason the process of ordering new parts and scheduling the time to come over to my house is rather complicated and I have to call every week or two to make sure they haven’t forgotten about me. And every time I call, I get someone different than before who doesn’t seem to have any clue about what’s going on. But finally this week they called to let me know that they’re ready to do the work but then they tell me that they need to bring the chair to their place all day to do the work. But the work they’re supposed to do is so minor that it could easily be done with me in the chair. Besides that, if I don’t have my chair it means I have to stay in bed all day which I am of course not about to do. Then they decided that they could come over to my house to do the work. So they came over yesterday and one of the things they did was install a new headrest because the old one was very uncomfortable. And you know what, the new one they put on is not any more comfortable than the old one. In fact it’s even worse. So we had to improvise, and we found a very nice cushion that seems to be doing the job. This is just one example of the many experiences I have had dealing with inefficient systems. And I know that most of you can give plenty of examples where you have had to deal with things just as irritating. Many of these problems could easily be solved by having common sense management principles.
The good news is that for most of us, these are very minor issues, and having to work with people and organizations who don’t use good management principles is usually not life threatening. But there is an area of all of our lives where following the right management principles can have a major impact on our future destinies. And these principles of management that will be studying today are derived from the Old Testament story of a foolish young king. So turn in your Bibles to 1 Kings 11
42 Thus the time that Solomon reigned in Jerusalem over all Israel was forty years. 43 And Solomon slept with his fathers and was buried in the city of his father David, and his son Rehoboam reigned in his place. 12:1 Then Rehoboam went to Shechem, for all Israel had come to Shechem to make him king.
After the golden age that Israel had experienced under the reign of Solomon, the nation was now coming to a critical point that would determine their future. And there was a great deal of skepticism as the people gathered for the royal coronation. Although there had been great prosperity and peace during the time of Solomon, things had not been perfect. First of all, Solomon had worked his people quite hard. All of the incredible building projects had been constructed with the use of forced labor, and the nation as a whole had probably been heavily taxed as well. So there was already some resentment against Solomon and his policies during his reign, and there had even been a couple of attempted rebellions that were unsuccessful. So Rehoboam knew that there was some tension with the people. That is why he chose to come to Shechem for the coronation. His father Solomon had been coronated in Jerusalem, the capital of the kingdom, but Rehoboam made the three-day journey to Shechem which was in the center of the nation. He went to that location because he wanted to give the impression to the people that he was concerned about their needs and that he desired their allegiance. That was certainly an admirable gesture, but as we shall soon see, that’s all it was. Nothing more than a gesture, and his actual words would demonstrate that he really did not care about the plight of the people. Now let us continue the story.
2 Now when Jeroboam the son of Nebat heard of it, he was living in Egypt (for he was yet in Egypt, where he had fled from the presence of king Solomon). 3 Then they sent and called him, and Jeroboam and all the assembly of Israel came and spoke to Rehoboam, saying, 4 “Your father made our yoke hard; now therefore lighten the hard service of your father and his heavy yoke which he put on us, and we will serve you.”
We see that as the nation made its way to Shechem, this man Jeroboam appears on the scene. The text contains the parenthetical statement that he had returned from Egypt where he had been living in exile in order to escape Solomon. So whoever this Jeroboam character is, we can already tell that he is going to be a threat to Rehoboam. And we also see that upon coming to Shechem, it tells us that both he and the people addressed Rehoboam. Which in other words means Jeroboam was probably speaking for the people to the king. He was their representative and their leader. And the message is clear; the people desire relief from the kind of harsh treatment Solomon had inflicted on them. Implicit in their requests is an ultimatum, or a threat. If they are treated right they will serve the king. From that we can conclude that if they weren’t treated right they wouldn’t serve the king. Rehoboam’s response to their message would determine the destiny of the nation.
Before we go any further with this story, we need to consider this character Jeroboam. Who was he, and why was he representing the disgruntled people of Israel? Jeroboam’s claim to fame is found in the previous chapter. For the sake of convenience, I will just summarize for you what that chapter tells us. The focus of that chapter was on the final years of Solomon’s reign. The first thing that chapter tells us is that Jeroboam was a valiant warrior who happened to be noticed by Solomon because of his talents. So Solomon transferred him to a new job which was overseer of the forced labor. But while he was engaged in his work, Jeroboam noticed how hard the people were being worked and began considering the injustice of the policy of forced labor. It simply wasn’t fair to him that these young men at a moments notice would be called away from their families and livelihoods in order to do the bidding of the king. You know sometimes there are those times when you see injustice and perhaps you feel a desire to do something but hesitate to do so. Maybe you’ve been in a grocery store and saw a mother speaking very harshly and unlovingly to her kids, and you felt the strong motivation to intervene. A while back my mother was in such a situation when she was at the tire place getting her tires rotated. As she sat in the waiting room, she observed this man with his two-year-old son. The father was sitting there trying to read his newspaper, but the boy was full of energy and couldn’t sit still like any boy his age. Every few minutes, the boy would get out of his chair to look for something to do and his father would grab him and put him back in the chair and he would say something like “don’t move!” And then he started hitting the boy with the newspaper every time he tried to move. This continued for several minutes until my mother could take it no longer, and she said to the man “why don’t you give him something to play with! He’s bored out of of his mind!” Immediately, he grabbed his boy by the hand and went outside without saying a word. She was convicted to intervene, but quite often we hesitate to do so in such situations because maybe it doesn’t seem like the right time or place. In our highly individualistic society it is often difficult to know when it is good to take action when you see injustice occurring.
Jeroboam was in such a situation, but he did not make a decision to do anything about the injustice he witnessed until he received a divine commission. One day, while Jeroboam was walking home from his job considering what he should do, he was accosted by a prophet of God who told him to come to a certain field in a rather isolated part of town. So after making their way to the field, the prophet suddenly took off his cloak and ripped it into 12 pieces and told Jeroboam to take 10 of the pieces. Then the prophet explained to him the symbolic meaning of what he had just done. Because of Solomon’s decision to serve the other gods of the neighboring countries and for leading his people into idolatrous and immoral religious practices, God had decided to divide the kingdom. God had appointed Jeroboam to become ruler of the 10 northern tribes of the nation, while only two tribes would be left for Solomon and his descendents. However, in his mercy and because Solomon’s father David had been such a faithful servant, God decided that this breakup of the kingdom would only occur after Solomon’s death. This was exciting news for Jeroboam because he now had divine approval to do what he felt was right. But Jeroboam apparentlywas so caught up in this plan that he forgot the last statement the prophet made. Instead of waiting several more years for Solomon to die, Jeroboam begin the rebellion prematurely. The text doesn’t give us any details about what actually happened, but we know it wasn’t successful. And so Jeroboam was forced to escape with his life to Egypt.
But now at the beginning of Chapter 12, with Solomon now dead, Jeroboam has returned from exile and is ready to continue his God-given mission. And so representing the people, Jeroboam informs Rehoboam of their desire for justice and fair treatment. Apparently, Rehoboam wasn’t too happy about what they were saying, so before the coronation ceremony can even begin, he suddenly postpones it for another three days in order to consult his cabinet.
5 Then he said to them, “Depart for three days, then return to me.” So the people departed. 6 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 Then they spoke to him, saying, “If you will be a servant to this people today, and will serve them and grant them their petition, and speak good words to them, then they will be your servants forever.”
So we see that the first group of advisers he consults are the elders who worked for his father. And they advise Rehoboam to do exactly as the people say and everything will work out. If you read between the lines, there is a critical lesson that should not be overlooked. Who had these advisers served in earlier years? Solomon. And what was so special about Solomon? He was the wisest man who ever lived; and wouldn’t you think the wisest man in the world would not need to consider the advice of other people, or would you? The truth is, if the smartest man who ever lived needed advisers, then how much more do people like us need to consider the advice of others. Rehoboam had just been given counsel from the best advisers in history, and what did he do?
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.
So we see instead of listening to these advisers, Rehoboam completely ignores them and decides to consult with his friends about what should be done. It is quite ironic that while Solomon may have been the wisest man who ever lived, his son is clearly one of the most foolish kings in history. Let’s keep reading and see what kind of advice these young men gave that was more appealing to Rehoboam.
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 this people who spoke to you, saying, ‘Your father made our yoke heavy, now you make it lighter for us!’ But you shall speak 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.'”
Instead of urging Rehoboam to have compassion on his people, to show some concern for their plight, his companions advise him to make their lives as miserable as possible. Before they had been disciplined with whips, but now they were to be whipped with scorpions. Actually, the word scorpions does not refer to that despised arachnid, but was actually something even worse. Some commentators believe that the word scorpions was a figure of speech referring to a whip with sharp hooks or spikes on the end, extremely painful. This foolish counsel was well pleasing to the already foolish mentality of Rehoboam.
Rehoboam appears to be a man filled with pride and arrogance. He was more concerned with power and control than with the needs of other people. You know, Rehoboam reminds me another person who is referred to in Isaiah 14. In that passage, Isaiah was speaking about the king of Babylon. And we all know that Nebuchadnezzar was a very proud man. He was the one who said “Is this not the great Babylon that I have built.” In this vision, Isaiah witnessed the rise and fall of this great man and his kingdom. But if you really study this passage, you will clearly see that the prophet was not simply talking about an earthly king. The prophet was really describing the fall of Lucifer. Let me read just a couple of verses from that chapter.
12 “How you have fallen from heaven, O star of the morning, son of the dawn! You have been cut down to the earth, You who have weakened the nations! 13 “But you said in your heart, ‘I will ascend to heaven; I will raise my throne above the stars of God, And I will sit on the mount of assembly In the recesses of the north. 14 ‘I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.’
It was that kind of attitude that led to the downfall of Lucifer, and that was the very attitude that I believe Rehoboam had. And that too will lead to his downfall as we will shortly see.
So after the three days of consultation with his cabinet, Rehoboam returns to Shechem and tells the people exactly what his foolish friends instructed him to say. Immediately, the tension in the crowd can be felt. An uncomfortable and painful silence envelops the people. Their hopes for a more peaceful future have been completely dashed, and now one question is on every person’s mind. Is it worth it to go along with his demands and put up with a foolish and cruel king for the next 20 or 30 years? But in Jeroboam’s mind, the decision has already been made. The decision that had been made years earlier. God’s appointed plan was finally ready to transpire. And so speaking for the people, Jeroboam utters the words found in verse 16.
16 When all Israel saw that the king did not listen to them, the people answered the king, saying, “What portion do we have in David? We have no inheritance in the son of Jesse; aTo your tents, O Israel! Now look after your own house, David!” So Israel departed to their tents.
This response clearly shows that they had made up their minds that Rehoboam was not worthy to rule over them. They were simply saying, “we have no part in David”, who was the founder of the dynasty. “Let the descendents of David worry about their own affairs”. In one foolish remark, Rehoboam had turned the people against him for good. So 10 of these tribes declare allegiance to Jeroboam as their new king. But apparently Rehoboam is not ready to give up. We don’t exactly know the time frame of when this occurred, but verse 18 tells us that Rehoboam sent one of his overseers in charge of the forced labor to demand that the people to submit. But as soon as the people notice the king’s official, they rush out to stone him, and apparently the angry mob was also trying to go after Rehoboam himself because he was forced to flee from the scene in his chariot. At this point, the message should have been clear that this rebellion could not be stopped. Instead, as soon as he gets back to Jerusalem, Rehoboam mobilizes his army to lead an invasion into Israel to reclaim the revolting tribes. As he is drawing up the battle plans, a message comes in warning him of the futility of his plan.
22 But the word of God came to Shemaiah the man of God, saying, 23 “Speak to Rehoboam the son of Solomon, king of Judah, and to all the house of Judah and Benjamin and to the rest of the people, saying, 24 ‘Thus says the LORD, “You must not go up and fight against your relatives the sons of Israel; return every man to his house, for this thing has come from Me.”‘” So they listened to the word of the LORD, and returned and went their way according to the word of the LORD.
Finally the painful truth sinks in to Rehoboam that he cannot do anything to prevent this. It is the irrevocable decree of God. The kingdom had now been divided, and never again would there be peace between the two nations.
We have now come to the end of the story, and now we must address the lessons that it teaches us today. Now for many, the lesson might appear to be quite obvious. That lesson is, when God tells us that he has decided on a specific course of action, you can be absolutely certain that it will indeed happen. No ifs, ands, or buts. Rehoboam was simply carrying out the will of God. God had made it clear to Solomon that his kingdom would be divided because of his sins and for leading his people into idolatry. Therefore it was predetermined that Rehoboam would act in the manner that we see described in this chapter. But is that really the lesson of the story? Or is there something else going on here? First let me reassure you that I do believe God had decided that this would happen. But I must also tell you that Rehoboam was not a pawn in God’s hands. He freely decided to do this and bears responsibility for what happened to his nation. True, the rebellion was bound to happen, but it did not have to happen this way. If Rehoboam had truly been a God-fearing man and had compassion on his people, the revolution would have occurred under much different circumstances. So with that perspective in mind, here is what I believe is the main point of the story.
The story teaches us the principles of kingdom management. It teaches us those principles by showing us what happens when you don’t follow them. That is what we see in the case of Rehoboam. The first principle we see in this story is the importance of listening to the right counsel. Rehoboam forsook the very sensible and balanced advice given by the elders who had been part of his father’s cabinet. Instead he chose to listen to his friends, who didn’t have any better understanding of kingdom management than Rehoboam did. He chose to listen to the worst possible advice. No kingdom can succeed if the leaders do not seek the opinion of others who have expertise in different areas. No president can manage a country without a group of dedicated, responsible, and knowledgeable advisers. It doesn’t matter how smart or skilled they might be, they cannot succeed without good counsel. The second principle of kingdom management that we find in this story is this: leaders must above all be concerned with the well-being of their subjects. In this modern age, we recognize the important principle that leaders are really the servants of their subjects. The citizens are not there the express purpose of doing the bidding of their ruler. The only reason we have leaders of nations and organizations is to help facilitate the success of the group, to help the people do what they are trying to do. So the role of leadership is always about service. The moment a leader comes to believe they are the center of the universe and demands absolute obedience, then that leader has truly become incompetent and unworthy to exercise his or her authority. These are the two fundamental principles of kingdom management. But there’s one more related lesson in the story. And that lesson is, rejection of these principles of management can cause the kingdom to fail. A leader who fails to listen to the right advice, and a leader who fails to truly consider the needs of his or her subjects, will not succeed. If neither of those two principles are followed, the kingdom at some point in time will be divided or will collapse. If Rehoboam had followed the advice of the elders, and had sought to make life easier for his people, then I do not believe he would bear any responsibility for the kingdom being divided. That was God’s plan, but Rehoboam was not necessary to cause the division. But because he did make such a foolish decision, he bears a great deal of responsibility for what happened. Throughout human history, I think it is a consistent pattern the kingdoms often fall because the rulers do not listen to sound advice and do not care about the situation of their people.
But now, what do these principles have to do with us today? This is obviously a good sermon for leaders of nations and organizations, but this is the local church. How on earth could these principles apply to us? But if we truly open our minds, these principles have everything to do with us. The truth is, every one of us in this room is the ruler of a kingdom. Some of you have a pretty good sized kingdom that you have to manage, while some of you might have rather small kingdoms. For some of you, your kingdom might be a business, or your job; for others it might be your family, and for still others the kingdom consists of just your own person. But no matter our station in life, we all have authority over other people, or over certain aspects of our lives, and these kingdom management principles are just as important for us as they should have been for Rehoboam. Let’s apply those principles right now. First is good counsel. The obvious source of good counsel for all of us is the same, God. Can you think of anybody with better advice? God has a plan for everyone of us, so for a successful life, we must start with him. No one can properly manage their kingdom without his direction. But there are other sources of good counsel. These might be trusted friends or family members, church members, or perhaps pastors or teachers. God has given us relationships for the purpose of helping us grow. So seek out those individuals who have a strong relationship with God, and who have great wisdom about life. Such individuals should form your cabinet to assist you in managing your kingdom. The second principle is to consider the needs of your subjects. That means, respect and value the needs of those who are responsible for and seek above all to meet their needs. For those of you who own your own business or have employees, treat them with dignity and love. Never seek to take advantage of them, and never come to the place where you view them as your servants to do your bidding. For others, you are responsible for family members, for children, grandchildren, and for some of you, parents. Make it your primary goal to meet their needs, and treat them with the love and respect they deserve. But what if you don’t have any employees or children, or anyone else you have responsibility for? Well, you still have responsibility for your own person. Are you considering the needs that you have? Are you considering the needs of your health, your finances, how you spend your time, and your need for healthy relationships? These are critical areas that must not be neglected. But if you neglect these principles, by not seeking good counsel and by not valuing the needs of those you have authority over, you run the serious likelihood of causing your kingdom to collapse. For business owners and employers, neglect of those principles can cause you to go bankrupt, to lose your employees, or any number of things that can bring your job or your business to a complete ruin. If your kingdom is your own family, not following these kingdom principles can destroy your family through divorce, by driving away those who love you, or by isolating yourself. And when it comes to your own personal self, improper management could lead to financial disaster, mental breakdown, health crises and even premature death. So these principles of kingdom management can easily apply to all of us. So I challenge you today, to do everything possible to ensure the success of your kingdom. Seek God’s wisdom in your decisions, and also the advice of other godly people. And make it your goal to properly meet the needs of your own person and those you have responsibility over. God wants all of us to be healthy, financially secure, and have healthy and positive relationships. These are some of the ingredients for the abundant life God desires for us. When we follow these principles of kingdom management, then we will be ready to serve as kings and queens in God’s eternal kingdom.