“…Now Rehoboam was forty-one years old when he became king; and he reigned seventeen years in Jerusalem, the city which the Lord had chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, to put His name there. His mother's name was Naamah, an Ammonitess. And he did evil, because he did not prepare his heart to seek the Lord” (2 Chronicles 12:13-14).
Rehoboam had become king following the death of king Solomon. His kingdom was immediately divided as 10 of the 12 tribes over which his father had ruled, refused to submit to his reign as he rejected the wise advice of the elders and heeded the foolish advice of those his peers concerning how he should react to some distresses the people had asked him to take into consideration (2 Chronicles 10:1-19). As the opening verses above indicate, Rehoboam’s failure as a leader happened because he had failed to “prepare his heart to seek the Lord” (2 Chronicles 12:13-14).
Instead of being proactive and “preparing his heart to seek the Lord”, we see Rehoboam having to “react” to different predicaments he faced. First, following the division of the kingdom, Rehoboam attempts to send his tax collector to the northern kingdom of Israel to collect taxes from the rebellious tribes which leads to the death of his revenue man (2 Chronicles 10:18-19). Next, Rehoboam tries to unite his kingdom by force by going out to war against the northern kingdom of Israel. God sends his prophet Shemiah to rebuke Rehoboam for attempting to do this and Rehoboam backs down (2 Chronicles 11:1-4). After God blesses Rehoboam by having all the Levites from the northern kingdom and all those from the tribes of Israel who sought after God come and join Rehoboam and strengthen his kingdom (2 Chronicles 11:13-17), Rehoboam again finds himself in trouble as he forsakes God’s law. As a result of this, God sends Shishak, king of Egypt, to threaten Jerusalem because “they had transgressed against the Lord” (2 Chronicles 12:1-2).
Following God’s sending Shemiah the prophet once again to rebuke Rehoboam and the leaders of Judah for forsaking God, we read, “So the leaders of Israel and the king humbled themselves; and they said, ‘The Lord is righteous’. Now when the Lord saw that they humbled themselves, the word of the Lord came to Shemaiah, saying, ‘They have humbled themselves; therefore I will not destroy them, but I will grant them some deliverance. My wrath shall not be poured out on Jerusalem by the hand of Shishak. Nevertheless they will be his servants, that they may distinguish My service from the service of the kingdoms of the nations’" (2 Chronicles 12:6-8).
It is interesting that God only granted Rehoboam “some deliverance” from the troubles he faced (2 Chronicles 12:7). Although Jerusalem would not be destroyed by the king of Egypt, Rehoboam and Judah would still have to serve Shishak, the king of Egypt in order, as God said, “they may distinguish My service from the service of the kingdoms of the nations” (2 Chronicles 12:8).
Why did God do all of this? I believe it goes back to the fact that Rehoboam failed to “prepare his heart to seek after God” (2 Chronicles 12:14). Because Rehoboam failed to do this, God would have to use chastisement as a way to teach Rehoboam to the importance of submitting to Lord (cf. Proverbs 3:11-12). Rehoboam would have to learn “the hard way” about the importance of seeking after God. Today, as I begin my day, I will strive to learn from the example of Rehoboam. Rather than learning “the hard way”, I will “prepare my heart to seek after the Lord”!
“Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep Your word. You are good, and do good; teach me Your statutes” (Psalm 119:67-68)