“Then the king answered them roughly. King Rehoboam rejected the advice of the elders, and 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 chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scourges!’ So, the king did not listen to the people…” (2 Chronicles 10:13-15).
Following the death of King Solomon, all Israel gathers together to the city of Shechem to make Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, the next king of Israel (2 Chronicles 10:1). This had the potential to be a joyous occasion as the children of God were moving forward with a new ruler. However, the people of Israel had a request of Rehoboam: “"Your father made our yoke heavy; now therefore, lighten the burdensome service of your father and his heavy yoke which he put on us, and we will serve you" (2 Chronicles 10:4). The people show they are more than willing to serve Rehoboam, but they were asking him to show them some consideration as he begins his reign.
Rehoboam tells them to come back to him in 3 days. During this time, he consults with the elders who served his father King Solomon. The elders encourage him to show kindness to the people and “speak good words to them” and the people will serve him forever. However, Rehoboam rejects this advice and instead chooses to consult with the young men who had grown up with him (2 Chronicles 10:5-8). At this time in his life Rehoboam was 41 years old (1 Kings 14:21). The young men who grew up with Rehoboam gave him the following advice in how to answer the people of God: "Thus you should speak to the people who have spoken to you, saying, 'Your father made our yoke heavy, but you make it lighter on us'--thus you shall say to them: 'My little finger shall be thicker than my father's waist! And now, whereas my father put a heavy yoke on you, I will add to your yoke; my father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scourges!' "(2 Chronicles 10:10-11).
Sadly, Rehoboam, like many people do today, heeds the foolish advice of the young men who grew up with him instead of following the wise advice of his elders. When the people come back after the 3-day waiting period, Rehoboam “answered them roughly” and failed to “listen to the people” (2 Chronicles 10:12-15). As a result, when the nation of Israel, with the exception of the tribe of Judah, saw that the king did not “listen to them”, they rebel against Rehoboam and refuse to serve him as their king. From this point forward, the kingdom will be divided into the nations of Israel and Judah with only Judah serving Rehoboam and his descendants as their king (2 Chronicles 10:16-19).
As I consider this chapter of the Scriptures, I am reminded of the damage that can be done with my tongue. James writes, “And the tongue is a fire, a world of iniquity. The tongue is so set among our members that it defiles the whole body and sets on fire the course of nature; and it is set on fire by hell. For every kind of beast and bird, of reptile and creature of the sea, is tamed and has been tamed by mankind. But no man can tame the tongue. It is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison” (James 4:6-8). Rehoboam’s tongue set on fire the nation of Israel by his failure to listen to the people, choose his words carefully, and show kindness to the people of God.
Today, I realize the great damage I can do with my tongue. I will strive to follow the wise advice of James: “So then, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath” (James 1:19). I rejoice that God has given me a tongue that I may be able to speak, but I am more than aware I need to show great responsibility with how I use it!
“A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver” (Proverbs 25:11).