Kings and rulers, politicians and the wealthy love to build edifices and monuments that they hope will immortalize them. History is replete with examples of great cities, decorated with the achievements of these men and women. What is overlooked or often understated is that these great feats are built on the backs of the average working person, either by providing the labor force or the resources through taxes. One would think, or maybe hope, that once the project was completed the tax burden would be reduced but it never works that way. It’s true in our day. It was equally true in the days of Solomon and especially in his son, who became king after Solomon’s death.
Rehoboam, Solomon’s son, was met by a delegation with this request: “Your father make 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” (1 Kings 12:4). It seems like a reasonable request, especially for those struggling to provide for their own families and pay the required taxes. Rehoboam asked them to give him three days to decide, as he consulted with the elders of the people. Their advice was that if he was willing to serve the people, they would willingly follow him.
How many times do we hear from those in leadership that they are there to serve the people, but their actions often betray otherwise.
Rehoboam then went to his friends, those whom he had grown up with him, asking for their advice. I suspect that having a king for a friend also helped them to enjoy the finer things in life. Their advice was this: “Say this to them. ‘My little finger shall be thicker than my father’s waist. And now, whereas my father laid a heavy yoke upon you, I will add to your yoke; my father chastised you with whips, I will chastise you with scourges’.” (1 Kings 12:10-11).
What would you do if you were in their situation? Would you eagerly welcome the increased tax burden? Or would you long for some respite from the heavy tax burdens?
Solomon had forgotten the lessons of his father, and Rehoboam his grandfather who penned these words in Psalm 37.
“The godly offer good counsel; they teach right from wrong. They have made God’s law their own, so they will never slip from his path.”
Or the words of the law as given through Moses in Leviticus
“You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the LORD.”
Before monuments become mausoleums and great nations become barren, may we listen carefully to those who may yet offer sound counsel. There always comes that breaking point where families become increasingly pressed to care for their own needs and yet are being asked to give more. May a spirit of wisdom prevail among us and may we call upon the Lord while He may yet be found.