Friday, November 17, 2006

The Boams - Reho and Jero: A lesson in Leadership

Last week I taught on the division of Israel into two nations.

Rehoboam was set to become the king of Israel after Solomon's death. Rehoboam decided to neglect the advice of his father Solomon's wise counsellors. Instead of offering a kind hand to the people who were looking for tax relief, and a kinder, gentler government than Solomon offered, he took the advice of his friends, and told the nation that they would experience far more harshness under his rule.

Now of course, it is probable that Rehoboam was afraid that Jeroboam had returned from his exile to rebel against him. His strong stand was probably an act of defence against the perception that ease would give the people opportunity to rise up against him. Instead they rose up immediately, and broke away from Rehoboam. Ten of the twelve tribes of Israel beat feet, and left for a gentler government under Jeroboam.

We can guarantee that a harsh manner of leading people will lead to those people living in rebellion. The heart of man has fled cruel standards since history began to speak. Our Lord Jesus freed us from the bondage of legalism under the law. Yet somehow we feel that harsh leadership is occassionally warranted in churchlife today. How is it that we do not learn?

Jeroboam came along to deliver the people from this harsh manner of government. He took the ten tribes to the north, and broke away from Rehoboam's cruel hand. Yet Rehoboam still had a trump card. He held Jerusalem - the religious center of Israel. So Jeroboam concocted a plan to keep the heart of his people with him in the north. Two golden calves were forged, and set up in high places to be worshiped. Then the lowlifes were brought in to be the priests - can you read between the lines here? We're talking the party dudes. Okay, not such a smart plan, but perhaps he never read about Moses and Aaron, and Israel wandering in the wilderness.

So one king attempts to navigate difficult leadership moments with cruelty, and the next provides his people with entertainments in the form of false gods and festivals around those dieties. These two styles of leadership are found in every generation of of history. Sometimes they are married together under a despot who provides sensational festival holidays.

These two styles of ruling are a picture of a deeper struggle in our own hearts. We tend to migrate toward legalism or licentious behavior, and sometimes bounce between the two over the course of our lives. Somewhere between the two is a land of grace and self-control. It is a land of love which views service to another as a higher goal than service to self. It is a land of freedom which allows people to grow, and progress gently despite the messiness of that freedom. Of course, this is a simplified view of the subject as can only be provided in short blog.

This story perhaps gives us a picture of the religious persuasions in the U.S. No wonder many people have fled Christianity for freer, more fun religious experiences. The Christian church has been perceived as cruel, and unbending by many people today - sometimes deservedly, sometimes unfairly. We are the Rehoboam of religion today, Jeroboam is waiting outside the doors of the church to take people to a land of festival fun. Should we be surprised that they have gone off with him?

I have had many people say to me, "I love Jesus, but I hate the church." At least they understand that Jesus is not the cruel dictator they have experienced through the harsh leadership of churches they attended.

May we all grow in grace, and learn to live balanced between Rehoboam, and Jeroboam.


PrinceNaliah said...

Rehoboam not so nice. Golden calves? We know from the stories given to us by Moses that the calf made from gold is not as sturdy as the stone tablets from the mount! We must first cast down our golden ordinance, opps i mean braclets-in order that the LORD have his say- I'm with Jeroboam but I must read that chapter again. Thanks pastor
I love the church and enjoy the commitment of being with other followers of Jesus. Jesus is cool though- and we must all be cool!

Pastor Phil said...

Hey Naliah,

Hope all is well with you. Miss seeing you 'round bro.