04/16/16 The Counsel of Older Men

READING: 1 Kings 12-14

The old people got it right in the first part of today’s reading — and as a “more mature” person, I think that’s cool. 

Rehoboam, Solomon’s son, had gone to Shechem to be declared the king. Jeroboam and other leaders from the 10 tribes of Israel then went to Rehoboam and told him, “Your father placed great burdens — taxes and labor — on us. If you lighten that load, we’ll serve you.” 

Before responding to their request, Rehoboam sought advice from a group of older advisors who had been with his father and a group of young advisors closer to his age. The older advisors gave this direction: “If you will be a servant to this people today and serve them, and speak good words to them when you answer them, then they will be your servants forever” (1 Kings 12:7). In essence, these seasoned leaders said, “Treat them kindly. Grant some concessions to gain their favor. Be a servant, and they’ll serve you.” Makes sense, doesn’t it? 

Not so for the younger advisors who were Rehoboam’s contemporaries. They recommended that Rehoboam be even more harsh than his father. They may have thought that if the king gave in to any request, others would perceive him as weak. Whatever their reason, they answered Rehoboam with youthful zeal and uninformed passion. The king’s decision to follow the direction of his peers — that is, to “forsake the counsel that the old men had given him” (1 Kings 12:13) —  would lead to a divided kingdom.   

To be sure, experience in life matters. Youth may have passion, but age has perspective. Youth have energy, but age has wisdom. Age, by definition, has maturity that youth cannot yet have. I wonder, though, how many young people actually come to older people to seek wisdom. My sense is that they first seek input from their friends and turn to older adults only when absolutely necessary — and even then, sometimes reject their advice. Somehow, we who are older must intentionally invest in the lives of younger generations so they seek us and trust us when life forces them to make difficult decisions. 

ACTION STEPS: 

  • Determine a few young people or young couples in whom you might invest your life. Then, invite some of them into a mentoring relationship. 
  • Live with such integrity and wisdom that your mentees trust you. Be there when they need advice.   

PRAYER: “Father, make me a person of such wisdom and humility that others would trust my input.”

TOMORROW’S READING:  1 Kings 15-17