(This is an overview intended for Sunday School teachers and Bible Study leaders, of the Lifeway lesson for June 26, 2022. A video version is also available on YouTube at:
ONE way you could introduce this passage would be to talk about (or ask your group to share) some big “splits” or divisions in history. For example:
— the Civil War in 1861, when the South seceded from the Union
— the Reformation in the 1500s, when Martin Luther and the Protestants separated from the Roman Catholic Church
— there was a lesser-known (to us) split in 1054 A.D., when the Western Pope “excommunicated” the Bishop of Constantinople, and the Eastern and Western churches split at that time — actually THE biggest division in Christianity – called “The Great Schism” though few in our culture are aware of it!
— then there are well-known “celebrity spits” (the only one I can think of is Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie — and I had to look that up to make sure! — but your class may know some of these!)
But then after you or your class discuss some of these famous divisions or splits, I would say: One of the most famous splits in Church/Biblical history is the one that took place between Israel & Judah after the death of King Solomon, when all the tribes except Judah left to become the Northern Kingdom of Israel, and Judah continued under David’s descendants.
THIS WAS A LANDMARK MOMENT IN ISRAEL’S HISTORY: (like the Civil War; like the Protestant Reformation) BEFORE this time, “Israel” just meant ALL of Israel; all 12 tribes. AFTER this time, “Israel” often just means the Northern Kingdom that split away from Judah. This is VERY important in understanding the 2nd half of the Old Testament.
FOR EX: in FBCA’s daily Bible readings last week in the prophet Amos, Chapter 2:4, the Lord says: “For 3 transgressions of Judah and for 4, I will not revoke its punishment.”
Then :6 says: “For 3 transgressions of Israel and for 4, I will not revoke its punishment.”
In :4, God is talking about Judah, the southern Kingdom.
In :6, He is referring to the sins of the Northern Kingdom, Israel, the 10 tribes that split off from Judah, often also called “Samaria” because their capital was located there.
And it’s that way in much of the Old Testament from this time on, so it’s something you/your class need to be aware of.
I think a LOT of Baptist SS and church members don’t really “get” the difference between “Israel” & “Judah” that came from this division. So this is a good opportunity for you to clarify that in the minds of your class. ONE thing that might help is to have a map to use as you teach — you might have one from Lifeway — or print one out to hand out to your class as you explain it. I looked up “Divided Kingdom/Israel & Judah/map” on the internet and a # of maps like this came up. GIVE this to them: SHOW them: Judah is the Southern Kingdom, the 10 remaining tribes were “Israel,” the Northern Kingdom. Some may already know this, but I bet a lot of them don’t, and it’s important for them to know, to help them understand a lot of the OT. This is a good opportunity for you to make sure your class “gets” this, about the Divided Kingdom.
And this lesson teaches when and how that division in the Kingdom took place. It’s a very interesting story; would make a great movie!
(An alternative INTRO might be to talk about some of the best/worst advice you ever got, and who you got it from. We’ll talk some more about that in a minute …)
THE CONTEXT for this lesson is, Solomon has just died, after a long and prosperous reign (40 years 11:42 =) but compromised at the end). His son, Rehoboam is set to be anointed as King. The first part of Chapter 12 says he went up to Shechem to be made King. Then Jeroboam, one of the adversaries we saw last time in Chapter 11, comes up to question Rehoboam. He said that Solomon had been hard on them, but if he would ease up, they would all follow him. So Rehoboam says, give me 3 days and I’ll answer. This brings us to our focus passage, :6-19.
:6-11 tells us what Rehoboam did:
— FIRST he consulted with the “elders” who served Solomon.
They advised him: “be a servant,” they will serve you forever.
— but :8 says THEN he asked “the young men who grew up with him and served him,” and they advised him to respond harshly.
??? You might ask you class/or point out: “What was the difference in the makeup of these 2 sets of counselors?
— the first group was OLDER; = “elders”. But not only “old,” but they had served with perhaps the wisest man who had ever lived. They were experienced. They had served Solomon.
— the second group was “young men”; they “grew up with him;” they were his peers.
Just looking at the composition of these 2 groups, which do you think would give the better advice? The “elders.” They had more experience. Rehoboam’s friends were young, rash, and since they were his friends, they were more likely to just tell him what he wanted to hear.
So ONE important application from this text: WHERE are you getting your advice and counsel?
?? You might have a discussion question: What was some of the best advice you ever got — and WHO did you get it from?
— I think of when Cheryl & I started at our first church, making $13,000 a year, and the church treasurer advised us to take $100 a month out of that to put in the Annuity Board 401k. I didn’t see how we could do it, but he said, “You’ll never miss it. Put it in and don’t look at it. Just leave it, through the ups and downs.” And we have, and it’s built up over the years. It was GOOD ADVICE. And he was an older, gray-headed man in our church, who had life experience to give me that good advice.
YOU may have a story like that to share; your class probably will too, so it could lead to some good discussion about ADVICE, and where you should get it.
(Maybe the FLIP side of that would be: what’s some of the WORST advice you ever got, and where did you get it?! THAT might lead to some good discussion in class too!)
(And you could actually BEGIN the class with this, as an alternate introduction, as God leads you for your group)
But after you’ve discussed sources of advice, spend some time talking about where we, as God’s people, should get our direction for our life decisions?
— we need to get it first of all from God’s Spirit Himself in His word. We MUST be reading His word regularly, to get His wisdom. Proverbs especially is full of godly wisdom. Take advantage of the wisdom in God’s word.
— but then also, there are times we all need to get some wisdom from an outside perspective. “Am I missing something here? Why do you see?” We need counselors to help us. Proverbs 11:14 says, “In abundance of counselors there is victory.”
Sometimes we need that outside perspective. Get good counsel. But don’t just get “any” counsel; we need to make sure the counsel we get is GOOD counsel — like Solomon’s “elders”, not necessarily our “friends,” like Rehoboam foolishly listened to.
We probably tend to listen to our friends because they are “handy;” they are easy for us to talk to. But our friends may not always have the best advice.
It may be harder for you to go to an older, wiser, godly counselor, because they are NOT necessarily your “friend,” but they will give you much better advice.
Depending on your group, and your church, you might discuss, “Who might be some people in our church who would be good to get advice from?” Or maybe your church has a counseling program. And another source of “counseling” in a sense, would be godly books. This is godly counsel, distilled in book form, and we can definitely benefit from them.
All of these are good sources of godly counsel: God’s Spirit through His word, wise experienced Christians in your church, professional counselors; godly books. It’s important that we get the right counsel to guide us. Rehoboam did NOT, and it cost him the kingdom. It will cost US too, in various areas of our lives, if we don’t get the right counsel for the direction we need!
ANOTHER APPLICATION for this lesson comes out the advice that Solomon’s elders gave Rehoboam:
You might open this point by having someone read :7 and ask them: do you hear anything REPEATED in this verse? (Remember, when God repeats something in His word, He is really emphasizing it)
— “If you will be a SERVANT to this people”
— “and will SERVE them”
— “then they will be your SERVANTS forever.”
That word “serve” is used 3 times in various forms. The wise elders were encouraging Rehoboam to be a servant leader.
He ultimately rejected it, but it was good, godly counsel.
Jesus teaches us the same thing in Matthew 20:25-26: “You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authority over them. It is this way among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant.”
And of course He gave Himself as the great example of that in :28: “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
Jesus said I am servant, and as My follower, I want YOU to be a servant too. DON’T try to be “great”; don’t try to LORD it over people as an authoritarian leader.
People would much rather follow a servant leader, who shows that they loves their people by serving them, than an “iron-fisted” leader who tries to dominate them.
You might talk about different kinds of leaders you’ve seen in various areas: business, politics, the church; who were “authoritarians” vs servant leaders. For example:
— Vladimir Putin is an example of an authoritarian leader. He has his political opponents assassinated. He rules with an iron fist.
— Abraham Lincoln was a great example of a servant leader. He was always very humble; he kept even some of his harshest opponents on his cabinet, and he listened to them. He truly loved people and sought to serve them. And Lincoln is almost universally ranked #1 in surveys of the best American presidents.
You can discuss other examples you’ve seen in various areas of your experience, on jobs, in churches, at home. People would much rather serve a servant leader. This has applications on the job; at home; and certainly in the church as well, doesn’t it? Let’s don’t seek to “dominate” others, like Rehoboam did, but to lovingly serve them.
So :15 says Rehoboam responded harshly, and :16 says that Israel says, “ok, we’re out of here!” And the 10 northern tribes “departed to their tents.” And all Rehoboam had left was the tribe of Judah. So here the Kingdom of Israel was divided.
DO notice one thing though: :15 says “it was a turn of events from the LORD.” He had prophesied this was going to happen. It was a consequence of Solomon’s sin (as we saw last week) and also of Rehoboam’s foolishness. But it was ultimately from the Lord.
SO here’s a good example of the BALANCE of the doctrines of both the SOVEREIGNTY OF GOD, and the RESPONSIBILITY OF MAN.
— The sovereignty of God means that God in charge. He’s on the throne. He has plans for this world.
— But the responsibility of man means that despite the sovereignty of God, we are still responsible for what we do as human beings, and our actions have consequences, and we will be judged for them.
It was so here: :15 says this was “from the Lord.” But it also came about through the disobedience of Solomon, and the foolishness of Rehoboam.
There are many examples of this balance in scripture and history. One of the most famous is Judas. Jesus said in Matthew 26:24, “The Son of Man is to go, just as it is written of Him; but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed!” It was God’s plan for Jesus to be betrayed; it was prophesied in scripture; but Judas still made his own choice, and he was responsible to God for it.
So we need to keep that balance of understanding in our own lives too:
— God has a plan; He’s in charge in our world, and it is going to all unfold just as He directs.
— but at the same time, you & I are responsible to Him for what we do. Don’t ever think, “It doesn’t matter what I do.” It does. Make wise decisions, good, godly, Biblical decisions, with godly counsel, like Rehoboam did NOT do here.
And you might close class with a prayer for any decisions your class members might be facing, that God would give them direction. And watch for opportunities to give someone in your group who needs it, some godly counsel — and/or be ready to point them to someone in church you trust to give it to them.
Just a practical thing make sure you get the names of the two kings of Judah and Israel down: Rehoboam and Jeroboam. They’re kind of similar, and can be confusing.
—Rehoboam was Solomon’s son and heir to the Kingdom; he made the rash decision and became the king of Judah only.
— Jeroboam was the son of Nebat, who challenged Rehoboam, and become the king of “Israel,” the Northern Kingdom.
I always tried to look for some “easy device” to help me remember the difference between the 2; I finally just learned it over time. But the “R’s” might help you: “Rehoboam was RASH” (in his decision). I don’t know if that will help you any, but DO make sure you get those names down before Sunday so you’re not stumbling over them and it’s not a distraction from the main points of the lesson.