READ – 2 Chronicles 10:1-19 & 12:1-8
2 Chronicles 10-12 tells the story of King Rehoboam. Rehoboam was the son of King Solomon and the grandson of King David - the two greatest kings of Israel. David and Solomon built the nation of Israel into an empire and ushered in the most prosperous golden age Israel had ever known. Rehoboam’s story is about how this golden age ended and how the great kingdom of Israel broke down and divided. One of the most important themes in Rehoboam’s story is the theme of service, or servanthood. The words serve/service (in Hebrew, abad) appear at the beginning of his story (10:4, 10) and again at the end (12:8). What we learn is that both of Rehoboam’s major failures as king had to do with a failure to serve – to serve the people as a servant-leader and to serve God alone as Lord and King.
SUMMARY: We learn to be a servant to others when we learn the difference between serving God and all the other things we serve. Serving God alone frees us to serve others joyfully and selflessly.
When Rehoboam became king, a meeting was called by the northern tribes of Israel. There they told Rehoboam what life was like under the reign of his father Solomon. He had made their service harsh (i.e., forced labor) and put a heavy yoke on them (likely high taxes to fund his building projects). They pledged to serve Rehoboam if he would lighten their load. When Rehoboam consulted the experienced advisors to his father Solomon, they urged him to be kind to them and win their service through granting their request. But Rehoboam chose to listen to the advice of the companions he had grown up with and to tell the people, “You think my father’s yoke was heavy, mine’s heavier. I’m harsher, I’m badder and stronger than my dad!” Rehoboam missed his opportunity to serve the people as king and to win their service. From that moment the kingdom of Israel was divided and fractured. The rupture in the kingdom of Israel was never repaired.
We can learn two things from this:
1. Serving others means listening to the needs of the communities God places you in. 2 Chron 10:15 exposes Rehoboam’s failure – “So the king did not listen to the people.” He listened to his pride. He listened to his fear. Communities and relationships will always fracture when there is a failure to listen.
2. Serving others means guarding the unity of the communities God places you in. How easy to divide. It only takes a harsh response; a selfish and uncaring reply. How hard it is to maintain unity in any community, organization or family.
Chapter 12 picks up Rehoboam’s story after Chapter 11 tells us about three good years of his rule in Judah becoming stronger and established (12:1). It was then that he abandoned the “the law of the Lord.” This means he began worshiping and serving the idols of the surrounding nations. This led to God teaching Rehoboam and
Rehoboam had 2 major failures as a king. Failure #1 was a failure to serve people. Failure #2 was a failure to serve God. One of the main things we are supposed to see in Rehoboam’s story is how the 2 are always linked together. This is what God almost always teaches us when our relationships, communities or churches break down and fracture. In 12:8 God lets us in on his plans to teach Rehoboam and the people- “the difference between serving me and serving the kingdoms of other lands.”
The lesson God is teaching here has three underlying pieces:
1. Everyone serves something – As much as we like to think we are our own masters, Jesus says everyone who sins is a slave to sin (John 8:34) and no one can serve two masters (Matt 6:24). To be human is to serve something. We will serve God as Lord– as we were made to do – or we will serve a substitute god/lord.
2. What we ultimately serve determines how/if we serve others. All other masters give us a heavy yoke and keep us from serving others in love. For example: The master of ambition and success uses people to get ahead. The master of lust uses people as objects of pleasure. The master of approval uses people as means for our own self-justification. The master of comfort only serves people when it is convenient.
3. Knowing God’s service sets us free to serve others. In serving God, we find true freedom.
THE GOD WHO SERVES
To know God’s service is to know Him as the God who serves. The starting news of the gospel is that God – the only rightful Lord and Master – is a God who doesn’t demand or force us into servitude. He doesn’t put a heavy yoke on us or call us to harsh servitude. He wins our service by serving us! And in his service, we find our true freedom. In Luke 22:27 right before his death, Jesus told his disciples, “I am among you as the one who serves.” This is the key to understanding the cross. On the cross, Jesus was serving us to the uttermost by giving his life as a ransom for us (Mark 10:45). A ransom is the required payment to set slaves free from a debt of servitude. Even though we owe God a debt of infinite service (our lives), Jesus took this debt upon himself. The cross breaks our enslavement to sin and idols by the power of selfless service of God Himself.
It’s when we see the costly servanthood of God for us, that we are set free to selflessly serve others. We are no longer enslaved to comfort, control, approval or success because we have the approval of God in Jesus and we know our Father will take care of all our needs.
QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION
1. What about the passage and/or sermon most impacted you or left you with questions?
2. Have you ever been a part of a great community/organization that broke down and fractured? What was that like? How did a failure of servanthood contribute to the conflict?
3. Why does a failure to listen often lead to a breakdown in relationship and community? Where do you most struggle to listen in order to serve?
4. Read Eph 4:1-3. Why is unity something we can’t take for granted – especially in the church – but must work for and toward?
5. Do you agree that our failures to serve people are always linked to a failure to serve God first? How has God or is God teaching you any of the 3 underlying pieces of this lesson (mentioned above)?
6. How does knowing that God is a God who serves set us free from a heavy yoke and harsh service? How have you experienced this? How does knowing God has served us in the gospel enable us to serve others even when it’s costly to us?