Counsel may come from men and be good or bad and have its consequences; when counsel comes from God and is ignored the outcome is disastrous.
When Rehoboam became king in place of his father Solomon, he immediately had a choice to make as to how he would rule. The people of Israel came to him with the complaint that Solomon had burdened them with a heavy yoke. This protest appears to me to be without substantiation, but it’s what they believed. In the days of Solomon he had forced labor, but the text earlier tells us in 1 Kings 9:22 that he did not make slaves of the people of Israel; rather:
… They were the soldiers, they were his officials, his commanders, his captains, his chariot commanders and his horsemen.
Apparently, the people of Israel felt this was too much, and they came to Rehoboam asking for relief. Hearing their complaint, he first turned to the wise old men who had been his father’s advisors. They gave him good counsel by saying he should be a servant to the people. (In this they were foreshadowing what Jesus taught.) However, Rehoboam was a young man, and like many youth had an influential peer group that he grew up with. They advised him to treat the Israelites exactly the opposite of what the old men had counseled. Why? They were ungodly youth with no moral guidance from the Word of God.
Rehoboam listened to his friends and increased the burden on Israel – to whatever extent it was. That didn’t go over well as 1 Kings 12:15 says:
So the king did not listen to the people, for it was a turn of affairs brought about by the Lord that he might fulfill his word, which the Lord spoke by Ahijah the Shilonite to Jeroboam the son of Nebat.
Note that this poor treatment of Israel at the hand of Rehoboam was guided by God. It was His intent, because of the growing apostasy in Israel, to cause her division. (It was all part of His divine plan of redemption.) Rehoboam subsequently listened to the good counsel of a man of God in 1 Kings 12:22 and did not attack the separated peoples of Israel.
Earlier in the narrative in 1 Kings 11, God raised up Jeroboam to be the leader who would be over the divided kingdom and the peoples of Israel who would rebel from Rehoboam. God had promised Jeroboam a dynasty in 1 Kings 11:38-39 if he would follow His commands. Straight from the mouth of Yahweh, this was better than man’s good counsel, this was Godly counsel.
Sadly, when Jeroboam was established over the divided kingdom of Israel – what became known as the Northern Kingdom – he ignored the Godly counsel of Yahweh. We see in 1 Kings 12:28 the following:
So the king took counsel and made two calves of gold. And he said to the people, “You have gone up to Jerusalem long enough. Behold your gods, O Israel, who brought you up out of the land of Egypt.”
Whose counsel did Jeroboam take? Obviously that of ungodly men. We’ll come back to this in a moment because it had disastrous consequences.
One other example of good and bad counsel in the reading for today comes from the interactions of a man of God and an old prophet. The man of God confronted Jeroboam with his sin of duplicating the iniquity of the people during the Exodus and creating not one, but two golden calves. This man gave Jeroboam the news that he had disobeyed God, and His promise of a dynastic kingdom would not prevail.
When the man of God left, he encountered an old prophet. The Word Yahweh had given the man of God was that he should not eat anything in the location where he had given his prophecy. However, the old prophet lied to the man of God so that instead of heeding the Godly counsel, the man of God listened to the bad counsel of this old prophet. It led to his death.
As for Jeroboam, his sin of apostasy was truly great in God’s eyes. In fact, the text tells us in 1 Kings 13:34:
And this thing became sin to the house of Jeroboam, so as to cut it off and to destroy it from the face of the earth.
In subsequent Scriptures that describe the kings of Israel and how they turned far from God, Jeroboam is inevitably cited as the poster boy for their sin in how they disobeyed God’s Word. The description that we see with these other kings refers back to “the sin of Jeroboam.” This shows us how important it is for anyone, Jew or Gentile, to not turn to gods and idols in place of the One true God.
God loves us immensely. It’s the reason He created us in the first place. He wants to lavish His incredible love upon His creation as a Father to a son or daughter. There is no other reason that God would put up with the continual turning away from Him by men over the ages. It’s His love and that alone which is the constant, and He has shown that He will do anything to demonstrate His love. He sacrificed His only son Jesus for that purpose: to redeem mankind that we would love, honor, and obey Him.
If we would only wake up to see this love of God, can you imagine all that He would do for us? Imagine no more. God will accomplish His purposes, and we who turn to Him now will experience the fullness of His love in the Millennial Kingdom and beyond. How amazing that will be!