In 1 Kings 12, upon the death of King Solomon, Rehoboam his son reigned as king. It was not long before Jereboam and Israel made a request of Rehoboam: “Your father made our yoke heavy; now therefore, lighten the burdensome service of your father, and his heavy yoke which he put on us, and we will serve you” (v.4). Rehoboam tells them to leave and come back in three days. He’s going to obtain some advice on how to answer this request. That’s commendable.
The king first consulted the elders who had stood before his father Solomon, asking their advice. Their advice was, “If you will be a servant to these people today, and serve them, and answer them, and speak good words to them, then they will be your servants forever” (v.7).
But the Bible says that Rehoboam rejected their counsel. And he consulted the young men who had grown up with him. Their advice was to speak to the people this way: “My little finger shall be thicker than my father’s waist! And now, whereas my father laid a heavy yoke on you, I will add to your yoke; my father chastised you with whips, but I will chastise you with scourges” (vv.10-11)!
And thus Rehoboam “answered the people roughly and rejected the counsel which the elders had given him, and he spoke to them according to the counsel of the young men” (vv.13-14). And so the kingdom divided.
Proverbs 11:14: “Where there is no counsel, the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is safety.” Proverbs 12:15: “The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but he who heeds counsel is wise.” It is good to seek counsel from others. But it matters whether the counsel is seated in wisdom. And it matters who you listen to and whose advice you receive.
It is an often repeated mistake. Young people listen to their peers and reject the wisdom of their parents, their grandparents, and their elders. It is not to say that a peer cannot give wise counsel nor that an older person cannot counsel with foolishness. Wisdom is not automatic with age, but older men and women who are wiser have much to give us if we will only seek and receive.
In churches with faithful elders, the saints are greatly benefited: “Remember those who rule over you, who have spoken the word of God to you, whose faith follow, considering the outcome of their conduct” (Hebrews 13:7). But even in the absence of elders, the young benefit from the godly example and counsel of those older and wiser.
Preachers benefit greatly from the teaching and example of older preachers. Timothy is commended by Paul for having carefully followed Paul’s “doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, perseverance, persecutions, afflictions” (2 Timothy 3:10). Sometimes preachers consult their peers more than those who should be their heroes – older and wiser preachers.
And then there are children who need the wise counsel of their parents (and grandparents!): “My son, hear the instruction of your father, and do not forsake the law of your mother; for they will be a graceful ornament on your head, and chains about your neck” (Proverbs 1:8-9).
We just cannot have an attitude that we know it all, that we cannot be helped, that we cannot be taught, that we cannot receive any counsel and advice. Pride must be buried and humility embraced in order to seek and receive wise and godly counsel.
Rehoboam made a big mistake by following the foolish advice of his peers and rejecting the advice of the wise. We can err in the same way. Instead, let us seek and hear those who are older and have godly counsel to give.