“But he abandoned the counsel that the old men gave him and took counsel with the young men who had grown up with him and stood before him” (1 Kgs 12:8).
The goal of this prayer letter is two-fold. First, I want to encourage you to seek older counsel and heed it. Second, I want to spur you on to develop the habits of heart and mind that would allow you to be the kind of person that can give older, wise counsel to the next generation.
In 1 Kings 12, Solomon’s successor, Rehoboam, has come to the throne after his father’s death. After coming to the throne, he is approached by Jeroboam and all of Israel who request that Rehoboam reform Solomon’s harsh policies that had led to their heavy workload. In response, Rehoboam asks for some time to think about it and seeks counsel from two groups of people, the older men who had counseled his father and younger men that had grown up with Rehoboam. The older men advise that Rehoboam speak to them with kindness and thereby win their favor and service. The younger men advise Rehoboam to mock their ridiculous request, increase their work, and discipline them more harshly than Solomon had. Rehoboam follows the counsel of his friends, and the result is devastating. Israel (with the exception of Judah in 1 Kgs 12:20) rebels against Rehoboam, who continues the line of David. War almost breaks out, but the Lord intervenes and Israel, under Jeroboam’s leadership, begins to worship idols and rebel against God. The kingdom is torn in two, just as God had predicted and brought to pass (1 Kgs 12:15).
There are many lessons to learn from this scene in 1 Kings, but I will only highlight three. First, what God promises will certainly come to pass. There is nothing outside of God’s sovereign reign, whether it be his providential workings through people (1 Kgs 12:15) or his special interventions into history in directing his people (1 Kgs 12:22–24). The hope of the Davidic covenant seems jeopardized, but all of these events are part of God’s sovereign plan. Second, Rehoboam’s primary mistake is his unwillingness to heed the older counsel he sought. The text emphasizes multiple times the age of those giving counsel to Rehoboam (1 Kgs 12:6, 8, 10, 13–14). Rather than following the wisdom of older men, Rehoboam follows his friends into folly (they are likely in their early 40s like Rehoboam). Rehoboam should have listened to those who were relatively older than him. Third, the text does not require that we always heed older counsel. Even older men and women can be fools. However, it does portray for us the need to seek and heed counsel from those who have gone before us. There ought to be a certain kind of deference we give to those who are older than us and have lived life longer than us. As I consider my younger self 20 years ago, I realize how much I lacked wisdom then. I can imagine 20 years from now thinking the same thing about my current person. Such retrospection should spur us on to seeking older counsel from those who are wise.
It should also spur us to be the kind of men and women who become mature enough to give wise counsel. The passage focuses on the need to heed older, wise counsel, but it also assumes the need for us to become the kinds of people who can give that counsel. The best way to do that is to dig deeper into the Bible.
Bethlehem College and Seminary strives in each of our programs to produce those kinds of people. In our seminary program, our goal is that each student graduate as a mature leader, ready to shepherd God’s people with biblical clarity and Christ-exalting affection for the rest of your life. In the traditional college, we want each student to graduate as a mature adult ready to witness for Christ with wisdom and wonder for the rest of your life. In the evening programs, we want students to grow as a disciple of Christ while studying our Sovereign God and Sacred Book in an in-person degree program that accommodates the demands of work and family. As the director of those evening programs, I am eager to see everyone continue to grow into the maturity needed to give older, wise counsel. If you feel the need for that kind of growth but our traditional programs don’t fit your context, consider taking evening classes or joining one of our evening degrees (BA, MA, or Graduate Certificate levels). Regardless, pray that God would raise up through older, wise counselors (our professors) those who will have the maturity to heed and someday give older, wise counsel.
Lance Kramer, Th.M.
Director of Evening Programs &
Assistant Professor of Biblical Studies
- Pray that the rest our students, faculty, and staff experience this summer would be centered on resting in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
- Pray that the Lord would equip students in our programs to be faithful men and women now
- Pray that our alumni and recent graduates would follow the path of growth into older men and women who give wise counsel to the next generation.
- Pray for the prospective students considering Bethlehem this fall.
- Pray with us for the students and faculty as they rest, participate in missions trips, and witness for Christ this summer.