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The Man With the Plan

“The Man With the Plan”

1st Kings 12:1-24 

I consider myself a man with a plan. At least I try and formulate a plan for this scenario: a drive-thru window at a fast food restaurant. Do you really need a plan for a drive-thru? If you have 4 children making a total of 6 orders for your family, you better approach that warbly speaker box with some idea of what everyone wants. Maybe it doesn’t work this way in your family, but inevitably after I have gathered everyone’s orders before we even get to the drive-thru menu, someone, as I am ordering, changes their mind. Something about those menus that beg them to change their mind and so in the middle of “do you want to Super Size that,” my ears also pick up the frequency of another station, “I changed my mind. I want the McNuggets not the Cheeseburger Happy Meal.”


Confusion abounds and someone probably ends up with saliva as a condiment on their burger.


A few weeks ago I forgot our lunches at home, so when Heather was at the Ladies Luncheon, I had to go to McDonalds for lunch. I got all the orders placed well before we got there. And then inevitably as I’m ordering, new orders appeared out of the back seats.


And then as we were eating, one of the boys, unhappy with his McNuggets said, “I should have ordered the Cheeseburger Happy Meal.” And so he dealt with the consequences of his actions. His last minute deviation from the plan cost him.


Plans are good, especially at the McDonald’s drive-thru. 1st Kings 12 is going to show us that God is a man with a plan. The plan. His plan. And nothing can thwart His plan. Even the plans and decisions of human beings fall under the umbrella of His sovereign plan. Sure, there are consequences to actions, but in the end, it all ends up serving His purpose. That’s 1st Kings 12 in a nutshell.


Direct your attention to God’s Word where we’ll see that-



Rehoboam went to Shechem, for all Israel had come to Shechem to make him king. And as soon as Jeroboam the son of Nebat heard of it (for he was still in Egypt, where he had fled from King Solomon), then Jeroboam returned from Egypt. And they sent and called him, and Jeroboam and all the assembly of Israel came and said to Rehoboam, “Your father made our yoke heavy. Now therefore lighten the hard service of your father and his heavy yoke on us, and we will serve you.” He said to them, “Go away for three days, then come again to me.” So the people went away.


Let’s get our bearings here on the 2 main characters because they have very similar sounding names:


1} Rehoboam: one of Solomon’s sons, the successor to the throne.


2} Jeroboam: was prophesied to be king by Ahijah per the Lord’s plan {1st Kings 11:26-40}.


Verse 1 tells us that Rehoboam went to Shechem along with the nation to crown him as king. This is very significant. Shechem was very important in the history of the Israelites:


*The Lord appeared to Abraham at Shechem and announced that this was the land that He was giving to him {see Genesis 12:1-3}. In response to this, Abraham built an altar to the Lord at Shechem {Genesis 12:7}.


*Jacob built an altar to the Lord at Shechem when he returned to the promise land {Genesis 33:18-20}.


*After defeating the Canaanites, Joshua and the nation of Israel built an altar at Shechem and renewed their covenant with the Lord {Joshua 8:30-35}.


*At the end of his life, Joshua gathered the nation to himself at Shechem, where he utterd his famous words, “Choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve, but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord” {Joshua 24:15}.


So Shechem was an important city in the history of Israel. And it is therefore very telling that Rehoboam goes up to Shechem to be sworn in as king. Things seem like they are off to a good start with Rehoboam’s administration.


By now, Rehoboam’s inauguration had flooded the airwaves and internet, and Jeroboam learns about it while in Egypt and returns to Israel. He had been on Solomon’s “Most Wanted List” since he was prophesied to be the next king by Ahijah, and Solomon wanted him dead.


Then verse 3 tells us that the nation of Israel heard that Jeroboam was back in town and they gathered around him and they all went to Shechem to appeal to Rehoboam. Their appeal was that Solomon had been hard on them and they wanted Rehoboam to rule with a light fist.


A quick word here about their claim that Solomon was harsh: this is their viewpoint, not the author’s. We have heard great things about Solomon up to chapter 11. I think that these people have already started an “internal revolt” against the Solomonic dynasty since they heard that Jeroboam was to be king. This was just their attempt to justify why they were leaning towards Jeroboam; they “claimed” that Solomon was harsh.


Rehoboam sends them away for 3 days while he thinks the matter over and seeks counsel {v.5}.


Let’s look at verses 6-11…


READ 1ST Kings 12:6-11


So Rehoboam sought the wisdom of 2 parties: the old guys and the young guns.


1} The Old Guys. This is where the wisdom is. The older men advise Rehoboam to show a little restraint “today” and they would be his servants “forever.”


Verse 8 states that, “But he abandoned the counsel that the old men gave him and took counsel with the young men who had grown up with him…”


2} The Young Guns. The young guns suggest that Rehoboam rule with an iron fist. Threaten “concrete shoes” and run your kingdom like the Godfather/mafia and they’ll submit to you. Tell ‘em this Rehoboam: “If any of yous is a rat, we’ll whack you. Forget about it. We’ll ice or pop you if turn on the family.”


Actually, the young guns tell Rehoboam to say this, which is very “Hebrew Mafia-esque”-


My little finger is thicker than my father’s thighs. And now, whereas my father laid on you a heavy yoke, I will add to your yoke. My father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions.”


I picture him saying it in an Italian accent!


But what does the phrase “my little finger is thicker than my father’s thighs” mean?


Literally its, “My little one is thicker than my father’s waist.” Most translations take “little one” to refer to Rehoboam’s pinky finger, but since the reference is to his Solomon’s waist, he may be referring to “something else” {his penis}. You could imagine the young guns getting a kick out of this kind of language.


Notice the phrase “I will discipline you with scorpions…” The scorpions were not literal, but probably referred to whips which had barbed hooks or points on the end, which when used felt like scorpion stings.


Rehoboam and the Young Guns Crew’s point is this: we’re gonna rule you with an iron fist. We wil get your allegiance by intimidation and threat.




So Jeroboam and all the people came to Rehoboam the third day, as the king said, “Come to me again the third day.” And the king answered the people harshly, and forsaking the counsel that the old men had given him, he spoke to them according to the counsel of the young men, saying, “My father made your yoke heavy, but I will add to your yoke. My father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions.”


The verdict is out: Rehoboam will rule with an iron fist.


So what are we to make of this? Here is where we should not go: This is not a text about how young people should heed the advice of wiser, older people. This is not a passage about “peer pressure” and how teens need the wisdom of their parents. There are passages for that. We can’t do that here. This text is not about that.


So what is it about? LOOK AT VERSE 15…


“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.


The focus of the passage is on the sovereignty of God. The reason Rehoboam got the big head was because “it was a turn of affairs brought about by the Lord that he might fulfill his word.”


That’s the theology of the text. Not getting bad advice, but God being sovereign over the affairs of this world and His word coming to pass.


This means that the end that Yahweh had in this whole event was that “he might fulfill his word, which the Lord spoke by Ahijah…”


The means of bringing about His word was “a turn of affairs.” This Hebrew word sometimes is translated as a “circumstance” or “turn of events.” It “suggests the subtlety by which Yahweh’s sovereign design goes into effect. Nothing mechanical here. Yahweh’s sovereignty did not violate Rehoboam’s free decision; rather it came through that freedom” {Dale Ralph Davis, The Wisdom and the Folly, p. 130}.




But you may ask, “How do we reconcile the fact that God is sovereign with the fact that he has given us free will as persons?”


R.C. Sproul says in response, “I don’t see any problem in reconciling the sovereignty of God with man’s free will as long as we understand the biblical concept of freedom. With respect to mankind, human beings are given the ability to make free choices, but our freedom is limited. We are not absolutely free. Remember, God said to Adam and Eve, ‘You may eat of all of the trees in the Garden.’ But then he added a restriction: ‘Of this tree you may not eat. If you do, you will surely die.’


Now, God is a being who has the ability to make free choices, and I am a being who has the ability to make free choices. The difference, however, is that I am not sovereign. God is sovereign. God has more authority than I do. God has the right and the power and the authority to do whatsoever he pleases.  I have the power and the ability and the freedom to do those things that I can do, but my freedom can never override the power or the authority of God. My freedom is always limited by the higher freedom of God.


…{man} is free, but his freedom is within limits, and those limits are defined by the sovereignty of God. This is a simple analogy: In my house I have more freedom than my son. Web both have freedom, but mine is greater.” {in Now, That’s A Good Question!, pp. 26-27}.


That’s how we reconcile God’s sovereignty with our free decision-making process.


So, was the Lord caught off guard by the arrogance and stupidity of Rehoboam and his cronies? No. Yahweh used it!


So the decisions of human beings, whether good or bad, are under the umbrella of God’s sovereignty. Every decision made by every human being is under the authority of a sovereign God and therefore it adds to His purpose in this world.


That should give us hope! Feel like the leaders of every nation in this world are making bad decisions? Guess what? It doesn’t catch God off guard. He uses them. Feel like your boss is making boneheaded decisions? Guess what? It doesn’t startle God. He uses them for His purpose and plans.


That makes me want to worship a God like that!


We serve a God who takes every decision by every human being and purposes in and through it to accomplish His plan for His glory!




So what do we do when we find ourselves behaving like Rehoboam and his Young Guns Crew?


Next we’ll see a warning and some hope in verses 16-20-



In other words, we may make some terrible decisions that really mess things up as we know it, but God’s plan will always come to pass.


That’s a warning and a hope. A warning to not mess up our lives but also a ray of hope is offered when we do. God is still sovereign and will bring His plan to pass.




READ 1ST KINGS 12:16-20…


So the Israelites hear Rehoboam’s plan to rule harshly and they decide to break away. They realize there is no hope so they tell everyone to go home.


Then the author tells us in verse 17, “Rehoboam reigned over the people of Israel who lived in the cities of Judah.”


Everyone revolted and Rehoboam is only left with one tribe, Judah, just as Ahijah had prophesied in chapter 11.


Then Rehoboam wants to show them how serious he is at ruling with an iron fist. “They think they want to revolt? I’ll show them!” And he sends Adoram, who was the taskmaster over the forced labor to whip them into shape. Adoram’s memo from Rehoboam said: “Go crack some heads.”


But what happens when Adoram shows up and tries to force them to “shape up?” Verse 18 says, “…and all Israel stoned him to death with stones.”


Then what does Rehoboam do? Verse 18 says that Rehoboam high-tailed it back to Jerusalem. No way he’s sticking around to be killed.


By now, emails have been forwarded like crazy that Jeroboam is back and Israel calls on him to be king {which was the fulfillment of Yahweh’s word through Ahijah in ch.11}.


And the author tells us in verse 20, “There was none that followed the house of David but the tribe of Judah only.” That means Rehoboam only has the allegiance of 1 tribe. Every one else went to Jeroboam.


You may have noticed in vv. 16-20 that there were 4 references to “David.” We can’t help but recall a passage that I’ve referred to many times in our exposition of 1st Kings, that being 2nd Samuel 7, the glorious text which speaks of the Davidic Covenant.


So Rehoboam’s foolish wisdom and actions prove that nothing can thwart Yahweh’s promise to David that he will have a man on the throne. And Rehoboam’s actions can’t prevent the coming of a greater “David,” none other than the Lord Jesus Christ Himself.


Rehoboam cannot dissolve God’s plans. But he sure can make things messy. He can make some boneheaded decisions and send Adoram off to crack some heads only to wind up dead, but these cannot thwart God’s plans.


Rehoboam is proof that-



We can certainly make things messy and tarnish God’s plans, but we can’t keep His will from being done.


But what is it about our decisions that lead us to mess things up sometimes?


Puritan pastor and theologian Jonathan Edwards said that what we choose is always determined by what we think is the best course of action {see A Careful and Strict Inquiry into the Prevailing Notions of the Freedom of the Will}. That is, we make free decisions but they are always made by sinful, selfish people.


We always choose from a heart/mind/will that is sinful and selfish. So our decisions are always controlled by the fact that we’re sinners.


And because that is true, we will make some terrible decisions in life. And we may make some super sin-soaked, selfish, boneheaded decisions that will wreak havoc in our lives or the lives of people we love. Maybe someone you love has made some sin-driven, incredibly sinful decisions and you’re having to live through the consequences.


The hope is that these things don’t destroy God’s ultimate plan, but He uses them for His purposes and glory.




We may act and behave in a way that dishonors the Lord, but in the end, He can turn things around and use them for His glory.


So what do we do when we have made some terrible decisions or someone else has and we are left with the consequences. What do we do?


Verses 21-24 will show us that-





READ 1ST KINGS 12:21-24…


When Rehoboam got back to Jerusalem with his tail between his legs, he rallied his troops to wage war against those in Israel who defected. And Rehoboam didn’t just rally an army, he rallied the army, i.e. 180,000 “chosen warriors.” The Hebrew is “180,000 chosen men, accomplished in war.”


These guys were the best of the best. And his intent was to enforce his reign through war and violence.


But Rehoboam encountered a force far more superior to his skilled warriors: the word of God.


Shemaiah the prophet, who represented the word of God, received a message from Yahweh and told Rehoboam: don’t fight against your brothers, go home…


And the reason is given: “…for this thing is from me.” In Hebrew the emphasis falls this way: “…for from me, this thing has happened.” Again, we see the stress on God’s sovereignty over the affairs of mankind.


And to our surprise, Rehoboam and the warriors listened to the word of God. Finally, Rehoboam has done something wise!


But while we’ve stressed God’s sovereignty throughout this section, let’s not miss His grace here. Yahweh initiates and sends the word to Rehoboam. What a gracious God we serve. Always intervening in the lives of His people to draw them back! I want to worship a God like that!


And yet Rehoboam and his crew yield to the word of God.


ILLUSTRATION: During the winter months we allow our cat Juniper to come inside when it gets cold. She sleeps in the laundry room. She’d prefer somebody’s bed. But a laundry room beats the outside when it’s cold! But then eventually winter leaves us and Juniper’s lease is up. Back to the great outdoors. Of course, old habits are hard to break. She gets accustomed to living the high life. So we have to retrain her to not run inside every time the door opens. And eventually she concedes.


That’s what we see demonstrated here by Rehoboam. Sometimes we make decisions that really mess up our lives and we just have to ride out the consequences. Of course, the health and wealth prosperity gospel would tell you that your supposed to have your best life now and never experience any problems. It sounds good, but it’s not biblical.


Sometimes our decisions land us in a place that we can’t expect an “easy out.” Sometimes there no way to unravel the “knots” that we have created, or have been imposed on us by others, or the hard providences that the Lord has imposed? After all, He is sovereign.


Sometimes you just can’t fix things the easy way. No spiritual glue or caulk can fill the cracks.


So what do you do when you find yourself in one of these situations? You listen to the word of God and be obedient. You trust in His grace to enable you to live in the middle of difficult circumstances.


And isn’t the word of God the place where we will find His grace? That’s why Paul always begins and ends his letters with, “grace to you/grace be with you.”


God’s grace is found in His word. And obedience to that word in difficult situations is what will keep you afloat and sustain you.


ILLUSTRATION: This is what happened to David Brainerd. He was a student at Yale university in 1742 and revival was beginning to break out among the student body. Many of the professors were cold to the Lord and His movement among the students as the Great Awakening was beginning. David Brainerd was overheard to say about Chauncey Whittelsey, one of the tutors, “he has no more grace than a chair.” Aa result of those 8 words, Brainerd was expelled from Yale and his hopes of pastoral ministry dashed.


But the Lord had other plans. David Brainerd went on to be a missionary to the American Indians and it is said that his life has sparked more interest in missions than any other. You can read about David Brainerd in his diaries, which were edited by Jonathan Edwards.


John Piper says this about Brainerd,


“There is a tremendous lesson here. God is at work for the glory of his name and the good of his church even hen the good intentions of his servants fail—even when that failing is owing to sin or carelessness. One careless word, spoken in haste, and Brainerd’s life seemed to fall apart before his eyes. But God knew better, and Brainerd came to accept it. In fact, I am tempted to speculate whether the modern missionary movement, which was so repeatedly inspired by Brainerd’s missionary life, would have happened if David Brainerd had not been expelled from Yale and cut off from his hopes to serve God in the pastorate! But God alone knows the ‘would-have-been’s’ of history” {The Hidden Smile of God, p.129}.


And so David Brainerd’s plans were changed by a sovereign God. Yet his short life was remarkable: 29 years, five months, and nineteen days. And only eight of those as a believer. Only four as a missionary.




David Brainerd remained obedient to His God to the end.


Let’s close with a few applications:


1} You have to make decisions. And when you do, remember, the forces of a sinful, selfish heart are always driving what you do. So you must ask the Lord to sift your motives and help you.


2} Even though you make decisions, God is still sovereign. Everything that happens in this world is under the umbrella of His sovereignty.


3} When terrible things do occur, God can turn them for your good and His glory {Romans 8:28}.


4} Our decisions and actions may tarnish God’s name. Be careful.


5} But our decisions will never destroy His sovereign plan for the world.


6} In the midst of consequences and difficult situations, it is imperative that we recognize there may not be an “easy out” but we must be obedient to His word. In other words, obey God where you are. Obey God where you are. Obey God where you are. Obey God where you are. Obey God where you are. Obey God where you are. Obey God where you are!


And then you will experience His sustaining grace…





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