Welcome back! I’m glad you made it back for our second session together, as we go through the leadership principles that we’re learning from the kings of Judah. I’m really excited, because today, or in this session, we’re really going to go into the divided kingdom of Judah and understand what that means to us and for us today.
5. Every leader has critical moments.
We’re going to start with King Rehoboam, who’s going to give us our fifth leadership principle, which is the first one for this session: Every leader has critical moments. We’re going to learn that from King Rehoboam. That’s a unique name, but you can see it on the screen. Rehoboam was the son of Solomon. Rehoboam had a great opportunity. He was set up. It was kind of like an alley-oop, just slam dunk! Everything was in order: a fresh, new temple; thriving peace; a great economy. He finds himself in a great situation. There hadn’t been a war for a long time, but there are critical junctures in any stage of leadership, and it’s important for us to look at those critical moments.
We see this for him in 2 Chronicles 10:4. The people came to him, giving directives; and we recognize that the critical juncture for us is that people are not forced to follow you. When we look at John Maxwell’s Five Levels of Leadership, with Level 1 being the lowest and Level 5 being the highest, we rise in the levels of leadership as we build relationships with those who we lead.
Well, there was a man named Jeroboam who was really a contemporary of Rehoboam’s father. Jeroboam came with a company and gave him a choice. He came with a group of people and asked him: “What will you do?” And it takes a secure leader, it takes a secure individual, to seek the permission of people to lead them. They came and said, “What are you going to do? We had high taxes. There were real challenges; there were real problems. What are you going to do? And if you speak well, we will follow you.” It takes a secure leader to humble oneself and say, “I need the permission of those that I lead to follow them.” But you have this critical moment. The Bible reminds us that humility comes before honor, and compassion is greater than credibility. When you have compassion, you win the hearts of individuals. This critical moment can be more than a Level 1 to Level 5 thing. It can cause you to go up or to go down in leadership. This is a new level for Rehoboam. Rehoboam found himself at this critical juncture, and what you do at this moment is very important.
6. Leaders must be wise enough to discern between wise and foolish counsel.
That leads us to our next leadership nugget: We must be wise enough to discern between wise and foolish counsel. Remember, Jeroboam comes to him and asks, “What will you do? How will you lead us?” That was the critical juncture of leadership. Our next, #6 leadership lesson is that we must be wise enough to discern between wise and foolish counsel. The importance of wise counsel is paramount to a leader. Of course, as children of God, we love everyone. We talk to everyone. We befriend everyone. But our inner circle—where we get advice from as a leader, where we allow ourselves to be led as leaders—is very important. Media, television, who we talk to, all influence us—the things that we surround ourselves with. A good leader must discern the difference between people who tell us what we want to hear and people who tell us what we need to hear. There’s a big difference.
I face that on a daily basis. People say, “Oh, Bishop, whatever you say. You’re so wise. Go for it!” That’s great. I appreciate that, but I appreciate the person who says, “No, you’re making the wrong decision. You’re making the wrong choice which way we’re going.” To reach a higher level of leadership, we must start at the bottom and allow ourselves to grow, and surround ourselves with the right people. True leadership must be surrounded by people who tell us things that we do not necessarily [want] to hear. If we surround ourselves with these people, we’ll find ourselves in great places.
What we see in 2 Chronicles 10:7, Rehoboam was faced with that critical juncture, and the elders of his nation gave him advice. They said, “Talk kindly to these men. Talk kindly to them, go forward and let them know that you’re going to work with them. Get permission to lead them. You’re the new king.” This is what the elders (the older people that advised his father)—they came to him and they told him what to do—“Speak kindly. Speak good words, and all will be well forever. These people will follow you.” But in verse 10, Rehoboam went to another group for advice. It was his peers, the young men, the ones he grew up with who didn’t know, and didn’t have any life experience more than he had. And they said, “Tell them that your finger is thicker than your father’s waist!” They said, “And tell them you will add to their burdens, and they better know who’s boss! You tell them, ‘You better know who’s boss! I’m the king, and you will do what I say!’” Whoa! Big mistake!
Verse 13 tells what fateful decision happens. King Rehoboam rejected the advice of the elders. He followed his peers, and it caused his entire leadership kingdom to split in two. Only two of the twelve tribes of Israel stayed with Rehoboam, which now becomes Judah. Ten go with Jeroboam, who had not really had a stake at the throne. But because, at the critical juncture of being king, this young man did not follow the best advice, he loses most of the kingdom to another man. I’m saying to you: Every decision that you make, make sure you surround yourself with people that may not think like you think. They may see things differently, but are wise, godly counsel.
Now before we go to Judah once again, I want to just look at Israel once. Just for a moment I want to look at Israel, because what just happened is devastating. An entire nation is split in two, but really not in half. Two small, tiny tribes are now with Judah. Ten tribes are with Israel. Jeroboam becomes the king over the big power of Israel. I think there are some lessons we can learn from Jeroboam, because Israel—now these two separate kingdoms—Israel never has a good king, ever, from this day forward. Judah has good and bad kings, which we will see as we go forward in the other lessons.
7. Your leadership sets a pattern for generations to come.
Israel—we learn something from Israel: Your leadership—yours and mine—our leadership sets a pattern for generations to come. This is what we learn from King Jeroboam. Your leadership sets a pattern for generations to come. What I do today, I’m setting a legacy for my children’s children’s children’s children. What you and I do today, we set a pattern in our organizations, in our businesses, in our neighborhoods. We set a pattern that becomes a precedent for others to follow.
How do we see this in Jeroboam? Well, Jeroboam, in 1 Kings 12:25¬–30 we see what happens. We see that a leader with the right intentions, but personal insecurity, can cause disaster! My mother used to say—well, maybe she still says it—my mother would say, “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.” You can mean to do right, but the law of unintended results can fall into place. We must clean the seat from previous insecurities. Leadership is no place to be insecure.
Here’s what happens: When the kingdom splits, Jerusalem, the nation’s capital, is still under Judah. Jerusalem is still under Rehoboam, and now Jeroboam has ten of the tribes. He has most of the nation, but the people were supposed to go back and worship at the feast at the temple, and the temple is in Judah. When we see his insecurity in 1 Kings 12:27, he says, “If these people go up to offer sacrifices in the house of the LORD at Jerusalem, then the hearts of this people will turn back to their lord, Rehoboam king of Judah, and they will kill me and go back to Rehoboam king of Judah.”
He was so worried about losing influence over the people, and he said that Rehoboam would be their lord. He had forgotten that the Lord is the God of the Bible. He wanted to forbid them from going to worship at the temple, and because of that, he set up his own temples. He set up his own calves for people to worship. And now, instead, it’s don’t go there. Stay here. I need you to love me. I need you to follow me. And because of that, every king following him for generations to come, every king forbade their people from going to Jerusalem to worship the God of the Bible. And they began to worship their own god in their own temple because of their own personal insecurity.
One thing is for sure: The people that we lead are the people that God has given us to lead. If they leave us for some time, they were there on assignment for the time that God had given them to us to lead. It doesn’t matter. In our homes, in our churches, sometimes we worry, This person was on my committee. This person was a part of my church, and they left, so I need to do whatever I need to manipulate them to stay.
Even in our families we worry. I’m happily married. As I mentioned earlier, my wife Sharon—oh, I love my wife, but I recognize that if my wife leaves the house, there’ll be someone that finds her attractive and beautiful. That doesn’t mean I need to say, “You can’t go anywhere and get someone looking at you!” No, the wonderful thing is that I love her; she loves me. I’m here in the studio now, I’m away from home. I cannot manipulate her, or she cannot manipulate me and say, “You must stay home, because someone will think that you’re attractive.” God put us together, and it is God who will keep us together. As long as we point to those that we lead to say that God is number one, then everything will be okay. Jeroboam made a mistake, forgetting that he was setting a pattern for others to follow.
8. Righteous leaders sustain righteous indignation.
Then, we continue. Now let’s continue from this point forward, we’re going to follow the kings of Judah straight down. We go now to a descendant of Rehoboam, Abijah, and we learn— our next lesson is that leaders sustain righteous indignation. Abijah sustained righteous indignation, and we see this in 2 Chronicles 13:4–12. You can read that on your own time. I’ll summarize it.
Abijah finds himself—now after Rehoboam has passed away, Jeroboam is there in Israel—he [Abijah] was outnumbered two to one by the enemy rival, Jeroboam, but was unfazed. Remember, when you take sides as a leader, you must not take your personal side or the political side: I’m on this political party, or I’m with this faction or that faction. I’m with this group or that group. When you take God’s side, you will never be ashamed. People will let you down, but when you say, “I’m on God’s side, and I stand for righteousness,” you can sustain righteous indignation when there is an affront against your righteous leadership.
So he [Abijah] found that Israel was coming against them in a war, but when he kept God as the head and as the true leader of this nation, he recognized that his leadership was just stewardship over what God had given him. In 2 Chronicles 13:8–9, he said, Do you think you can withstand us? You’re worshiping idols on that side, but I serve the God of the Bible. We serve the God of the Bible and we cannot lose because we stand; and if you fight us, you’re fighting God. There’s no way we can lose to you worshiping other Gods. When you stand as a leader and recognize, if I stay on God’s side, God will fight for me, that is a leadership principle that you cannot fail.
There are some tough lessons that we learned in this section, but I pray that they strengthen you and encourage you. In the next session, we’re going to continue with Abijah and continue to learn some other leadership lessons.