I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken or his children begging for bread (Psalm 37:25).
Wisdom is not always attached to age, for there are old men who remain foolish, and young men who are wise. Whether one is young or old, the fear of the Lord remains the beginning of wisdom.
Yet, for one who fears the Lord, great wisdom can be gained through years. For instance, David in the psalm above testifies to the goodness of God toward the righteous, which he not only has expected from the word of God, but has observed in his experience with God’s people. And that comes from years.
In the 1 Kings 12 passage at hand, Rehoboam makes a mistake that is characteristic of our age, and apparently also of his. Seeking counsel concerning how he should govern as a new king, he spurned the counsel of his elders, who instructed him to deal kindly with his people, and instead followed the counsel of his younger peers, who told him to rule with strict and stern discipline. We know how it turned out. He lost the kingdom.
Rehoboam’s loss will not surprise the wise. One of the follies of youth is a confusion concerning where true strength lies, seeing the locus of true authority in the strength of the arm rather than in the kindness that is the fruit of love. The elders understood this. For my part, I am not convinced that the young men with whom Rehoboam consulted were altogether ill-intentioned. They may well have thought that strength lies primarily in the resolution of the will, and that Rehoboam would be most effective as he brought strict discipline upon the people.
I remember it well. As a young father, having read several childrearing books (one in particular), I became convinced that raising children well was a matter of consistent discipline, and of establishing my authority as their father. But it didn’t produce fruit of joy in the Lord. I came to see that the fruit of the Spirit in the home—love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, faithfulness, goodness, and self control (Gal 5:22)—was the foundation upon which raising children rests, and the atmosphere in which discipline and child training must take place. I also learned that, at least for the flesh, walking in love and gentleness is far more difficult than administering strict discipline. And far more effective. Because true authority, and true strength, lies in love.
Most of us, in one way or another, have arenas where we exercise authority. Take heed to Rehoboam. Otherwise you may well lose the kingdom.