Let’s turn now to a more obscure Old Testament passage and look for the gospel message. During the last years of King Solomon’s reign as king, his heart turned away from the Lord (I Kings 11:4), and he did evil in the sight of the Lord (I Kings 11:6). He became a brutal ruler over his people.
So when Solomon died (I Kings 11:43), the children of Israel appealed to the new ruler, Solomon’s son Rehoboam, to lighten up. As He considered their request, he turned to the elders who served Solomon for advice. Their counsel was, “If you will be a servant to this people today, and will serve them and grant them their petition, and speak good words to them, then they will be your servants forever” (I Kings 12:7).
But Rehoboam rejected their advice and sought input from the young men that he grew up with. They foolishly advised the new king to be even harder on his people. Giving heed to their advice, Rehoboam proclaimed three days later to the gathered children of Israel, “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” (I Kings 12:14).
Upon hearing this proclamation, the people rebelled and essentially left the kingdom. They formed a new kingdom of Israel and installed Jeroboam, Solomon’s former servant, as their new king. This action fulfilled the prophecy from God to an aging Solomon that the kingdom would be torn from Solomon’s family (except for the tribe of Judah) and given to his servant. The prophecy came true to the last detail.
The gospel message in this story is to compare and contrast with the servant king that is yet to come. Look again at the wise elders’ advice. “If you will be a servant to this people today, and will serve them and grant them their petition, and speak good words to them, then they will be your servants forever” (I Kings 12:7).
Compare this with Jesus’ words, “Whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant; and whoever wishes to be first among you shall be servant of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many (Mark 10:43-45).
The unresolved tension in the I Kings passage was an onerous king that led ultimately to a longstanding divided kingdom. The solution we find in Jesus is just the opposite. We have a servant king, whose service has a forever quality. His greatest act of service was to give His life as an eternal ransom for us. This is the gospel message.
A related tension in Rehoboam’s story is the heavy yoke he promised to put on his people. Compare this to more of Jesus’ words, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).
Come to the servant King. Embrace and accept His ransom for you. Embrace and accept His forgiveness for you. Embrace and accept his rest. Come to the servant King whose yoke is easy and whose burden is light.