Living Selflessly and Ready to Serve

1 Kings 12 – Week Five

When I am working on the lessons, some weeks are easier than others.  Some weeks, with God’s help, I can block out the distractions.  I will find myself flooded with thoughts that God takes and weaves together into what I pray is what He wants to be discussed and what He wants to put the spotlight on for that week. Some weeks, getting the lesson prepared is nearly effortless.

I struggled this week. 

I began the week reading over the scripture.  The synopsis of it all was that King Solomon had disobeyed God and had sought after what pleased himself rather than what pleased God.  As a result, the kingdom would be divided much like Solomon’s heart and Solomon’s son would have much of the kingdom torn from his hands.  His son, Rehoboam didn’t do himself any favors as we’ll see.  He, just like his father, was more interested in being served than serving. 

As for me, I was heavily distracted all week.  While we were growing up, my parents had several close friends that were honorary aunts and uncles so to speak.  There was one couple that was special.  Larry and Sue Ellen. So many of my childhood memories involve them and their two children.  We went to church together.  We went camping together.  We cooked out together. We were family, not by blood, but by choice. 

Shortly after our mom passed away, my sister and I had dinner with them and their daughter who is like another sister to us.  We spent the evening reminiscing about my parents and all of the good times we had had over the years.  My sister and I kind of joked about being orphaned and Sue Ellen said, “Aww.  As long as Larry and I are still here, you’ll have us.  You won’t be orphaned.”  That meant a lot to me and my sister.  They had always been like bonus parents anyways, but it was comforting for her to “adopt” us as adults. 

In this past week, that cruel and vicious thief known as Alzheimer’s took over Sue Ellen’s earthly body.  She had been diagnosed several years ago and although she had shown signs of gradual decline during that time, this week and the changes that took place were shocking, heartbreaking, and devastating to us all. Earlier this week, we received the news that she most likely had but a few days at most to live.  The waiting began.  The prayers for mercy started.  The crying and the sadness settled in.  All the while, I struggled with the lesson as I read it because my thoughts were often interrupted with not just texts and phone calls, but also memories, conflicts as to what I could do, and honestly, just a preoccupation with Sue Ellen herself.  All the while, I prayed that God would help me to focus on His Word and this lesson and what He wanted said.  But I often found myself thinking over Sue Ellen’s life and the legacy that she would leave and I found myself quite frustrated reading about this arrogant king who didn’t seem to care about his neighbors, his people.

All the while I studied Rehoboam, thoughts of Sue Ellen kept coming to the surface.  And at one point, I thought if I had to sum her up in one word, it would be selfless.  I just don’t know that I could think of anyone more selfless than Sue Ellen.  She was the hostess with the “mostest”.  When we were growing up, they were the ones with the swimming pool where anyone and everyone was invited to come over and swim.  People took advantage of her kindness often.  They invited themselves over to swim and Sue Ellen was always happy to say, “Sure! Come on over!”  There were many mothers who invited just their kids over to swim and then conveniently took off for hours on end while Sue Ellen provided free babysitting.  She never complained.  Instead, there was always a full pitcher of Kool-Aid in the refrigerator and snacks in the pantry.  She threw birthday parties for the kids in the neighborhood.  She was the first one to show up with a casserole or HoneyBaked ham when there was a death in the family.  She volunteered at school, at church, and in the neighborhood.  My mom who loved Sue Ellen like a sister would get so frustrated with her because there was one word that wasn’t in her vocabulary.  “No”.  She couldn’t/ wouldn’t say it.  She exhibited selflessness when it came to her husband, her children, her parents, her brothers, and other family members.  And it didn’t stop there.  She spoiled our family.  My sister would often drop a big hint that she sure would like to have Sue Ellen’s famous Christmas sugar cookies and she would get them, even if it was in the middle of July and a hundred degrees outside. 

She spent her life serving others, making sure that others had what they needed, were comfortable, and felt loved. She didn’t leave this earth after receiving many awards or accolades.  Her passing wouldn’t be mentioned on the news.  She was a simple servant who loved the Lord wholly and completely and the overflow of that love for Him was reflected in her service to others.  I kept having Mark 10:45 NIV come to mind when I thought of Sue Ellen.  “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Finally, on Thursday of this past week, as I was praying that God would help me with my concentration on the lesson, I realized that God had been helping me all week.  I just had failed to see the connection.

Last week, we discussed how dumb the very wise Solomon had behaved. Despite God’s warnings, King Solomon had taken on multiple pagan wives who had distracted his heart from fully worshipping God.  King Solomon was selfish.  He lived his life in a manner that satisfied HIS own desires, fulfilled HIS own needs, and pacified HIS own passions.  Consequently, God destroyed Solomon’s legacy.  As a result of Solomon’s selfishness, God promised to tear the kingdom away from Solomon’s son but would leave him with just but one tribe.  But because God loved King David so much, He told Solomon that the division of the kingdom would wait until Solomon’s life was over.  However, God didn’t wait for Solomon to take his last breath before the consequences started to begin fulfilling His promise of division. 

1 Kings 11:14 TLB “So the Lord caused Hadad the Edomite to grow in power. And Solomon became apprehensive, for Hadad was a member of the royal family of Edom.”

1 Kings 11:23 ERV “God also raised up another man to become one of Solomon’s enemies. This man was Rezon, son of Eliada”  1 Kings 11:25 ERV “ Rezon became the king of Aram. He was an enemy of Israel throughout Solomon’s life and added to the trouble that Hadad created for Israel.”

As if two fierce enemies weren’t enough, a third one is added to the mix.  1 Kings 11:25 “There was also another person who became an enemy of Solomon. He was Jeroboam son of Nebat.” “He was one of Solomon’s servants, but he rebelled against the king.”

God had warned Solomon to not marry many women.  He had warned Solomon to not marry pagan women.  God had said that by doing so, Solomon’s heart would not stay loyal to God and yet, Solomon abandoned God’s warning and sought out his own selfish way.  Solomon’s selfishness affected many people.

“It’s the love of self so much that hinders man from serving God acceptably.”


1 Kings 11:27 ICB “This is the story of how Jeroboam turned against the king. Solomon was filling in the land on the east side of Jerusalem. He was also repairing the wall of Jerusalem. It was the city of David, his ancestor. 28 Jeroboam was a capable man. Solomon saw that this young man was a good worker. So Solomon put him over all the workers from the tribes of Ephraim and Manasseh.”

“One day Jeroboam was leaving Jerusalem. Ahijah, the prophet from Shiloh, met him on the road. Ahijah was wearing a new coat. The two men were alone out in the country. 30 Ahijah took his new coat and tore it into 12 pieces. 31 Then he said to Jeroboam, “Take 10 pieces of this coat for yourself. The Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘I will tear the kingdom away from Solomon. Then I will give you 10 tribes. 32 But I will allow the family of David to control 1 tribe. I will do this for my servant David and for Jerusalem. Jerusalem is the city I have chosen from all the tribes of Israel. 33 I will do this because Solomon has stopped following me. He worships the Sidonian god Ashtoreth and the Moabite god Chemosh. He also worships Molech, the Ammonite god. Solomon has not obeyed me. He has not done what I said is right. He has not obeyed my laws and commands. He is not living the way his father David lived.”

The message from God continues with Jeroboam being told that the kingdom will not be taken away from King Solomon, but rather will be taken from King Solomon’s son.  God’s mercy is only because of God’s love for David.  David left a legacy of love, obedience, and worship for God.

1 Kings 11:36 ICB “I will allow Solomon’s son to continue to rule over 1 tribe. I will do this so that David, my servant, will always have a king before me in Jerusalem. It is the city where I chose to be worshiped. 37 But I will make you rule over everything you want. You will rule over all of Israel. 38 I will always be with you if you do what I say is right. You must obey all my commands. If you obey my laws and commands as David did, I will be with you. I will make your family a family of kings, as I did for David. I will give Israel to you. 39 I will punish David’s children because of this. But I will not punish them forever.’40 Solomon tried to kill Jeroboam. But Jeroboam ran away to Egypt. He went to Shishak king of Egypt. And Jeroboam stayed there until Solomon died.”

Once again, for Solomon to have been so wise, he acted quite unwisely.  Apparently, he thought he could eliminate God’s plan by having Jeroboam killed.  He was wrong.  After 40 years of being king, Solomon dies, and his son Rehoboam takes over the reign.  Solomon leaves this earth with a curse on his family.

Oddly enough, with 700 wives and 300 concubines, Solomon is known to have squired only 3 children; 2 daughters and 1 son who was named Rehoboam.  It was rumored that Solomon fathered a son with the Queen of Sheba, but no one seems to know whether that is true or not. As Solomon’s only named son, Rehoboam rightfully takes the throne when he is 41 years old. 

1 Kings 12: 1 ICB “Rehoboam went to Shechem because all the Israelites had gone there to make him king.”

King Rehoboam is immediately challenged.  As soon as Jeroboam hears that Rehoboam has been named king, he comes out of hiding, and Jeroboam is summoned by the people in the northern tribes of Israel.  The people wanted change.  They saw a new leader and the opportunity to make changes. Jeroboam approaches the new king, flanked by numerous others, and offers conditional loyalty.  1 Kings 12:4 GNT “Your father Solomon treated us harshly and placed heavy burdens on us. If you make these burdens lighter and make life easier for us, we will be your loyal subjects.”

King Rehoboam starts off wisely by asking for three days to consider a response.  You must admire that.  He doesn’t give an answer right away.  Instead, he seeks advice.  He first turns to the older and wiser men who had counseled his father.  1 Kings 12: 6 GNT “’What answer do you advise me to give these people?’ he asked.

7 They replied, ‘If you want to serve this people well, give a favorable answer to their request, and they will always serve you loyally.’ “

I do believe that’s good advice.  In fact, that advice mirrors King Rehoboam’s father’s own words from Proverbs 15:1 NKJV “A soft answer turns away wrath, But a harsh word stirs up anger.”

But just in case you haven’t read the rest of the story, let me just tell you how unwise King Rehoboam is.  He rejects the first bit of advice before even hearing other options.  Why do you think he was so quick to reject the advice?  It wasn’t what he wanted to hear.  King Rehoboam had just been named king, but before his royal robe even gets a wrinkle, he’s already decided on his agenda and it’s all selfishly motivated.

“The trouble with good advice is that it usually interferes with your plans.” Croft M. Pentz That sums it all up right there.  In more ways than one as we’ll see. 

King Rehoboam then turns to his buddies who had been named as his advisers and asks the same question.  “What do you think I should do?” he asked them. And the young men replied, “Tell them, ‘If you think my father was hard on you, well, I’ll be harder! Yes, my father was harsh, but I’ll be even harsher! My father used whips on you, but I’ll use scorpions!’” (1 Kings 12:9-11 GNT)  “By this word {scorpions} some understand whips having leaden balls at the ends of their lashes with hooks projecting from them; others the thorny stem of the eggplant, or “the scorpion plant.”[i] Regardless of the interpretation of “scorpions”, the gist is “you thought it was tough before?  Just wait!”

There is an obvious distinction between the two bits of advice.  Of course, one is a gentle answer; the other is harsh.  But you may have noticed that the older, wiser men simply advised the king to give a favorable answer to gain loyalty. They don’t tell him what to say; only to respond in an encouraging and caring manner. The young ones tell the king specifically what to say.  They give him the words to use.  This alone shows the differing levels of respect for the crown, for the position that the two groups of advisers had. It also goes to show the disregard for the Israelites and the lack of concern for their feelings.  And unfortunately, King Rehoboam goes along with the selfish and power-hungry advice of his friends.

1 Kings 12:12 ERV “Three days later, Jeroboam and all the people came back as Rehoboam had said. 13 King Rehoboam did not listen to the advice from the older men, and he was rude to the people. 14 He did what his friends told him to do and said, “My father forced you to work hard, but I will make you work much harder! My father punished you with whips, but I will punish you with whips that have sharp metal tips.” 15 So the king did not do what the people wanted.”

But before we let our low opinion of King Rehoboam get any lower, let’s keep reading.  “The Lord caused this to happen. He did this in order to keep the promise he made to Jeroboam son of Nebat when he sent the prophet Ahijah from Shiloh to speak to him.”

God, knowing all that had been, all that was, and all that would be promised the bulk of His kingdom to Jeroboam.  He had also promised Solomon that the kingdom would be taken away from Solomon’s son. God doesn’t break His promises.  We find comfort in that when the promises of God are loving and beneficial to us.  However, we can sometimes naively think that God won’t keep those promises that we may see as negative promises.  We sometimes fail to respect God and be in awe of Him as we should.  We somehow like to think of Him more as a doting and loving Father (which He is) who we can wrap around our pinkie finger much like some of us did with our earthly fathers.  We, I think, tend to be so selfish and so arrogant like Solomon and like Rehoboam, that we forget Who He is and just how tiny we are in comparison.  We get this warped perception that God is to serve us and not the other way around.  We lose our fear of God and fail to remember that God makes promises and He keeps them whether they bless us or curse us.

Numbers 23:19 NLT “God is not a man, so he does not lie. He is not human, so he does not change his mind. Has he ever spoken and failed to act? Has he ever promised and not carried it through?”

Moses summed it up for us in Deuteronomy 11:26 NKJV “26 “Behold, I set before you today a blessing and a curse: 27 the blessing, if you obey the commandments of the Lord your God which I command you today; 28 and the curse, if you do not obey the commandments of the Lord your God, but turn aside from the way which I command you today, to go after other gods which you have not known.”

You see, while God was blessing Jeroboam with the kingdom, He was simultaneously cursing Rehoboam with the loss of much of the kingdom.  God fulfilled His promise to Solomon by causing Rehoboam to act like a jerk.  And here’s a bit of irony for you.  Remember how the complaint made to King Rehoboam was that King Solomon had been too harsh.  He had worked them too hard.  Guess who was the head of King Solomon’s labor force?  Jeroboam! And yet, the Israelites, after having their request for a lighter load rejected by King Rehoboam, pledge their allegiance to the one who had once been in charge of their workload. 

1 Kings 12:16 ERV “The Israelites saw that the new king refused to listen to them, so they said to him,

“We are not part of David’s family are we?

    We don’t get any of Jesse’s land, do we?

So, people of Israel, let’s go home

    and let David’s son rule his own people!”

So the Israelites went home. 17 But Rehoboam still ruled over the Israelites who lived in the cities of Judah.”

There are a lot of emotions wrapped up in that, aren’t there?  Anger, disappointment, hurt, resentment, grief, hostility, blame, despair.  And sadness.  Everyone lost something in this great divide.  The selfishness and disloyalty, the disobedience, and the arrogance of Solomon caused a crack in God’s kingdom.  And that’s what this was.  It was God’s kingdom.  It wasn’t David’s, Solomon’s, or Rehoboam’s.  It was God’s.

We experience things in our world today that divide us.  COVID vaccines. Political leadership. Racial tensions.  Gun control. And just this week, the overturning of Roe vs. Wade. These things cause cracks in God’s kingdom here.  We allow our emotions and our opinions to distract us from loving each other, caring for one another, and even serving one another.  We get caught up in being right that we fail to reflect on what IS right.     

Matthew 22:36 ICB “The Pharisee asked, “Teacher, which command in the law is the most important?”

37 Jesus answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul and mind.’ 38 This is the first and most important command. 39 And the second command is like the first: ‘Love your neighbor as you love yourself.’ 40 All the law and the writings of the prophets depend on these two commands.”

If only Solomon had loved the Lord with all of his heart, soul, and mind.  If only Rehoboam had loved his neighbors as much as he loved himself, the kingdom of God just may not have been divided.  But that’s human nature for you, isn’t it?

I, personally, learned a lot this week.  First and foremost, I was reminded that God knows exactly what’s happening in our lives.  He strategically causes and allows the timing of events in our lives so that they have a greater impact on us and make a deeper impression.  All week long, I kept wanting to block out what I considered to be distractions so that I could work on the lesson.  Instead, God personified that lesson by recalling the selfless life of Sue Ellen and in doing so, revealed the selfishness of Solomon and Rehoboam and the destruction that followed.

God knows exactly what’s happening in our lives.

I was also reminded that we need to listen carefully, not just to God, but to others. We need to be gentle in our responses.   We need to think of others before ourselves.  We need to show grace even when we think it isn’t deserved because, frankly, it never is deserved. We need to be imitators of Christ.  We need to unite, not divide.  We need to serve and not expect nor demand to be served. 

What greater legacy to leave behind than to be thought of as a selfless, God-loving servant who loved greatly?


Published by Diane Simcox

Daily I am humbled at how God shows me that He is active and involved in my life. He is gracious enough to simplify every day things so that I have a better understanding of Who He is to me.

One thought on “Living Selflessly and Ready to Serve

  1. Such a beautiful tribute to what Sue’s testimony of selfless service meant to so many, myself included!

    I never knew the depth of the connection you have had with Larry and Sue, so I am so sorry for your personal loss.

    Love you my friend!

    Liked by 1 person

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