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WILL YOU LISTEN TO THE OLD MEN?

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached on Lord’s Day Evening, March 26, 2006
at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles

“But he forsook the counsel which the old men gave him, and took counsel with the young men that were brought up with him, that stood before him” (II Chronicles 10:8).


I must say at the beginning that this sermon is adapted and shortened from one by Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981) who was surely one of the greatest preachers of the twentieth century, many would say, the very greatest. I have deleted much of what he said, and am just giving you the meat of it. I hope that hearing it helps you as much as it helped me in reading and re-writing it.

This story deals with one of the most important turning points in history. Here we discover the reason that the Jewish people split in two, the act that brought about the division between the northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah. The behavior of Rehoboam, as given in our text, shows why the two kingdoms were divided. Here is the key to understanding the books of Kings and Chronicles, but also the prophets. We find our text the explanation of the many troubles that followed, as the prophets turned back again to what Rehoboam did in our text to explain the reason for their many woes, troubles and crises that followed.

I maintain that this is one of the great Old Testament stories that teaches us (like a parable) great truths about our souls and our relationship to God. Let us look closely at this story and apply it to ourselves.

“But he forsook the counsel which the old men gave him, and took counsel with the young men that were brought up with him, that stood before him” (II Chronicles 10:8).

The story is simple. Solomon died and his son Rehoboam took his place as king. As this young man faced his new responsibilities he desired the support of his people. This was perfectly correct for one who was a king. But the important and interesting thing to notice is that he was confronted with two different methods of attaining this goal. First there was the way preferred by the old men who counselled him. And then there was the way proposed by the young men. The old men said in effect, “Go easy on the people.” The young men said in effect, “Be hard on them.” Observe that both counsels had the same intention - to obtain the allegiance of the people.

Notice the order in which the two pieces of advice were given. Rehoboam listened to the advice of the old men before he heard from the young men. It was only after he rejected the advice of the old men that he accepted the advice of the younger ones. When the people of the northern tribes came to him to hear his decision, Rehoboam treated them roughly and threatened worse tyranny than his father Solomon had imposed on them. The result was the division of the northern kingdom of Israel from the southern kingdom of Judah, wars, and ultimately the Babylonian captivity. That is the essence of the story.

Isn’t that exactly what happens in the life of each and every one of us? All of us want to make the best of our lives, to get the most out of life. But we are confronted with two choices. The Bible offers us the old way. The world offers us a new way. The Bible tells us what is best for us in life. And the world does exactly the same thing. Both say that they will give us life, truth and happiness. The difference is in the method of obtaining those things.

Isn’t that exactly what happens to young people today? Doesn’t this young man Rehoboam picture every young person? First, you are taught about God, about salvation in Christ. It is only after you have rejected the old way that you turn to the world and its ideas. The story of Rehoboam is repeated constantly by young people today! Why is it that so many of them reject the very things they say they desire most of all when Christ offers it to them? Why is it that He is still rejected and young people prefer another way? As we think about this man Rehoboam I believe the reason will become plain and clear. Our discussion divides itself into two main questions.

I. First, why Rehoboam rejected the advice of the old men
and chose that of the young men.

Actually the answer can be put in one word - prejudice. He accepted the advice of the young men because it agreed with his own ideas and confirmed his own thoughts. At first glance he appeared to be an open-minded and wise young man. He seemed willing to hear the old men and weigh the evidence on both sides of the question. Yet the Bible makes it clear that he wasn’t really open-minded at all. It says, “He forsook the counsel which the old men gave him.”

In reality Rehoboam regarded the advice of the old men with contempt, and he quickly took what the young ones said because it confirmed what he himself felt and thought. He did not consider the situation. He was actually moved by his feelings, his desires, his ambition - in a word, by his prejudice. He thought, “I’ll do it my way. The young men agree with my way, so that’s what I’ll do.” His actions do not reveal a careful thinker or an honest seeker, but a man governed by the prejudice of his own ideas. He did not think deeply about the advice of the old men. He disliked what they said and dismissed it. But he liked what the young men said and acted upon it.

Shouldn’t you examine yourself honestly in the light of this? Those who are not converted want us to believe that their position comes from an honest consideration of both sides. They want us to think that they have studied Christianity carefully, and that they have only given it up after thoughtful consideration. On the surface they seem to be as wise as Rehoboam appeared to be before we look at him more closely. But is that really true? If you are not converted, let me ask you a few questions. Why are you not a Christian? Why haven’t you come to Christ? Can you give me any good, rational reason for your position and your attitude? Have you any real argument against Christ? Is your view based on anything besides certain loose, general statements about church members being hypocrites or what you know about certain people who claim to be Christians? I ask these questions, not only because I hear people say them, but also because of my knowledge of myself and the deceitfulness of the human heart. Can you honestly say that you are not prejudiced against Christ?

But why is there such prejudice? How do you explain it? Again, the answer can be given in one word - pride. Am I being unfair to Rehoboam? Look at the facts. Study his personality. Not only did he forsake the counsel of the old men, but he “answered [the people] roughly” (II Chronicles 10:13). Why is he so annoyed? Why does he dismiss the old men’s advice with such contempt? The answer is that he felt their advice was insulting. Their advice insulted him in two ways. First, it would require him to admit that the old men were right and he was wrong. Second, it would require him to do things he did not want to do. He wanted to be king his way, not their way. So, there you have it. He did not want to admit that he was wrong, and he did not want to follow anyone else’s thoughts that did not agree with his own. The idea of gaining what he desired at the expense of admitting that there was something wrong in himself, and his own thinking, was insulting!

It is clear that the pride of Rehoboam was touched in both these ways, and because of that he rejected the old men’s advice and accepted the others’. Such prejudice is always traced to pride. What is it that men object to in the gospel? What men find insulting in the gospel is that it demands that they admit that they are wrong and sinful at the very beginning. The gospel touches your pride by telling you that you are not right the way you are, and by its insistence that you acknowledge that. There is nothing that an unconverted man detests so much as the Biblical view of sin. Unconverted men hate being told, “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10). The Pharisees rejected and ultimately crucified Christ because He convinced them of sin. People reject Christ today for precisely the same reason - they do not want to admit that they are wrong, and that they are sinful. So they reject Christ and accept the opposite teaching because it flatters them and praises them.

But Christ not only tells you that you are wrong the way you are. He also tells you that He alone can make things right. But why does that annoy and offend you? For the simple reason that He tells you this is something you cannot do yourself. And that is what annoys you. You have too much faith in yourself and in your own powers.

That’s the reason that “self-help” programs and “motivational” books are so popular today, while old-fashioned gospel preaching is rejected. Nothing has changed.

“He forsook the counsel which the old men gave him, and took counsel with the young men” (II Chronicles 10:8).

You are prepared to listen to “self-help” programs and read “motivational” books because they tell you how to improve yourself, and help you to do so. But you forsake the old gospel that tells you that you cannot save yourself - or do anything to make yourself better in the sight of God. It is ultimately because man believes in himself and his own power that he rejects Christ. It is his pride that creates the prejudices that lead to his rejection of what offers him his own greatest and everlasting good.

There we see why Rehoboam rejected the advice of the old men and chose that of the young men. As you admit it to be true of him, can you see that it is also true of you if you are unconverted? Face it honestly and without prejudice. See it in yourself, hate it and forsake it!

II. Second, why Rehoboam should have listened
to the advice of the old men.

Let me explain why Rehoboam should have done the exact opposite to what he did. The reasons are quite clear, if you will apply your mind to the situation instead of judging blindly in terms of prejudice and passion.

Surely the age of Rehoboam’s first advisers, with their knowledge and experience, should have been enough to influence him, in and of itself. There is nothing quite as blind and utterly foolish as to ignore the past and throw out everything from the past simply because it is old. Something that people have believed for centuries should be thought over carefully and seriously before we lightly throw it away. To Rehoboam the age of these men, and their wisdom and knowledge, experience and understanding, meant nothing. Indeed, their age was against them. They belonged to the past. They were behind the times. Their age alone proved that they must be wrong.

While it is certainly true that our knowledge of the sciences is greater today than in the past, it is equally true that our knowledge of interpersonal relationships is far more shallow than in olden times. We may be able to go to the moon - but we can’t go to our next door neighbor! We are often afraid of him or don’t know him. We can raise ourselves in the air with planes and rockets, but we can’t raise our children unless we dope them with Ritalin. We can split the atom, but we can’t hold our homes and families together. We have 52 channels or more on our TVs, but we are lonely and don’t know how to make friends. We think we know everything, but we don’t know how to find God. So, I am saying, that we have learned many things in science, but at the same time we have lost much of the wisdom of the past regarding personal relationships. And isn’t this exactly what the old men were talking about? Weren’t they counselling Rehoboam about his relationship with the people? As a rule, men become wiser about personal relationships as they grow older. An old man may not know how to operate some new gadget, but he is often the best one to listen to regarding how to raise a child, how to relate to a friend or spouse, or how to find God.

To reject wisdom from the past on these matters is sheer foolishness, and ignorance. Whose are the voices that speak to us from the past and whisper to us from the records of antiquity? Look at them! Abel, Abraham, Moses, the prophets, the Apostles, Augustine, Luther, and in the center Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God! Does their counsel mean nothing to you? Can you ignore their testimony? Is what they say of no importance, and to be given up for the opinions of certain modern writers and teachers whose views and theories change from day to day? The man who thinks he can live happily while rejecting the counsel of the “old men” should remember the folly of Rehoboam.

But Rehoboam should have listened to the old men also because of the rightness and justice of what they said. If there was ever a fine and reasonable proposal it was this. It was essentially right and just and true. Whether recommended by old or young, in and of itself it should have been done by the king. What is amazing is that Rehoboam should have felt the need to ask anyone at all! The case was perfectly clear. The wrongs and injustices which these people suffered should have been done away with. There was no excuse for them. Nothing so condemns Rehoboam as his failure to see this and his stubborn determination to do the exact opposite.

Precisely the same is true of Christ, and His way of salvation. Consider the gospel, not in terms of what you like or what you feel, but in terms of truth and justice. Is Christ unjust when He condemns your sin? Is He unfair? Is He unjust? Is Christ really wrong when He tells you the truth about yourself, when He exposes all the hidden things of your heart and all the inmost recesses of your soul? Do you really claim that your life is what it ought to be? Are you perfectly content with yourself as you are? Are you not aware of the existence within yourself of that which is foul, and ugly, and cruel? Shouldn’t you confess that you are really not what you appear to be and what you try to impress people as being? Is not the Bible stating the literal truth when it says that the human heart is desperately wicked and deceitful? Is not the Bible perfectly just and fair when it says these things? Why should you object to it then? Why not thank God for an honest book which tells you the truth about yourself, instead of trying to please you and flatter you by telling you something which your own heart knows to be wrong?

Yes, Rehoboam should have listened to the old men because they were old, and especially because of the rightness and justice of what they recommended. But also he should have listened to them because it would have guaranteed to give him the very thing he most desired. “If thou be kind to this people, and please them, and speak good words to them, they will be thy servants for ever” (II Chronicles 10:7). That was the very thing he wanted. He refused to listen to the old men and felt that he had a better way of his own. But his rejection of the old men’s counsel led to utter and complete failure. Oh - the tragedy! And how often it is taught and pictured in the Bible. Indeed it is the whole message from beginning to end. If man could save himself why should the Son of God ever have come? But man cannot save himself. No matter how hard he tries, he will fail. There is but one way to salvation. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6).

Go back and ask the old men. Ask Luther and Bunyan and Whitefield and Wesley and Spurgeon. Ask the old men. They will all tell you that at one time they trusted themselves and their own powers. But they never found peace or rest or the knowledge of God that way. Acknowledge your sinfulness, as they did. Cast yourself upon Christ, as they did. Do not forsake the counsel of the old men. Come to Jesus Christ and be washed clean from your sins by His Blood!  

Throw out your pride and your prejudice.  Listen to the old men of the Bible, the prophets, and Apostles, and Christ.  Come to Christ, humble yourself before Him, and he will give you good advice.  Fall before Him and trust Him, and He will save your soul for all time and eternity.  

(END OF SERMON)
You can read Dr. Hymers' sermons each week on the Internet
at www.realconversion.com. Click on "Sermon Manuscripts."


Scripture Read Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan: II Chronicles 9:30-10:11.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“The Old-Fashioned Way” (by Civilla D. Martin, 1866-1948).


THE OUTLINE OF

WILL YOU LISTEN TO THE OLD MEN?

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.


“But he forsook the counsel which the old men gave him, and took counsel with the young men that were brought up with him, that stood before him” (II Chronicles 10:8).

I.   Why Rehoboam rejected the advice of the old men and chose
that of the young men, II Chronicles 10:13; Romans 3:10.

II.  Why Rehoboam should have listened to the advice of the old men,
II Chronicles 10:7; John 14:6.