The Scourge of Scorpions and the Tidy Barracks

The best leaders are fair and diplomatic and benevolent. Some people, however, think when you become a leader it is your opportunity to oppress instead of impress.  Today we are challenged to choose whether to incite people against us or excite them to follow us…

3 So they sent for Jeroboam, and he and all Israel went to Rehoboam and said to him: 4 “Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but now lighten the harsh labor and the heavy yoke he put on us, and we will serve you.”

5 Rehoboam answered, “Come back to me in three days.” So the people went away.

6 Then King Rehoboam consulted the elders who had served his father Solomon during his lifetime. “How would you advise me to answer these people?” he asked.

7 They replied, “If you will be kind to these people and please them and give them a favorable answer, they will always be your servants.”

8 But Rehoboam rejected the advice the elders gave him and consulted the young men who had grown up with him and were serving him. 9 He asked them, “What is your advice? How should we answer these people who say to me, ‘Lighten the yoke your father put on us’?”

10 The young men who had grown up with him replied, “The people have said to you, ‘Your father put a heavy yoke on us, but make our yoke lighter.’ Now tell them, ‘My little finger is thicker than my father’s waist. 11 My father laid on you a heavy yoke; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions.’”

15 So the king did not listen to the people, for this turn of events was from God, to fulfill the word the Lord had spoken to Jeroboam son of Nebat through Ahijah the Shilonite.

19 So Israel has been in rebellion against the house of David to this day.
2Chronicles 10:3-11, 15, 19

God spoke to Jeroboam, son of Nebat, in 1Kings 11. God told Jeroboam that he would be removing the throne from Solomon’s line because there was false worship and disobedience in Solomon’s reign. And so, we see this start to come to fruition with Rehoboam, who succeeded Solomon as King.

Rehoboam makes a bad leadership call in his early days. The elders advised him, if you are kind, pleasing, and favourable toward your subjects, they will always be your servants. That isn’t to say you can’t make a tough call when you need to, yet the best way to handle leadership is with fairness and diplomacy and benevolence. Not with the scourge of scorpions.

The King listened to his friends from his youth instead of the elders of Israel. My issue with this is that the King was 41 years old when he took the throne. We read this story and we think he is an impetuous young man under the peer pressure of other young adults. He’s not. He’s a fully grown man who listened to the voice of his friends from his youth.

And that voice was the voice of poor leadership. It was the voice of a lack of leadership experience. It was the voice of people who had been stomped on by leaders in the past and who thought the way to lead was to repeat the sins of former leaders. This is the my turn voice which makes you think that when you become a leader it is your opportunity to oppress instead of impress.

The people rebelled. This reminds me of the leadership lesson of the tidy barracks. One of my friends was in the Army, and he had the opportunity to lead a troop for some time. Part of the job was to inspect the barracks. My friend would typically find a flaw which he then used to force his men to run that day. There were consequences to not maintaining barracks.

Then one day he went into the barracks to inspect them and the barracks were a disaster. Nothing was done and no beds were made. He was furious. He demanded to know why his troop did not prepare the barracks for inspection. The answer was simple and decades later, he still has their voices ringing in his head: When we work hard and do well, we run. When we don’t work hard, we run. So why work hard?

My friend had been lording his leadership over his men. So they rebelled. Just like the people Rehoboam ruled with the scourge of scorpions.

What leadership role do you have the honour of holding? Choose today whether you will incite your people against you or excite them about following you.


Marc Kinna

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