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Princes & Presidents

PRINCES AND PRESIDENTS

Biblical Wisdom For Rulers

Every four years on January 20th, a president of the United States is sworn into office. This civic celebration represents a national moment of hope and renewal; America entrusts the future of the nation to a new leader who will need to call upon all his wisdom and experience to fulfill the promise of the moment.

Unhappily, when it comes to princes and presidents, wisdom and good judgment have often been in short supply and the people and their nations suffer as a result. One Old Testament story illustrates the inevitable consequences when a leader lacks wisdom in fulfilling his trust.

When King Solomon died, his son, Rehoboam, ascended to the throne. Shortly after assuming power, representatives of the people of Israel petitioned the new king to lift the crushing burden of taxes that had been imposed in earlier years. The people could no longer bear the excessively heavy load and sought relief from the new king.

Rehoboam sent the people away while he conferred with his advisors. First, he consulted with the elders who said, “If today you will be a servant to these people and serve them and give them a favorable answer, they will always be your servants” (1 Kings 12:7). Then Rehoboam turned to his youthful companions who told him to assert his power over the people. Here is what Rehoboam decided and this is what he told the people: “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” (1 Kings 12:11). The king rejected wise counsel and followed the misguided advice of the foolish and inexperienced advisors and so peace in the land was fractured. The people rose up and civil war broke out.

Here is the conclusion: The wise ruler should always remember that he or she is the servant of the people, and not the master. History is littered with failed rulers who ended up laying waste to their countries and their people. The discerning prince or president will understand their role and will refrain from acting on the false belief that the people are nothing more than insignificant pawns who exist merely to serve the ruler’s whims and purposes. We should remember Rehoboam’s unwise choice now and on every Inauguration Day.