1 Kings 12:14
My father made your yoke heavy; I will make it even heavier. My father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions.
Early this morning, we brought my family to the airport after staying with us for eight days. It was sadder this time because I was the one left behind. I never thought I’d cry hard when I got home. With their bedsheets still there, some shared-food left in the fridge, the slippers they used - - every corner flashed detailed memories. How I wish I could have another day spent with them. Better yet, have a total rewind. For then, I will choose differently. I guess I’d sit more at their feet instead of preferring that Martha apron, pleasing (and impressing) them with all comforts and food I know. I’d also be more accepting and tolerant of their countless, repetitive comments and suggestions rather than that raised defensive shield, for sadly, it did rob us some happy afternoon chats. Oh how could I fool myself that I’m wiser now? Or that I’m better?
Taking Solomon’s place is a big shoe to fill: the wisest man of his time, wealthy and famous, and whose rule is marked with peace and prosperity. It will surely put the heir in overwhelming expectations, if not insecurity. But Rehoboam neither cared nor pursued those. He wanted to be different. The plea of his people was to lighten their loads, which probably meant taxes for no Israelite was into forced labor. In Solomon’s time, the prosperity of the palace was felt at every home. 'Twas a shared experience. With Rehoboam’s reply of heavier yoke, he intended to widen the gap of royalty and commoners, and draw a line between power and follower. In Solomon’s rule, he acknowledged David’s men and allowed them to continue in their service. Although the wisest, he kept a personal adviser, Zabud, the son of possibly the Nathan who was also close to his father. But Rehoboam discarded Solomon’s people. He wanted his staff to be filled with fresh blood, new faces, different people. He knew he can’t surpass his father’s wisdom, and so he thought whips can be his concentration and fear his intimidation. We’ll at least he achieved his goal of being differently famous. For in his term birthed the infamous divided kingdom.
We all want to be better. To discover different routes and conquer uncharted lands. We see science and technology advancing everyday. But not without the aid of previous, primitive studies. It may be rusty and wrong, but even those were kept to make sure we won’t walk that road again. So is the wisdom of the elderly. They may not know the latest gadget or business trends, but it doesn’t mean their principles and tips are outdated. In Psalm 92, the righteous elderly stays fresh and green, flourishing and bearing fruit. Of course the qualifier is righteousness and the goal is to point the young to God. Age may be our big difference. The present may be our advantage. But we can’t discredit the many years they have walked with God. Soon we’ll have our chance. Our grandkids may soon laugh at our iPads and Blackberries. But by then, we’ll agree with now 92 year old Andy Rooney, "The best classroom in the world is at the feet of an elderly person."