Today’s reading is Deuteronomy 16:1-17:20, Luke 9:7-27, Psalm 72: 1-20, Proverbs 12:8-9.
Today’s passage refers to the guidelines for a king. At this time, Israel had no king. Moses was the leader and spokesperson, but not their king. In fact, God Himself served as their King. And He still is today for us—King of all kings.
But God knew their hearts. He knew they would look around them and want what the other nations had. In fact, many scholars believe these were prophet words. At the least, they were warnings of what very likely could happen if they did not guard their hearts. Let’s look at the details.
First, he said, “When you take it over and settle there, you may think, ‘We should select a king to rule over us like the other nations around us.’
And that is exactly what happened. In 1 Samuel 8 we see these prophetic words come true.
Give us a king to judge us like all the other nations have.”
6Samuel was displeased with their request and went to the LORD for guidance. 7“Do everything they say to you,” the LORD replied, “for it is me they are rejecting, not you. They don’t want me to be their king any longer. 8Ever since I brought them from Egypt they have continually abandoned me and followed other gods. And now they are giving you the same treatment. 9Do as they ask, but solemnly warn them about the way a king will reign over them.”
19But the people refused to listen to Samuel’s warning. “Even so, we still want a king,” they said. 20“We want to be like the nations around us. Our king will judge us and lead us into battle.”
Even though the Lord gave them what they wanted, the people didn’t really need one. They had a King already. This is what set them apart and made them unique and special. But they didn’t want that. They wanted to look and act like everyone else. They wanted an earthly king. And the very things that He warned about came to fruition.
16 “The king must not build up a large stable of horses for himself or send his people to Egypt to buy horses, for the Lord has told you, ‘You must never return to Egypt.’ 17 The king must not take many wives for himself, because they will turn his heart away from the Lord. And he must not accumulate large amounts of wealth in silver and gold for himself.
As we continue reading through the scriptures, we see that the very things He warned about became a stumbling block to even the most anointed kings. David, the man after God’s own heart, had a season of sin, due to the fact his heart was turned toward another wife. David was humble enough to acknowledge his sin and repent. And Solomon, too, was a wise and godly king—until he later took many wives and accumulated large amounts of wealth for himself.
In Solomon’s old age, they (his many wives) turned his heart to worship other gods instead of being completely faithful to the LORD his God
1 Kings 11:4
But at the end of this passage God provided a way out for them.
18 “When he sits on the throne as king, he must copy for himself this body of instruction on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests. 19 He must always keep that copy with him and read it daily as long as he lives. That way he will learn to fear the Lord his God by obeying all the terms of these instructions and decrees.20 This regular reading will prevent him from becoming proud and acting as if he is above his fellow citizens. It will also prevent him from turning away from these commands in the smallest way. And it will ensure that he and his descendants will reign for many generations in Israel.
God’s Word will keep us humble. His Word will keep us close to the path of righteousness. His Word will be a measure of protection for our future generations. We, just like the kings of Israel, would do well to daily read God’s Word as long as we live. And remember, we have a King already.