Deuteronomy 17:19 (CSB)
19 It is to remain with him, and he is to read from it all the days of his life, so that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, to observe all the words of this instruction, and to do these statutes.
This pericope is concerned with the appointment of a king of Israel. Monarchies are interesting, and especially so here.
- It would seem that the monarchy is something positive, or at least something God is intimately involved in. The statement that the king should be someone that “the Lord your God chooses,” suggests that God is playing the key role in deciding who should be king. Therefore it seems hard to imagine that God is not “on board” with the monarchy to begin with.
- The king should be an Israelite. The obvious assumption here, I think, is that the king should be someone who knows God, and would be, in theory, someone who would seek to follow God’s law. This seems like a safeguard, to ensure some of the following points, which all hinge on the king being one of God’s people. Heck, even the US requires the President to be a citizen, why would we expect something different for the leader of God’s people?
- This king is not to be like the stereotypical king we might think of: grossly wealthy, greedy, and steeped in debauchery. Instead, God provides some guidelines: avoid the amassing of those things that define power and wealth. The message here seems clear: do not become indulgent and become a slave of power and wealth, rather than a follower of God and servant of his people.
- The prescription in Deut. 17:18-19 should have been something our founding fathers had instituted! But, just like Israel failed to adhere to it, I’m sure the US would have failed as well. But again, this was a command that was designed to keep the king in touch, and in line, with God. Honestly, we as believers would be well to put a variation of this in practice in our own lives: after all, do we “observe all the words of this instruction, and do these statutes”? Are we impressed by, and with, God’s word, and is it informing and molding all of our decisions? Kings are people just like us: children of God, and his word is the same life giving source for them as it is for us.
Lord, thank you for a design to pass your rule through those you appoint. We have mucked it up, as usual. And I am part of the problem! I vote for who I think might serve me best, which isn’t always the person who will serve you best. I pray for us to make sound decisions in our leadership, at all levels, so that our nation might be led to you, rather than away from you like it has been for so long. Amen.