When you come to the land which the Lord your God is giving you, and possess it and dwell in it, and say, “I will set a king over me like all the nations that are around me,” you shall surely set a king over you whom the Lord your God chooses; one from among your brethren you shall set as king over you; you may not set a foreigner over you, who is not your brother. But he shall not multiply horses for himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt to multiply horses, for the Lord has said to you, “You shall not return that way again.” Neither shall he multiply wives for himself, lest his heart turn away; nor shall he greatly multiply silver and gold for himself. Also it shall be, when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write for himself a copy of this law in a book, from the one before the priests, the Levites. And it shall be with him, and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God and be careful to observe all the words of this law and these statutes, that his heart may not be lifted above his brethren, that he may not turn aside from the commandment to the right hand or to the left, and that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he and his children in the midst of Israel. (Deuteronomy 17:14-20)
Good Advice For The New Leader
When Israel demanded a king during the days of Samuel, it came as no surprise to the Lord. He had already determined in the Law of Moses guidelines for the establishment of a king to rule over Israel. Knowing the tendency of man to seek wisdom in himself, God ordained laws in choosing a king and how the king would rule the nation of the Lord. These were not suggestions but a law of covenants the people would use in placing a man as king of God’s nation. Primarily, the man who would wear the crown was a man chosen by the will of the Lord. He must be a Hebrew and not a foreigner. The people wanted to be like the nations around them. They failed to acknowledge the presence of God as their only hope desiring a physical king to lead them to battle and guide the nation. Saul, son of Kish, would be the first king of Israel but it would end in failure. The Lord chose him but pride destroyed the rule of Saul. David was chosen from the tribe of Judah and his son Solomon reigned after him. The eighty years of David and Solomon were prosperous both in material wealth and spiritual. During the reign of Saul, David and Solomon, Israel was a united nation of twelve tribes. After the death of Solomon, Israel fell into civil war with ten tribes falling under the leadership of wicked kings and the remaining two tribes ruled by good and bad kings. The people’s desire to have a king announced their doom.
The failure of Israel as a nation was in large part the disobedience of the leaders to follow the Law of Moses. God had warned the people their king should not believe in his own power and fill his life with the passions of the world. The law forbade the king to multiply horses to himself to fight battles and wage war. God allowed the people to have a king to go before them but the Lord God was still the only hope they had for victory. Trusting in horses and chariots and the mechanics of war would bring destruction to the people because they would trust in themselves more than God. Aligning themselves with foreign nations like Egypt corrupted the purity of the nation to let the Lord fight their battles. Israel failed to remember the history of their deliverance from Egypt was by the hand of God alone. The people did not amass a large army to deliver them. Only the hand of the Lord brought them forth. Conquering Canaan came through the power of God as the people marched against the giants of the land. The king must trust in the Lord for his leadership.
There were warnings about having too much prosperity in wives, silver and gold. The king of Israel was the anointed of God and his life should be an example to the children of Israel. God forbade the king to have many wives and fill his life with the coffers of material gain. These things would take his mind off the purpose he sat on the throne. The king of Israel was a spiritual leader as much as he was a ruler. The passions of life would take the heart of the king away from the Lord. A king who ruled in Israel was a man who followed the Lord wholly with all his heart. The Law of Moses commanded each king to write for himself a copy of the law in a book and to read it all the days of his life. God’s word must always be at the forefront of the king’s mind. Just the act of writing the book for himself was a timely and exhaustive work. The king was commanded to read the word of God each day reminding him who was the ruler of the universe.
The value of the king writing a copy of the Law for himself and reading it was to remind him that while he was king of Israel – there was one greater to fear. Pride destroyed many kings. They lifted themselves up against the Lord. Why were there so many wicked kings in the history of Israel? They failed to write a copy of the Law and to heed the words of God. Throughout the troubled generations of Israel’s fall into idolatry and destruction were the fragments of God’s words strewn across the floor unread and ignored. The nation plunged into chaos as the king multiplied horses, women and riches. His heart was lifted up in pride against his brethren. He rejected the word of God. This was true of every failed king in the history of Israel.
There are great lessons from the Law of Moses for presidents, kings and despots today. While the Law has been removed, the principles remain the same. Any nation ruled by those who disregard the word of God will find only failure in the end. A nation without God is a godless nation. History has shown when men turn away from God the nation will slide into turmoil, unrest, immorality and ruin. As the leadership of the country goes, so goes the nation. Leadership must come from the word of God. It would do well for the leaders of our country to write a copy of the words of God for themselves and to read it every day reminding them who really is in charge of the world. Leaders who do not fear the Lord have much to fear. They may make a mark for themselves in the annals of man’s history but what they willfully forget is that man’s history will be burned up when the Lord comes. The legacies of men will crumble into dust when the world is destroyed. All presidents, kings and rulers will face the Lord God.
Every philosopher and statesman who has discussed the subject of human governments, has acknowledged that there can be no stable society without justice, no justice without morality, no morality without religion, no religion without God. (James Gibbons, Our Christian Heritage, 1889)