Friday, June 21, 2019

Rules for Rulers from Deuteronomy

"The king, moreover, must not acquire great numbers of horses for himself or make the people return to Egypt to get more of them, for the LORD has told you, “You are not to go back that way again”" (Deuteronomy 17:16).

Moses told the people that someday it would be their desire, and God’s as well, that they have a king. He warned them not to set up a king for themselves but to wait until God was ready. God must be the one to choose the king and set up the dynasty (Deuteronomy 17:14–15).

Under divine inspiration, Moses gave the three laws of kingship. First, the king was forbidden to multiply horses. Horses were a sign of strength and glory and the king was to get his glory from God alone. Also, horses were used exclusively in aggressive warfare, while Israel was to be a peace-loving nation with strong fortresses for defense. Moses warned the king not to reduce the people to bondage, returning them to “Egypt” as it were, in order to make them work for his glory.

Second, Moses commanded that the king have only one wife. Marriages were not to be used for international alliances, and if the king began to make such alliances his heart would be led away from God. 

Third, Moses commanded that the king not multiply to himself huge amounts of wealth. This meant that he was not to institute heavy taxation of the people.

Solomon, in his “fall,” broke all three of these laws. He took in 666 talents of gold per year—worth several billion dollars (1 Kings 10:14ff.). He multiplied horses and reduced his people to slave labor, which caused a revolt when his son came to the throne (1 Kings 10:26ff.; 12:4). He multiplied wives and concubines, who turned his heart from the Lord (1 Kings 11:1ff.).

Solomon forgot what Moses said in Deuteronomy 17:18–20, that the king was to learn to write a complete copy of God’s law. He was to refer to it day and night, and turn neither to the right nor to the left. Solomon also forgot what his father David taught him in Psalm 1, which, after all, was by a king and for a king: “His delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.” As a result, the kingdom of Solomon was divided in half as soon as he died and the gold of his palace was removed (1 Kings 14:25–27). His kingdom and its glory were gone.

We are a nation governed by the rule of law. While Israel was a theocracy and we are not, rulers must still abide by rules. Where do you see your civil and/or spiritual rulers flaunting the law? What tempts you to flaunt the law? Does the love of mammon distort your priorities?