Read Deuteronomy 17
17 Do not sacrifice to the Lord your God an ox or a sheep that has any defect or flaw in it, for that would be detestable to him.
2 If a man or woman living among you in one of the towns the Lord gives you is found doing evil in the eyes of the Lord your God in violation of his covenant, 3 and contrary to my command has worshiped other gods, bowing down to them or to the sun or the moon or the stars in the sky, 4 and this has been brought to your attention, then you must investigate it thoroughly. If it is true and it has been proved that this detestable thing has been done in Israel, 5 take the man or woman who has done this evil deed to your city gate and stone that person to death. 6 On the testimony of two or three witnesses a person is to be put to death, but no one is to be put to death on the testimony of only one witness. 7 The hands of the witnesses must be the first in putting that person to death, and then the hands of all the people.You must purge the evil from among you.
8 If cases come before your courts that are too difficult for you to judge—whether bloodshed, lawsuits or assaults—take them to the place the Lordyour God will choose. 9 Go to the Levitical priests and to the judge who is in office at that time. Inquire of them and they will give you the verdict. 10 You must act according to the decisions they give you at the place the Lord will choose. Be careful to do everything they instruct you to do. 11 Act according to whatever they teach you and the decisions they give you. Do not turn aside from what they tell you, to the right or to the left. 12 Anyone who shows contempt for the judge or for the priest who stands ministering there to the Lord your God is to be put to death. You must purge the evil from Israel.13 All the people will hear and be afraid, and will not be contemptuous again.
14 When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you and have taken possession of it and settled in it, and you say, “Let us set a king over us like all the nations around us,” 15 be sure to appoint over you a king the Lordyour God chooses. He must be from among your fellow Israelites. Do not place a foreigner over you, one who is not an Israelite. 16 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.” 17 He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray. He must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold.
18 When he takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from that of the Levitical priests. 19 It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the Lord his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees 20 and not consider himself better than his fellow Israelites and turn from the law to the right or to the left. Then he and his descendants will reign a long time over his kingdom in Israel.
Deuteronomy 17 addresses the requirements for sacrifices, laws regarding justice and courts, and the qualifications for kings. These laws are essential for understanding the rest of the Old Testament, specifically the stipulations for kings. At this point in the history of the Israelites, God was the one who led them. However, there would come a day when they would reject God as their supreme ruler and desire an earthly king to rule over them. There are many passages that predicted that Israel would one day have a king (Genesis 35:11, 36:31). The Israelites desired to be just like the rest of the nations, so God eventually allowed them to have temporary kings because of their hardened hearts.
Moses sets rules for the kings in this chapter and instructs them on what kings should (and should not) do. Moses tells them that a king should be chosen by God and selected by the people they lead (v. 15). They must live simply and they must carefully follow God’s decrees and laws (v. 18-19). They are to rule in a way that serves the interests of the people, and not their own benefit. Kings are to avoid the pursuit of riches because of the temptation to trust in wealth instead of the Lord (v. 16-17). They are to walk with humility and set God’s law before them as a reminder of who they truly serve. The promise in following these commands would be that the kings and their descendants would reign for many years in Israel (v. 20).
Israel had numerous kings throughout its history, with very few that were righteous. When we go down the line of kings we might get our hopes up, but time after time we see rulers that did not measure up to these Deuteronomical expectations. King Solomon, for example, started off well but over time he clearly broke the guidelines laid out in this chapter. He accumulated large amounts of wealth, he married the daughters of other kings for political alliances, and he adopted foreign gods and introduced the worship of those gods into Israel. After Solomon’s reign, the kingdom split into two and fell to foreign enemies. At the end of the day, the Israelities didn’t need an earthly king; they needed a savior. These kings pointed to the King of Kings, Jesus Christ. No human can be a king apart from the sovereignty of a divine King. A king is ultimately a servant of the Lord.
Moses told the Israelites that who was leading them mattered. The same is true of us today. How we lead and who we follow matters. This chapter gives us insight into what godly leadership is supposed to look like and the kind of character the Lord values. It is clear in Scripture that leaders are chosen by the Lord (Romans 13:1). From this chapter, we see that godly leadership looks like humility, service, and a love for God and His Word. It looks like is doing nothing out of self ambition, but humbly considering others as more significant (Philippians 2:3). Leadership is service, and should be marked by a submission to the Lord. Every one of us is a leader in some capacity, and has influence over others. Let’s be a people marked by godly character and lead in a way that brings glory to God!
- What stands out to you about this chapter?
- When looking at the requirements for leaders, is there a specific area you can grow in?
- Who is a godly leader in your life? What characteristics do you see in them?
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