Scripture: One from among your brothers you shall set as king over you. You may not put a foreigner over you, who is not your brother. Only he must not acquire many horses for himself or cause the people to return to Egypt in order to acquire many horses, since the LORD has said to you, You shall never return that way again.’ And he shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away, nor shall he acquire for himself excessive silver and gold. Deuteronomy 17:15b-17 ESV
Observation: Having emphasized the importance of upholding justice (yesterday’s Daily Focus), Moses segues to a review of the consequences of idolatry and pagan worship: a capital offense warranting stoning (17:1-7). He then returns to the subject of Israel’s judicial system under the governing authority of priests and judges (vv.8-13). Anyone who disregards their rendered decision will face execution. While this form of government may sound autocratic, the intent is to purge the evil from Israel (v.12) and set a cautionary example for would-be dissidents who would otherwise jeopardize fellowship with Yahweh and the nation’s wellbeing (v.13).
Moses then returns to the subject of leadership, anticipating that Israel will clamor to appoint a king over them to follow the monarchial governments of the surrounding nations (v.14). Granting permission, Moses lays out the protocol (above verses):
- The Lord will choose your king from one of the brothers (v.15b).
- The king must not acquire many horses (v.16).
- He must not cause the people to return to Egypt (v.16).
- He must not acquire many wives (v.17).
- Nor shall he acquire excessive silver and gold (v.17)
As history would prove, most of Israel’s and Judah’s kings would violate one or more of these requirements and lead Israel astray from God to abominable pagan worship that even included the sacrifice of young children, thus leading to their exile.
Takeaway: There are at least three teaching points in this short passage. First, similar to acquiring many horses, when cultural trends or governmental policies threaten our faith, it is tempting to seek self-preservation over being “salt and light.” We lose sight of the Lord’s protection and seek ways to appease the opposition. Secondly, just as kings must resist taking on many wives and luxuries of wealth (silver and gold), we too must resist living in excess. It’s hard, though. Much of the advertising that makes its way to our phones, computers, and TVs often sends us subliminally messages that “having more will make us happy.” But discontent leads to contempt.
Lastly, perhaps most importantly, “the LORD has said to you, You shall never return that way again” (v.16). As Solomon (Proverbs 26:11) and Peter (2 Peter 2:22) contend, fools abandon the wisdom of God and return to their self-destructive ways like a dog that returns to his vomit. Peter adds that the one who yields to his earlier way of life would be better off having never known the way of righteousness (v.21).
So whether Israel or us, now that we have found salvation in Christ and appropriated his righteousness, let us not allow setbacks to tempt us to make a u-return to the life we knew under the tyranny of sin. Instead, let’s press onward and upward through difficult times, trusting our Lord to provide, protect, and guide us to the glory awaiting us under the reign of our brother, King Jesus.
Prayer: Father God, we thank you for choosing your Son, Jesus, to be our king. Would you please help us cooperate with your Holy Spirit walking in the ways of your Son’s righteousness, resisting any temptation to u-turn when times are tough? Amen.
Rev. Gordon Green, M.Div., M.A. Counseling