Daily Family Worship

Deuteronomy 17: Guidance for a King

by | Jun 12, 2022

deuteronomy 17

This chapter begins with a law for the preservation of the honor of God’s worship, by requiring that no animal with any blemish was to be offered in sacrifice to Him. To do so was an abomination to the Lord, for He is the best of beings; and therefore, whatever He is served with ought to be the best in its kind. And concerning the Old Testament sacrifices, it was especially necessary that they were to be perfect, because they were pictures of Jesus, Who is a Lamb without blemish or spot (1 Pet. 1:19). He is perfectly pure from all sin. As we are thus reminded of the perfect, pure, and spotless sacrifice of Christ, we are also reminded to serve Him with the best of our abilities, time, and possessions. Otherwise, our pretended obedience will not be pleasing to Him.

Here we also find the Lord’s law for the punishing of those who worshipped idols. In chapter 13, it was made a capital crime to lead others to idolatry; and here we see that even worshiping idols oneself was worthy of the same punishment. By these laws, God intended to instill a dread of this great sin among His people, when they saw the extreme penalties that would be inflicted upon those guilty of it. The sin of idolatry is described as a transgression of His Covenant. The Lord took Israel to be His people upon the condition that they would serve and worship Him alone as God. Therefore, if they gave any other person or object the honor that was due to Him alone, the Covenant would be void and its blessings would be forfeited.

When the Israelites entered the land of Canaan, courts of judgment were to be set up in every city. These courts were to hear and decide upon causes that were brought before them. Although the judges of these courts would usually be able to give the final decision on the cases brought before them, yet it was here taken for granted that sometimes they would be presented with cases that would be too difficult for them – cases where the evidence was plain, but where the application of the law to such cases was doubtful. Such cases were then to be brought before the higher power in Israel – the priests and Levites, whose learning and experience would certainly qualify them to assist in judging these hard matters. In addition, they would be likely to have the best assistance of the Holy Spirit for the deciding of doubtful things. In other words, although their judgment did not proceed from the audible voice of the Lord speaking to them, it was the judgment of wise, prudent, and experienced men; and it had the advantage of the Lord’s promise to show them what they ought to decide (verse 9). The decision that was made by this council of priests and Levites was to be entirely obeyed by both parties involved, upon pain of death. It is for the honor of God and the well-being of society that the authority of His appointed governors and rulers is upheld and maintained. The Lord ordained that if either of the parties concerned in these difficult cases was to disobey the ruling of this “higher court,” then punishment by death was to be executed. From this, we learn the great evil of the sin of stubborn rebellion; and we also see that the purpose of punishing evildoers is to cause others to see and take heed from their example and their end. It is from this law that the Apostle infers the greatness of the punishment of which those persons will be worthy, who trample underfoot the authority of the Son of God (Heb. 10:28, 29).

Jehovah Himself was Israel’s King. However, foreseeing that they would later desire a human king to be set over them, He here made a provision for their future conduct. Since the Lord was their King, the very idea of desiring another was rebellious (see 1 Sam. 12:1-19; Hos. 8:4). Nevertheless, if they were going to set another ruler over them, it was necessary that the Lord Himself would be the One to choose the person (verses 14, 15). Accordingly, when the people desired a king some 350 years later, they applied to Samuel, a prophet of the Lord. In all situations of life where we are called to make a decision upon a matter, God’s choice should direct, determine, and overrule our own.

Even in the setting up of an earthly monarchy over Israel, the Lord’s will was fulfilled; for He served His own purposes in it, by making the regal government a picture of the Kingdom of the Messiah. The man whom the people would choose to be their king must not be a foreigner; for then there would be danger that he would introduce strange customs or even idolatry, which would be contrary to Divine law. Their king was to be one from among their own people, so that He would be a picture of Jesus, Who is of our own flesh and blood (Heb. 2:14). Laws were also given for the prince who would be appointed. He must carefully avoid everything that would turn him away from the Lord. Riches, honors, and pleasures (or the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eye, and the pride of life) are three great hinderances of Godliness – especially to those in high stations of life. Against these, the king was warned. He was to carefully study the law of God, and make it his rule; and having a copy of the Scriptures that he himself had transcribed with his own hand, he was to read therein all the days of his life. But the king’s writing and reading were nothing, if he did not practice what he wrote and read. Similarly, it is not enough for us to simply possess a Bible; rather, we must use it daily and apply its teaching to our lives.

Lord, as we see how You enjoined the king of Israel to copy the sacred Word with his own hand, and to read therein all the days of his life; we beseech You to give us grace to meditate therein day and night, and – like Your servant of old – may we esteem Your Word as being dearer to us than great stores of gold and silver! Amen.

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photo by Natasha Anne  |  Lightstock.com