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How God Chooses A King


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. (Deut 17:14-20)


God knew in the process of time, His beloved people would desire to have their own earthly kings, just like their neighbouring nations. The splendour and glory of living in a kingdom where a king ruled and reigned was something they longed to have also.

God was, and is and will be their King. But they could not see their Heavenly King. Their eyes were upon the riches that other nations were enjoying with a king in place. Their hearts were desiring to have a king to mobilize them to fight against their enemies in the Promised Land.

God permitted them to have a king but with some terms and conditions attached:

  1. Chosen by God
  2. Chosen among their brothers
  3. No foreigners
  4. No excessive power
  5. No excessive wives
  6. No excessive wealth
  7. Copying the Scriptures himself
  8. Reading the Scriptures daily
  9. Not becoming proud
  10. Keeping God’s commandments


1. Chosen By God

"...you shall surely set a king over you whom the LORD your God chooses..." (Deut 17:15)

God foreknew about 400 years earlier that the Israelites would elect a king to rule over them. They needed to be directed in their choices and decisions for such an important matter. God knew how deceptive their hearts were, and how they would err if they were left on their own. He therefore asked Moses to write down this utmost requirement. They had to seek God, and ask Him for His counsel in electing the right man.

God Himself is the King of kings. All earthly kings are under Him. To set a king over His people, it was necessary that God Himself should nominate the person. Accordingly, when the people desired to have a king, they would approach a prophet of the LORD.

Saul was appointed and anointed as the first king of Israel by the prophet Samuel. The whole selection process by God can be found in 1 Samuel chapters 9 and 10. David was the second king of Israel. How God chose him was described in 1 Samuel 16. But not all kings of Israel and Judah were chosen by God. The Israelites were reproved by God for not observing His requirement:

They set up kings, but not by Me;
they made princes, but I did not acknowledge them.
From their silver and gold
they made idols for themselves--
that they might be cut off. (Hosea 8:4)


2. Chosen Among Their Brothers

"...one from among your brethren you shall set as king over you..." (Deut 17:15)

God is not just the King of Israel. He is also their Abba Father! He desires that His sons would dwell together in unity as loving brothers (Psalm 133:1).

The kingdom of God is a family setup. Brothers working together for the total and overall good of the family. There should not be any strife and fighting among the brothers over who should lead and who should follow. It was their Father’s choice, and they should obey accordingly with joy and delight.


3. No Foreigners

"...you may not set a foreigner over you, who is not your brother." (Deut 17:15)

God is very protective over His people. Foreigners would introduce strange customs and other gods. They would not come under the divine laws and leadership of God. By doing this, God was preserving and keeping His people holy:

For you are a holy people to the LORD your God; the LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth. (Deut 7:6)

The foreigners could sometimes be their enemies under the pretence of helping them by forming unholy alliances. Their help was in the LORD Himself, and no one else.


4. No Excessive Power

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.' (Deut 17:16)

The king should not multiply horses for himself. In the ancient East, the horses were not used for the purposes of agriculture or travel. They were primarily used for wars and battles.

Some trust in chariots, and some in horses;
but we will remember the name of the LORD our God. (Psalm 20:7)

This prohibition aimed to teach the elected kings to put their trust in God, for the battle belonged to the LORD! The kings could possess power but should not be possessed by the lust for power. They should not be like other pagan kings building costly and formidable preparations for war.

Yet I will have mercy on the house of Judah,
will save them by the LORD their God,
and will not save them by bow,
nor by sword or battle,
by horses or horsemen.
(Hosea 1:7)

Egypt was the principal source from which the surrounding nations got their supplies of horses. This would produce a great reliance and dependence upon Egypt. In the process, they would reverse the great deliverance that God had brought them out from the bondage of Egypt. Trading with Egypt would again enslave them as they became dependent, and came under the Egyptian powers and controls. God therefore severely warned that they should no more return that way again back to Egypt.


5. No Excessive Wives

"Neither shall he multiply wives for himself, lest his heart turn away..." (Deut 17:17)

Multiplication of wives would lead to sensuality. Nothing was worse than the continual indulgence of satisfying the lusts of the flesh. The king must not have too many wives as they were beyond his capacity to handle.

Excessive wives could turn his heart away from God. Solomon attempted to handle a thousand wives. But his failure was published in 1 Kings 11. He disobeyed God's instruction by loving many foreign women. His wives turned his heart after their pagan gods.

The king must know his own heart, limitations, strengths and weaknesses. Besides governing the nation well, God expected the king to manage his wives and family also.


6. No Excessive Wealth

"...nor shall he greatly multiply silver and gold for himself." (Deut 17:17)

The king must not gratify the love of money by greatly multiplying silver and gold for himself. To multiply money, the king often would oppress his own people as he raised it through heavy taxes and other evil schemes.

Do not trust in oppression,
nor vainly hope in robbery;
if riches increase,
do not set your heart on them. (Psalm 62:10)

The king must not multiply it for himself. David prospered abundantly in silver and gold. But they were used for the service of God, not for himself, and not for his own family.

Moreover, because I have set my affection on the house of my God, I have given to the house of my God, over and above all that I have prepared for the holy house, my own special treasure of gold and silver…(1 Chron 29:3)


7. Copying The Scriptures 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." (Deut 17:18)

To rule the nation with righteousness and justice, the king must know the laws of God. He must write himself a copy of the Scriptures out of the original, which was in the custody of the priests who served in the tabernacle.

Some commentators said that the king had to transcribe all the five books of Moses, which was known as the Torah - the foundation of the Hebraic faith. But others said that the king was to write only the book of Deuteronomy, which was an abstract of the Torah. Being mostly moral and judicial, Deuteronomy would be of more concern to the king than the ceremonial and priestly laws in Leviticus and Numbers. Concerning this matter, the complete Torah was the better option.

The king must have his own copy to be written by his own hands. He should not be presumptuous to use those copies handed down to him by his ancestors or predecessors. Their copies might be worn and torn after many years of use. The LORD required him to write a fresh copy to begin his reign.

The king might have scribes and secretaries whom he could employ to copy the Scriptures for him. They perhaps could write better or have nicer handwritings than him. But the king could not pass this responsibility to them. He must do it himself with his own hands for the glory and honour of his nation and God.

This exercise of copying the Scriptures trained the king to do personal study of the Scriptures. By writing it letter by letter, word by word, the Scriptures were imprinted in his mind. A prudent pen could go very far beyond the deficiencies of a weak human memory.


8. Reading The Scriptures Daily

"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..." (Deut 17:19)

After writing a copy of the Holy Scriptures by his own hands, the king must not think that it was to be safely kept in his cabinet. He must read everything written therein all the days of his life.

King David obeyed the LORD, and he had done it as he wrote:

But his delight is in the law of the LORD,
and in His law he meditates day and night.
He shall be like a tree
planted by the rivers of water,
that brings forth its fruit in its season,
whose leaf also shall not wither;
and whatever he does shall prosper. (Psalm 1:2-3)

Beyond reading the Torah, the king must use and apply them as the needs arose in his daily duties and routines. As he studied and learnt of the ways of the LORD, he became learned and competent to deal with the various matters of the kingdom. He also increased in wisdom as he gave holy reverence to the LORD.

The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge,
but fools despise wisdom and instruction. (Proverbs 1:7)


9. Not Becoming Proud

"...that his heart may not be lifted above his brethren..." (Deut 17:20)

As the king kept the Word of God in his heart, his heart would not be lifted up above his brothers. He would love them, and take good care of them. He would consider himself as a humble servant of the Most High God, serving Him and His people. King David had served his own generation by the will of God before he died (Acts 13:36).

Even as the king was exalted in his throne, he remained humble in his heart. The fear of his God would prevent him to get puffed up, carrying himself haughtily or arrogantly towards his own people.


10. Keeping God’s Commandments

"...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." (Deut 17:20)

The Word of God would keep the king in the right path, not turning to the right or to the left. Trust and obey God is the only way to reign righteously.

The king who feared God and kept His commandments did better than those who did not. Besides godly wealth and power that God would bestow upon the king and his people, God also promised to prolong his days in his kingdom.

There were many kings who had disobeyed the LORD. Samuel said to King Saul in 1 Samuel 13:13-14:

"You have done foolishly. You have not kept the commandment of the LORD your God, which He commanded you. For now the LORD would have established your kingdom over Israel forever. But now your kingdom shall not continue. The LORD has sought for Himself a man after His own heart, and the LORD has commanded him to be commander over His people, because you have not kept what the LORD commanded you."

Nehemiah testified against those kings who did not obey God’s commandments (Nehemiah 9:34-35):

Neither our kings nor our princes,
our priests nor our fathers,
have kept Your law,
nor heeded Your commandments and Your testimonies,
with which You testified against them.

For they have not served You in their kingdom,
or in the many good things that You gave them,
or in the large and rich land which You set before them;
nor did they turn from their wicked works.

Conclusion:

In Revelation 1:5-6, Jesus loves us, and has washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests. We shall reign with Him, as kings and priests to our God, on the earth (Revelation 5:10).

With this in mind, let’s shape up our hearts before taking up our kingly and priestly positions. Remember His terms and conditions.

Source:
Matthew Henry's Commentary

Written on:
9 November 2004