NOTE: Today is the first of what I hope to have become a weekly installment on the Second Mile Pastor’s Blog, the Ministry Passage of the Week, or “MPOW” (I kind of like how powerful the term M-POW sounds!). These passages come from Bible Boot Camp, an intensive leadership development course that I am teaching this fall to about 20 growing leaders. In the next four months, these men and women will work through 350 Bible passages that they’ll be able to use in ministry. I’ll take one per week on the blog and use this as an opportunity to share an important text of Scripture and how it can be applied to our lives in practical ways.
Deuteronomy 17:14-20 – Guard Your Heart Against Gold, Glory and Girls (Instructions for a king over Israel)
14 When you come to the land that the Lord your God is giving you, and you possess it and dwell in it and then say, ‘I will set a king over me, like all the nations that are around me,’ 15 you may indeed set a king over you whom the Lord your God will choose. 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. 16 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.’ 17 And he shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away, nor shall he acquire for himself excessive silver and gold. 18 “And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests. 19 And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them, 20 that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel.
In this passage God gives instructions to the people of Israel about the kind of leadership they will need from their future king. The people have not even asked for a king yet, but God knows that they will — and here are his expectations:
1. The king should be a student of Scripture (v. 18-20). God expected the king to write out a copy of the law by hand that he would read and study all the days of his life. Why? So that “his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment” (17:20). In other words, God knew that the only thing that would keep Israel’s leader humble and obedient would be clinging closely to Scripture.
2. The king should guard himself against seeking Glory (v. 16). God prohibits the king from multiplying horses, an obvious symbol of a king’s power or wealth. He knew that the king’s thirst for power, glory, and acclaim would potentially lead him to even return to Egypt.
3. The king should guard himself against seeking Girls (v. 17). God also prohibits the king from multiplying wives, “lest his heart turn away.” God knew that the king’s appetite to have many women would have devastating effects (and God also knew that taking on additional wives usually meant forming treaties with other godless nations — also an evidence of a thirst for glory).
4. The king should guard himself against seeking Gold (v. 17). God tells the people that they king should not “acquire for himself excessive silver and gold.” God knew that when the king had too much money resources, he would be inclined to forget his need for God.
What’s the lesson for us?
The lessons here are pretty obvious. There is something about the human heart that is easily wrapped up in money, power, and romantic relationships (women) or sexual fantasy (men). These idols often lead us astray and without being tethered to God through his word, we stand very little chance to be faithful. Interestingly, Solomon is a case study for a man who–despite his unparalleled wisdom–was undone by his lust for power, money and women. It literally tore the kingdom apart.
We are the children of God in Christ, which means that our true identity lies with the one who:
1) used the Scripture to reject the enemy’s invitation to short-lived power (Matt 4:8-10) so that he could give us the true power of reigning with him,
2) lived as a homeless man with no place to rest his head (Matt 8:20) so that we could have an eternal and Heavenly home, and
3) was pure in his relationships with women so that through his substitutionary death he could truly create one new and purified bride for himself, the church (Eph 5:25-27).
May we embrace our identity in Christ and guard our hearts from these lesser idols!