Deuteronomy 17 & Psalm 104

Deuteronomy 17

    “You shall not sacrifice to the LORD your God an ox or a sheep in which is a blemish, any defect whatever, for that is an abomination to the LORD your God.

    “If there is found among you, within any of your towns that the LORD your God is giving you, a man or woman who does what is evil in the sight of the LORD your God, in transgressing his covenant, and has gone and served other gods and worshiped them, or the sun or the moon or any of the host of heaven, which I have forbidden, and it is told you and you hear of it, then you shall inquire diligently, and if it is true and certain that such an abomination has been done in Israel, then you shall bring out to your gates that man or woman who has done this evil thing, and you shall stone that man or woman to death with stones. On the evidence of two witnesses or of three witnesses the one who is to die shall be put to death; a person shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness. The hand of the witnesses shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.

    “If any case arises requiring decision between one kind of homicide and another, one kind of legal right and another, or one kind of assault and another, any case within your towns that is too difficult for you, then you shall arise and go up to the place that the LORD your God will choose. And you shall come to the Levitical priests and to the judge who is in office in those days, and you shall consult them, and they shall declare to you the decision. Then you shall do according to what they declare to you from that place that the LORD will choose. And you shall be careful to do according to all that they direct you. According to the instructions that they give you, and according to the decision which they pronounce to you, you shall do. You shall not turn aside from the verdict that they declare to you, either to the right hand or to the left. The man who acts presumptuously by not obeying the priest who stands to minister there before the LORD your God, or the judge, that man shall die. So you shall purge the evil from Israel. And all the people shall hear and fear and not act presumptuously again.

    “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,’ 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. 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.

    “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. 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, 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.

(Deuteronomy 17 ESV)

Psalm 104

    Bless the LORD, O my soul!
        O LORD my God, you are very great!
    You are clothed with splendor and majesty,
        covering yourself with light as with a garment,
        stretching out the heavens like a tent.
    He lays the beams of his chambers on the waters;
    he makes the clouds his chariot;
        he rides on the wings of the wind;
    he makes his messengers winds,
        his ministers a flaming fire.
    He set the earth on its foundations,
        so that it should never be moved.
    You covered it with the deep as with a garment;
        the waters stood above the mountains.
    At your rebuke they fled;
        at the sound of your thunder they took to flight.
    The mountains rose, the valleys sank down
        to the place that you appointed for them.
    You set a boundary that they may not pass,
        so that they might not again cover the earth.
    You make springs gush forth in the valleys;
        they flow between the hills;
    they give drink to every beast of the field;
        the wild donkeys quench their thirst.
    Beside them the birds of the heavens dwell;
        they sing among the branches.
    From your lofty abode you water the mountains;
        the earth is satisfied with the fruit of your work.
    You cause the grass to grow for the livestock
        and plants for man to cultivate,
    that he may bring forth food from the earth
        and wine to gladden the heart of man,
    oil to make his face shine
        and bread to strengthen man's heart.
    The trees of the LORD are watered abundantly,
        the cedars of Lebanon that he planted.
    In them the birds build their nests;
        the stork has her home in the fir trees.
    The high mountains are for the wild goats;
        the rocks are a refuge for the rock badgers.
    He made the moon to mark the seasons;
        the sun knows its time for setting.
    You make darkness, and it is night,
        when all the beasts of the forest creep about.
    The young lions roar for their prey,
        seeking their food from God.
    When the sun rises, they steal away
        and lie down in their dens.
    Man goes out to his work
        and to his labor until the evening.
    O LORD, how manifold are your works!
        In wisdom have you made them all;
        the earth is full of your creatures.
    Here is the sea, great and wide,
        which teems with creatures innumerable,
        living things both small and great.
    There go the ships,
        and Leviathan, which you formed to play in it.
    These all look to you,
        to give them their food in due season.
    When you give it to them, they gather it up;
        when you open your hand, they are filled with good things.
    When you hide your face, they are dismayed;
        when you take away their breath, they die
        and return to their dust.
    When you send forth your Spirit, they are created,
        and you renew the face of the ground.
    May the glory of the LORD endure forever;
        may the LORD rejoice in his works,
    who looks on the earth and it trembles,
        who touches the mountains and they smoke!
    I will sing to the LORD as long as I live;
        I will sing praise to my God while I have being.
    May my meditation be pleasing to him,
        for I rejoice in the LORD.
    Let sinners be consumed from the earth,
        and let the wicked be no more!
    Bless the LORD, O my soul!
    Praise the LORD!

(Psalm 104 ESV)

Something to Consider

Deuteronomy 17: It was foretold that kings would descend from Abraham (Genesis 17), and although the Israelites are several centuries away from establishing the rule of a king, this passage in Deuteronomy anticipates this future event:

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”, you may indeed set a king over you whom the LORD your God will choose. 

God was certainly the ultimate King over His own people. Therefore, if a king was to be established then it was necessary that God be the One who chose such a king. And not only would God choose the king, He provides some specific commands as to what Israel’s kings ought to avoid and what Israel’s kings ought to treasure. 

God strictly warns the people that their kings must avoid all things that might turn his heart away from his God and his religion. How many great men are carried away by a love for the world and the things in this world? Great wealth, high honor and abundant pleasures are three great hindrances to a man’s faithfulness to God. The desires of the flesh, the desires of the eyes and the pride of life are the world’s traps to turn a man’s heart from the love of his God (1 John 2). God warns those in leadership of the temptation to abuse power for the sake of personal gain which was precisely the pitfall of Israel’s wealthiest king - King Solomon.

Instead of treasuring an abundance of riches, God orders Israel’s future kings to treasure the authority of God’s Word. They were to possess a copy of the Scriptures written in their own handwriting which would serve as a constant reminder of the ultimate Authority over their own authority. Kings were to study the Scriptures and let them be what governs their own lives before they seek to govern the lives of others. Reading and obeying the Word of God leads us into a healthy fear of our Lord and humbles our hearts from the temptation of exalting ourselves over those among us. May we train ourselves daily to turn from the treasures of this world and treasure our God and His Word instead.