A King Whom God Will Choose

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. – Deuteronomy 17:14-25 ESV

In yesterday’s post, we saw that a day would come when the people of Israel would reject God as their rightful King and demand that He provide them with a human king. They would make their request known to Samuel, the prophet of God.

“…you are now old, and your sons are not like you. Give us a king to judge us like all the other nations have.” – 1 Samuel 8:5 NLT

Samuel would find their demands offensive, but God would command him to do exactly as they had requested.

“Do everything they say to you,” the LORD replied, “for they are rejecting me, not you. They don’t want me to be their king any longer. Ever since I brought them from Egypt they have continually abandoned me and followed other gods. And now they are giving you the same treatment. Do as they ask, but solemnly warn them about the way a king will reign over them.” – 1 Samuel 8:8-10 NLT

It would be easy to assume that God was simply acceding to their demands and giving them just what they had asked for: A king to judge us like all the other nations have. But that would be a false assumption. As today’s passage indicates, God knew that the day would come when the people would ask for a king.

When you come to the land the Lord your God is giving you and take it over and live in it and then say, ‘I will select a king like all the nations surrounding me…’” – Deuteronomy 17:14 NLT

God knew in advance what the Israelites were going to do and he had already planned for it. In fact, God let them know the kind of king they should select.

“…you must select without fail a king whom the Lord your God chooses. From among your fellow citizens you must appoint a king.” – Deuteronomy 17:15 NLT

Notice God’s stipulation. He was more than willing for them to select a king for themselves, but it was going to have to be the man He chose. This man would have to have God’s blessing, and he would have to meet God’s standards, which included Israelite citizenship. No non-Jew was to rule over God’s people. And, while they would demand a king just like all the other nations, God was not going to allow this man to emulate the ways of these foreign potentates.

“…he must not accumulate horses for himself or allow the people to return to Egypt to do so…” – Deuteronomy 17:16 NLT

Stables filled with fine horses might characterize the kingdoms of other rulers, but God was going to expect His king to remain set apart, wholly distinct from all other human-appointed rulers. This would include a ban on accumulating wives and concubines, a typical manifestation of royal power and privilege.

“…he must not marry many wives lest his affections turn aside, and he must not accumulate much silver and gold.” – Deuteronomy 17:17 NLT

The people were going to demand that they be given a king who looked like every other king. They would be thinking in terms of power, position, and prominence. The kind of king they had in mind would have all the familiar trappings of kingship, much like Pharaoh had enjoyed.

But God was not interested in placing the care of His chosen people in the hands of just any king. There would be rules and requirements involved. This man would have to rule and reign according to God’s will. He would have to obey God’s commands. But to do so, he would have to be intimately familiar with those commands, which is why God commanded:

“When he sits on his royal throne he must make a copy of this law on a scroll given to him by the Levitical priests. It must be with him constantly and he must read it as long as he lives, so that he may learn to revere the Lord his God and observe all the words of this law and these statutes and carry them out.” – Deuteronomy 17:18-19 NLT

A godly king would need to know God’s law. And he would have to rule over God’s people in a way that reflected his knowledge of God’s will. There was no place for pride or arrogance. God’s chosen king would serve as His representative, treating the people of God with the same care and concern He would. And if he did, God promised that “he and his descendants will enjoy many years ruling over his kingdom in Israel” (Deuteronomy 17:20 NLT).

But years later, when the people of Israel would bring their demand for a king to Samuel, God would warn them that He was going to give them exactly what they were asking for. He would give them a king just like all the other nations.

“This is how a king will reign over you,” Samuel said. “The king will draft your sons and assign them to his chariots and his charioteers, making them run before his chariots. Some will be generals and captains in his army, some will be forced to plow in his fields and harvest his crops, and some will make his weapons and chariot equipment. The king will take your daughters from you and force them to cook and bake and make perfumes for him. He will take away the best of your fields and vineyards and olive groves and give them to his own officials. He will take a tenth of your grain and your grape harvest and distribute it among his officers and attendants. He will take your male and female slaves and demand the finest of your cattle and donkeys for his own use. He will demand a tenth of your flocks, and you will be his slaves. When that day comes, you will beg for relief from this king you are demanding, but then the LORD will not help you.” – 1 Samuel 8:11-18 NLT

Their preferred version of a king would end up coming back to haunt them. God warned them that He would give them exactly what they demanded. He would give them their hearts desire, even though it would not turn out well for them in the long-run. But, in spite of God’s warning, they would refuse to relent on their demands.

“Even so, we still want a king,” they said. “We want to be like the nations around us. Our king will judge us and lead us into battle.” – 1 Samuel 8:19-20 NLT

God was not opposed to Israel having a king. In fact, He would eventually give them David as their king, a man after His own heart. But before David reigned over Israel, they would suffer under the lousy leadership of Saul, a man who would end up being a king just all the other nations had. And David’s own son, Solomon, would end up disobeying God’s commands, eventually amassing a harem consisting of “700 wives of royal birth and 300 concubines” (1 Kings 11:3 NLT). And most of his wives would be foreign-born and idolaters. They would eventually lead him astray, causing him to forsake God and set up idols all throughout his kingdom. And for this indescretion, God would split his kingdom in half, forming the two nations of Israel and Judah.

It was not that God was against Israel having a king, it was that He preferred a king who shared His heart. He wanted a man who would rule and reign as God’s representative, shepherding His sheep as David would eventually do.

With upright heart he shepherded them and guided them with his skillful hand. – Psalm 78:72 ESV

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

 

 

 

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Bless, As You Have Been Blessed

12 “If your brother, a Hebrew man or a Hebrew woman, is sold to you, he shall serve you six years, and in the seventh year you shall let him go free from you. 13 And when you let him go free from you, you shall not let him go empty-handed. 14 You shall furnish him liberally out of your flock, out of your threshing floor, and out of your winepress. As the Lord your God has blessed you, you shall give to him. 15 You shall remember that you were a slave in the land of Egypt, and the Lord your God redeemed you; therefore I command you this today. 16 But if he says to you, ‘I will not go out from you,’ because he loves you and your household, since he is well-off with you, 17 then you shall take an awl, and put it through his ear into the door, and he shall be your slave forever. And to your female slave you shall do the same. 18 It shall not seem hard to you when you let him go free from you, for at half the cost of a hired worker he has served you six years. So the Lord your God will bless you in all that you do. – Deuteronomy 15:12-18 ESV

The people of God were supposed to stand out from all the rest of the nations living in and around the land of Canaan. Their unique status as God’s chosen people placed upon them an obligation to live according to His will for them and that will was all-inclusive, covering every aspect of their lives. God made no allowance for compartmentalization. In other words, He left no area of daily life untouched or outside the pervue of His divine decrees. Everything about them was to reflect their unparalleled relationship with Him. From God’s perspective they were to be “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exodus 19:6 ESV) and “a people holy to the LORD your God” (Deuteronomy 14:21 ESV).

In this passage, we see Moses dealing with a topic that causes some unease and uncertainty for our modern and more enlightened sensibilities. He addresses the issue of slavery. But it’s important that we grasp the cultural context and understand the true nature of the kind of slavery being discussed. It’s easy for us to read this text and use our contemporary understandings of slavery to define what Moses is talking about. We conjure up images of slave ships and innocent people being ripped from their homes and forced into servitude and bondage against their wills. And while that form of slavery was widespread during the time in which the book of Deuteronomy was written, Moses is dealing with something different altogether.

As was seen in the previous verses, God had made provision for the needy among the Israelites. He had given the nation a series of commands designed to provide ongiong care for those who were suffering from any form of physical or financial need. And Moses had told them, “there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I command you, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land’” (Deuteronomy 15:11 ESV).

One of the primary means by which a destitute individual could seek relief was by willingly offering themselves as a servant to one of their fellow Hebrews. It was a matter of economics and a question of survival. The individual in need took the initiative, offering their services in exchange for food and shelter. That’s how Moses describes it:

“If a fellow Hebrew sells himself or herself to be your servant…” – Deuteronomy 15:12 NLT

This was not a case of forced slavery, but voluntary servitude. This system provided an opportunity for the financially prosperous to help their less-fortunate brothers and sisters. But, like all well-intentioned welfare programs, this one could easily be abused. So, God set up conditions and parameters to guide the Israelites in their practice of this essential community assistance program. Moses informed the people that this servant/master relationship was to be governed by the sabbatical year. After six years of continual service, the one who had sold themselves into slavery was to be released.

“If a fellow Hebrew sells himself or herself to be your servant and serves you for six years, in the seventh year you must set that servant free.” – Deuteronomy 15:12 NLT

The covenant or agreement made between the two parties was absolved by the sabbatical year. For six years they had enjoyed a mutually beneficial arrangement whereby the destitute individual was able to live in relative comfort while their benefactor enjoyed the benefit of relatively low-cost labor. And this business-like arrangement helped to curtail the number of needy families within the Israelite community.

Even when the time of release came, the master was to bless his servant with a gift. They were not to simply cancel the contract and send their former servant out on their own. To do so would have forced the servant back into their original condition of poverty. So, to prevent that from happening, God required the master to “bless” their departing servant with a gift.

“When you release a male servant, do not send him away empty-handed. Give him a generous farewell gift from your flock, your threshing floor, and your winepress. Share with him some of the bounty with which the Lord your God has blessed you.” – Deuteronomy 15:13-14 NLT

They were to bless their former servant as they had been blessed by God: graciously and generously. And Moses reminded them that they were still on the upside in this exchange because they had enjoyed six years of drastically reduced labor costs while the servant had been in their employ.

“You must not consider it a hardship when you release your servants. Remember that for six years they have given you services worth double the wages of hired workers…” – Deuteronomy 15:18 NLT

And God provided another vital condition to this master/servant relationship. If the sabbatical year arrived, the servant could voluntarily choose to remain with his master. After six years, they could determine that the arrangement they had was preferable to starting out on their own and, as a result, they could offer to extend the original agreement.

“But suppose your servant says, ‘I will not leave you,’ because he loves you and your family, and he has done well with you. In that case, take an awl and push it through his earlobe into the door. After that, he will be your servant for life. And do the same for your female servants.” – Deuteronomy 15:16-17 NLT

Again, it is essential that we understand that voluntary nature of this transaction. No one is being forced into slavery. It is a mutually beneficial arrangement based on love and the well-being of both parties.

Ultimately, God was concerned about the integrity of His name. He had set apart the entire nation of Israel – including every man, woman, and child. His call was not based on economic status, gender, age, or social standing. The entire nation belonged to Him and thåe manner in which they treated one another was going to reflect on Him – either positively or negatively. So, He provided a range of regulations and rules to govern their corporate behavior. Nothing was left out. There was no secular-sacred split. God refused to turn a blind eye to any area of their lives. He expected and demanded complete dedication from His people. Their actions and attitudes mattered. And each and every Israelite was to be considered as a vital part of the family of God.

English Standard Version (ESV) The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. ESV® Permanent Text Edition® (2016). Copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers.

New Living Translation (NLT) Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2015 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

The Message (MSG) Copyright © 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2001, 2002 by Eugene H. Peterson

 

 

 

Strong Words About the Weak.

Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered. – 1 Peter 3:7 ESV

We might as deal with the most challenging part of this verse first. What does Peter mean when he refers to women as “the weaker vessel”? He most certainly was not inferring that women are somehow inferior to men. While that was the common societal perspective of his day, Peter, like Jesus, held women in high esteem and as the spiritual equals of men. While he believed in and adhered to God’s created order that the man was to be the head of his household, women were in no way subservient. So what should we make of his point that women are somehow weaker than men? What is he trying to say? The easy and most obvious answer would be that women are, in most cases, physically weaker than men. No, this is not always true, but it is usually an accepted fact that men are physically stronger than women. It could also be referring to the more sensitive nature of a woman’s emotional makeup. Women tend to be exhibit the characteristics of compassion, tenderness, love, kindness, mercy and care. This is not to say that men do not share these traits, but they are more commonly associated with women. Peter could have simply been encouraging the men to whom he was writing to know their wives well and to be sensitive to their physical, spiritual and emotional makeups. One way in which we could view Peter’s words are to see the wife as fine china, weaker in the sense of fragility and value. They are to be treated with tenderness and care. They are to be seen as irreplaceable and priceless.

He told them to “live with your wives in an understanding way.” The literal translation of the phrase Peter uses could be “according to knowledge.” Not only should a husband know his wife well, but he should know how God would have him express love to his wife. He is to honor her based on what he knows about her. And he is to see her as his partner in life, his heir of the grace of life.

It was God’s idea to put man and woman together as husband and wife. Together they complement and complete one another. They each have God-given roles and responsibilities and each is to honor and respect the other. The husband is to see his wife as his partner in life, and that would include in his spiritual life. In the culture in which Peter lived, women were expected to accept the religion of their husbands, without any say or input into the matter. They had no rights regarding the matter. So perhaps Peter is addressing husbands whose wives were not believers. This would seem to fit in with his address to the wives who had husbands who were not yet believers. It was obviously common for men and women to come to faith in Christ while their spouses remained unsaved. So it could be that when Peter addresses wives as “the weaker vessel,” he is either referring to non-believing wives or wives who are less mature in their faith. In his letter to the Romans, Paul addressed this very issue and used similar language. He wrote, “As for the one who is weak in faith, welcome him, but not to quarrel over opinions” (Romans 14:1 ESV). He then went on to deal with situations within the church involving gray areas or personal convictions. There were those in the church who felt it was wrong to eat certain kinds of foods. They were bringing their convictions from their former religions or lifestyles into the fellowship, without realizing that there were no such restrictions within Christianity. Others in the fellowship, who knew that these convictions were baseless were guilty of looking down on their “weaker” brothers, flaunting their rights and freedoms in their faces. Paul called them on the carpet for this, admonishing them to give up their rights for the sake of their weaker brothers.

So it could be that Peter is making a similar point. He just might be addressing believing husbands whose wives are immature in their faith. Peter could have been encouraging husbands to treat their wives with deference and honor, knowing that their faith was less developed. Whatever the case, Paul’s admonishment to the believers in Rome still applies: “For none of us lives to himself, and none of us dies to himself. For if we live, we live to the Lord, and if we die, we die to the Lord. So then, whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s” (Romans 14:7-8 ESV). There is a selflessness that is to characterize the life of a believer, and that is especially true within the marriage context. The husband and wife are to treat one another with honor and respect. They are to understand that their relationship is God-ordained and that together they share in the grace of life.

Peter concludes his remarks to husbands with an interesting word of warning concerning unanswered prayer. He seems to indicate that if a husband does not live with his wife in an understanding way, showing her honor and treating her with respect, his prayers will go unanswered. This shows how important this matter is to God. To mistreat, undervalue or dishonor one’s wife is sin. Sin hampers and hinders our relationship with God. A believing husband who does not place the proper value on his wife cannot expect to be heard by God. When God looks at a marriage, He sees the two as one. He holds them both accountable. There was no doubt that those who came to faith in Peter’s day were faced with all kinds of difficulties in the form of trials, temptations and even persecution. But there would also have been potential conflict within the home. Christianity was bringing with it a certain degree of conflict, even between parents and children, husbands and wives. So Peter called men to love their wives, whether believing or lost, in a way that would please God and keep the channels of communication open between themselves and their heavenly Father.

Proverbs 25c

Actions Speak Louder Than Words.

“Singing cheerful songs to a person with a heavy heart is like taking someone’s coat in cold weather or pouring vinegar in a wound.” – Proverbs 25:20 NLT

I love this verse. There’s something a bit sarcastic and humorous about it that just brings a smile to my face. I think a big part of what I like about it is that it is so true. When we’re down or going through a difficult time, there’s nothing worse than that person who walks into the room with a big smile on their face and a mission to motivate us like a cheerleader with a set of pom-poms. There are times when silence is golden and saying nothing really is the best policy. There is nothing wrong with a little positive motivation, but timing is so important, and empathy is even more critical. It is difficult to receive the upbeat cheers of an individual who you believe has no clue what you’re going through. And if we’re honest, many of us can be guilty of trying to cheer someone up before we even understand why they’re down to begin with.

Think about the analogy used in this verse. Singing cheerful songs to a despondent person is like taking their coat away from them on a cold winter’s day. It is robbing them of the one thing in which they are finding comfort and consolation. Trying to motivate someone into a sense of joy when they are going through difficulty is callously robbing them of their only source of comfort at that moment. They are down for a reason, and sometimes there is a sense in which our despondency is a source of solace to us. Singing happy songs does not make the problem go away, no more than taking away someone’s coat on a winter’s day makes the cold go away. They are wearing a coat for a reason. It’s cold. They have a heavy heart for a reason. Do we take the time to find out what that reason is? To not do so is like pouring vinegar in a wound. It will burn and sting, but prove to be of no value. There is no medicinal value in vinegar. It is not healing or helpful, only painful.

So what’s the point? I think Solomon is telling us that we need to be sensitive to the needs of those to whom we are attempting to minister. Take the time to discover the source of their pain and heartache, don’t just try to alleviate it. Taking their coat doesn’t get rid of the cold. Getting them to sing happy songs doesn’t get rid of their sorrow. Empathy requires time and effort. We have to slow down long enough to understand what is going on. Sometimes we just need to stop singing and start listening. Stop cheering and begin hearing what they have to say. There is a time when words of cheer are appropriate. “Kind words are like honey – sweet to the soul and healthy to the body” (Proverbs 16:24 NLT). “Timely advice is lovely, like golden apples in a silver basket” (Proverbs 25:11 NLT). “Worry weighs a person down; an encouraging word cheers a person up” (Proverbs 12:25 NLT). Timing really is everything. Understanding and empathy are everything else. Think before you cheer.

Father, give me a sensitive heart and a compassion for those around me. Don’t let me be a cheerleader, but a true friend who will be there in times of difficulty to comfort, encourage and care. Amen.

Ken Miller

Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org

Psalm 62 – Day 1

Patiently, Expectantly Waiting.

“Let all that I am wait quietly before God, for my hope is in him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will not be shaken.” – Psalm 62:5-6 NLT

For most of us, waiting on God is viewed as some kind of punishment or penance we must pay for our bad behavior. We view it as if God is somehow holding out on us, making us sweat and suffer as He delays giving us what we want in order to teach us a lesson. But that perspective is based on a faulty view of God. He is not some petty deity using His power maliciously or malevolently in order to get out of us what He wants from us. He is a loving, patient, merciful God whose actions are always driven by His care and concern for us. For if God was withholding from us what we needed, just in order to punish us or teach us a lesson, what kind of God would He be? Jesus pointed this out when He said, “You parents—if your children ask for a loaf of bread, do you give them a stone instead? Or if they ask for a fish, do you give them a snake? Of course not! So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him” (Matthew 7:9-11 NLT). Does that mean we always get what we ask for or that it comes exactly when we expect it? Of course not. God is still God. He is all-knowing and aware of things that are beyond our ability to comprehend. He has a “big picture view” of things that we don’t have. He is not bound by space and time, but knows the future as well as He knows the past or present. He is not even limited by our decisions or bad choices. He is in control at all times. At no point is God ever up in heaven wringing His hands in disbelief because He was somehow caught off guard by the events or circumstances surrounding our lives.

So David says, “I want quietly before God, for my victory comes from Him” (Psalm 62:1 NLT). I love how The Message paraphrases that verse: “God, the one and only – I’ll wait as long as he says. Everything I need comes from him, so why not?” I’ll wait as long as he says. Why? Because He knows best and He has my best in mind. He is my hope and salvation. He is my help and source of healing. He has a plan for my life that is perfect and complete. So David reminds us, “O my people, trust in him at all times. Pour out your heart to him, for God is our refuge” (Psalm 62:8 NLT). Trust in him at all times. Not just in the good times, but at all times. Even when things seem to be going poorly. Even when it appears as if He is nowhere to be found. Even when everything is going against you and everyone seems to be deserting you. Waiting quietly and trust Him. It is in those moments of waiting and trusting that we truly come to know who He really is. It is in quietly waiting that He reminds us of His love and then rewards us with His perfect answer at the perfect time. What we need is NOT the answer we’re hoping for, but the God who provides the answer. We need to know Him better. We need to trust Him more. We need to patiently wait and eagerly anticipate an answer because we know the character of our God. His love never fails.

Father, thank You for the moments of waiting that come into my life on a regular basis. Thank You for teaching me to rely on You and not the world around me. May I continue to learn to wait patiently and expectantly on You because I believe You have my best in mind, in spite of what I see happening around me. Amen

Ken Miller
Grow Pastor & Minister to Men
kenm@christchapelbc.org