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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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