The Heart of a King

Deuteronomy: Changing Times and Our Unchanging God  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  45:33
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Administration of Justice 102

Fifth commandment is about honoring authority. Begins at home, Honors God above all, and Honors the authorities God has established.
1 Peter 2:13–14 ESV
Be subject for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether it be to the emperor as supreme, or to governors as sent by him to punish those who do evil and to praise those who do good.
King as an authority, established by the Lord.
Israel would wind up with a king included in the Justice system. The king would be set as an authority over the people of the land. But what should a king look like according to God’s eyes?
That’s where we dig into our passage today. If you will, turn with me to Deuteronomy chapter 17. We’ll be looking at the end of the chapter, verses 14-20.
Deuteronomy 17:14–20 ESV
“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.
Let’s pray. (prays)

Authority of a King

Notice, God’s law given to the people did not forbid a king. It wasn’t ideal … we even read from last week’s passage that the people were to go to the judge that the Lord appointed at the time. But God knew what the people would desire, and he accommodated for them.
Now here’s the part that is the continuation of Marcus’ sermon from last week:
The King, once established, becomes the ultimate authority in the land. He becomes the ultimate judge and say of matters- his rule of justice is the rule that is implemented in all the land. So what is this part of Moses’ sermon about? The Fifth Commandment. Submitting to Authority. Now that the people have established a new king over the land, it’s an additional layer of authority they have to submit to. And what is the power of this kind of king? Well, the prophet Samuel lays it out to the people well:
1 Samuel 8:11–17 ESV
He said, “These will be the ways of the king who will reign over you: he will take your sons and appoint them to his chariots and to be his horsemen and to run before his chariots. And he will appoint for himself commanders of thousands and commanders of fifties, and some to plow his ground and to reap his harvest, and to make his implements of war and the equipment of his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers and cooks and bakers. He will take the best of your fields and vineyards and olive orchards and give them to his servants. He will take the tenth of your grain and of your vineyards and give it to his officers and to his servants. He will take your male servants and female servants and the best of your young men and your donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take the tenth of your flocks, and you shall be his slaves.
Whenever you add a sinful human element into the direction of governance of the Lord, it comes with its own costs. The whole reason why it wasn’t good for Israel to establish a king was because the Lord God was their king. In setting up a human figurehead, Israel was basically slapping the Lord in the face and rejecting him as their king.
“Oh Lord, it’s alright that you are our god and that you protect us from stuff from time to time, but we need a real physical person in front of us like all the nations around us.”
Unfortunately that was the cost, the compromise, Israel was willing to pay.
And freedom, once relinquished, takes a whole storm of events before its brought back.
But the Lord in his perfect knowledge set in place these statutes to limit the king’s power and to help his people. If they were obeyed, that is. He sets forward the standard for the heart of the king.
That’s where we pick up with the main chunk of our passage. And I’ve split it into two parts: The Not’s and the Do’s. These are pretty straightforward. Let’s take a closer look.

The Not’s

The Not’s
-Not be a Foreigner (v.15)
-Not acquire many horses (v.16)
-Not return to Egypt (v.16)
-Not acquire many wives (v.17)
-Not acquire excessive silver and gold (v.17)
Deuteronomy 17:15 ESV
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.
Notice it is both the Lord and the people setting the king over them. Who elected the king? God or Israel? (Pause) YES.
The requirement is that the people must choose one from among t heir own. Why is this important? Because a foreigner, if Israel saw the strength and might of another nation and said “Come, rule over us and use your armies to protect our land” they would be compromising the very covenant they had with the Lord.
Whenever Moses says “the Lord your God” to the people, he’s reflecting the status of God over the people, the status of the Lord as king of the Land and rightful leader. A foreigner wouldn’t understand this matter. God had chosen to make his covenant with Israel, and any foreigner would not be a part of that covenant with the Lord.
Deuteronomy 17:16 ESV
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.’
Does God have a vendetta against horses? No. Just think about that for a moment and about what it symbolizes.
Back in the day, horses were used in war to pull chariots and for mounted archers. A horse itself could trample over many people and keep you out of the reach of the swords of others. So when the Lord says to Israel, “Don’t acquire many horses,” it would be like saying to the United States, “All right, we are going to limit how many tanks, drones, and nuclear missiles you have so that it will seem like you have next to none left.” Oh boy. What would we place our hope in then, if not in the trustworthiness of our military might and our superior military technology??? Well, the ideal for Israel was that they would turn and trust the Lord, not in the strength of their armies, for victory.
And what’s this part of the verse about returning to Egypt all about?
-Not return to Egypt (leading the people back into the hand of someone else, not relying upon the strength of the Lord to save or to provide).
These laws are about building faith in the Lord, making sure Israel’s kings are trusting Him to lead and not themselves.
But the list continues.
Deuteronomy 17:17 ESV
And he shall not acquire many wives for himself, lest his heart turn away, nor shall he acquire for himself excessive silver and gold.
-Not acquire many wives (lest his heart turn away)
-Not acquire excessive silver and gold
How many people do you know, or do you see in the world, whose hearts have been turned away from God because of the desire for sexual intimacy outside of marriage?
How many more people do you know or see in the world whose hearts pursue all the wealth and the riches the world has to offer?
Both of these things that if not lived according to God’s law, are lures to the pit of folly. Israel’s kings were supposed to know that and live as an example for all people to follow.
And now we switch over to the parallel imagery here: We have a list of the proactive ‘do’s’.

The Do’s

The Do’s
-write a copy of the law approved by the Levitical priests (v.18)
-Keep and read the law (v.19)
-Fear the Lord (v.20)
-Do the words of the law (v.20)
-Live in humility (v.21)
Deuteronomy 17:18 ESV
“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.
Writing out scripture, or writing out the words of the Lord is a very helpful practice. It makes you sit and think about each and every jot and tiddle and why its there. Think of the personal ownership and responsibility these kings were to have before the Lord. And not just by setting up proxy priests and pretending to know the Law of the Lord but living otherwise, but a king who understands the authority he lives under. That the Lord God is the ultimate authority.
And not only does this king write a copy of the law, but he is supposed to read and keep it as well.
Deuteronomy 17:19 ESV
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,
All the days of his life. Day in, day out. With perseverance and consistency. Why? That he may learn to FEAR the LORD his God … fearing the Lord means understanding who you are in respect to who God is.
I don’t know if any of you think about how small you are in the actual universe. Sometimes I’m lying there in bed at night and my mind just starts zooming out out out and away, from you lying on your bed to the town you live in to the state to the country to the continent to the planet to the point where earth is less than a speck in the cosmos of God’s creation, and even further out where our solar system and then galaxy aren’t even visible in the grand creation.
God is infinite. God is perfect. God is holy. When we see ourselves in light of him we should have nothing but the words of Isaiah on our lips, “Woe is me. I am lost. For I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of Hosts!”
That is fear of the Lord. Understanding how unclean, how insignificant we actually are compared to the one who reigns in glory and in power. Its a reverent fear, an awe-filled one that submits to authority.
The kings of Israel were to lead with this reverent fear of the Lord, despite being the highest human authority in the land. And they were to do the law of the Lord. Verse 20.
Deuteronomy 17:20 ESV
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.
Ultimately, though kings were not the ideal for Israel, a good king would bring peace and prosperity. A king who understood who God was and submitted to his authority and lived according to his laws and whose heart followed after the Lord would do well and bring about the prosperity of Israel.
Unfortunately, sin corrupts integrity, as honorable or ideal as we might like to be. One only need to take a look at Israel and Judah’s own kings who failed to uphold the word of the law.

Israel’s Failed Kings

Saul abandoned the law of the Lord choosing to forge his own destiny
David was the closest - but he failed morally with Bathsheba, coveting another man’s wife and murdering him
Solomon acquired many wives for himself, and many horses, and much riches
The next closest to following the law was probably Hezekiah, who led many reforms in Israel, but scripture tells us that “he did not return the good benefit done to him” that in his pride- he failed to humble himself, so the Lord had to send a sickness on him to bring him to that place.
And these were the best of the best of Israel’s kings who at least tried to uphold the law of the Lord.
Israel’s kings had failed because of corruption of the heart, the deceit of sin. The glorious tree that had once been the house of David had been cut down and sent into exile because the kings had abandoned the Lord and his ways and failed to remember the ultimate authority in the land. The kings had done everything the Lord told them not to and they were leading the people away from God, not closer to him. And since the kings did not humble themselves, the Lord humbled them using the armies of Assyria and Babylon.
And yet, even in the failure of the kings of Israel, the Lord gave forth this promise through his prophet Isaiah to redeem the picture of the king:
Isaiah 11:1 ESV
There shall come forth a shoot from the stump of Jesse, and a branch from his roots shall bear fruit.
Just because a tree is a stump does not mean that the roots or the life of the tree is gone. A new branch from the roots can grow up. And that’s who Jesus was. He was the king from the line of David destined to grow from the stump of Jesse to redeem what the first tree was unable to do.

Israel’s Perfect King

Jesus was descended from David. He was the one who would come as the perfect king, upholding the “do’s and don’ts” of this Deuteronomy passage.
Just take a look at his life.
He did not exalt himself, but led in humility. Washing the Disciples’ Feet:
John 13:12–15 ESV
When he had washed their feet and put on his outer garments and resumed his place, he said to them, “Do you understand what I have done to you? You call me Teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I have given you an example, that you also should do just as I have done to you.
Relied upon the strength of the Lord and not of man. Garden of Gethsemane:
Matthew 26:52–53 ESV
Then Jesus said to him, “Put your sword back into its place. For all who take the sword will perish by the sword. Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?
Did not set his heart upon worldly riches:
Matthew 8:20 ESV
And Jesus said to him, “Foxes have holes, and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.”
Matthew 6:24 ESV
“No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.
Jesus kept the law of the Lord perfectly, in every way. And in doing so he did not promote a sense of self-righteousness, he was not in it to be exalted by man in the world and to have all riches entrusted to him and laid at his feet. He lived his life for the glory of the Father, that he might be pleased.
A true king looks upward. A true king sets their heart before the Lord and lays it at his feet and says, “All that I am Lord. For you.” And for us, Jesus lived that perfect example.
(pause)
Often people demand a king they think they deserve, and not based on what they need. But Jesus was the king that the people needed and didn’t deserve. Yet he came anyway. He came to be the fulfillment of God’s law and the perfect portrayal of royalty. He himself, descended from the line of David, following the heart of God perfectly, taking up the mantle of royalty upon his own shoulders and not exalting himself, but walking according to the strength of the Lord.
When Jesus came, Israel finally had a king … a king whose kingdom will never cease and the increase of his might will never end. He sits at the right hand of the father commanding angels and authorities concerning matters, awaiting the day of his final return to earth and the eruption of the fullness of his kingdom into time and space.
So where does that leave us?
Well, we are part of his kingdom. We are a kingdom of royalty.

A Kingdom of Royalty

Jesus adopted us as sons and daughters, as co-heirs with him in the heavenly promises. That means for everyone who submits to the authority of the Lord is royalty, destined to rule.
Do you see yourself as a King? A Queen? If indeed we are kings and queens, according to the promise given to us by God through Jesus Christ and sealed by his holy spirit, doesn’t that mean we have all been called to a higher order of conduct?
So think about it for a moment. How do you conduct yourself? Is it according to the position to which you have been raised?
The standard for the kings of Israel was to fear the Lord, know and do his law, live humbly, and not trust in the powers of this world but to place faith and hope in God. What kind of standard does that set for us in how we should think and how we should lead?
That brings us to our three application points. How do we live as royalty?
Well firstly, Lead in Humility.

1. Lead in Humility

1 Peter 5:1–6 ESV
So I exhort the elders among you, as a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, as well as a partaker in the glory that is going to be revealed: shepherd the flock of God that is among you, exercising oversight, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God would have you; not for shameful gain, but eagerly; not domineering over those in your charge, but being examples to the flock. And when the chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the unfading crown of glory. Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you,
Humility is a trait of royalty. It should not only grace the pastors and leaders of your churches, but it should also grace you, from the greatest to the smallest. We are all called into his royal service, to serve as priests and heirs of the throne. True humility recognizes the Lord working in all things, even if that leads to longsuffering and times of trial. The Lord admires a quiet and penitent heart.

2. Love God’s Law

Colossians 3:1 ESV
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God.
or as Psalm 1 compares, the righteous one is like a tree planted beside a stream of living water.
How well do you know God’s scriptures?
My answer to that question would be, “Not as well as I ought.” And that’s coming from a man who has spent years of his life in the scriptures studying and examining them. There’s always more for us to learn from the mouth of God. Let our love for the Lord and for his word not grow cold because we become so distracted chasing after other things. But let our minds be sharpened and our hearts refined because we are a people dedicated to studying, meditating upon, and understanding the Lord’s ways.

3. Be Doers of Good

1 Corinthians 10:31 ESV
So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.
A tree bears fruit. Just as Christ the branch from the stump of Jesse grew and bore fruit, so must we draw our strength from the Lord and bear fruit in our season. The kings of Israel were required to DO the law that they took with them.
A King or Queen often has a higher standard held to them. There is much expected of them. To be the face to the public, to do good for all people. A royal person never ceases to be royalty. Or in the words of C.S. Lewis, “Once a king or queen of Narnia, always a king or queen.” And you, as Christ’s representatives, are to be that royal expression of God’s kingdom to the earth with constancy and without ceasing. You are co-heirs with Christ, having received every spiritual blessing. How are you managing that new position and your new resources?
Think back to this past week. What all have you done for good, according to God’s kingdom? Praise the Lord for that! You are living as royalty. Think forward to this upcoming week … what can you do as good, according to God’s law and his kingdom? Is there any way you can promote that among your fellow brothers, sisters, coworkers, neighbors, relatives, distant cousins?
Set aside distractions and turn your face forward to the works God has called you to do.
Let us redeem our time and do all things for the glory of God.

Conclusion

God set a high standard for the kings of Israel, one of which the kings in their sinfulness would never attain. But God sent his own son Jesus, to show us how a king should live and lead. Through Jesus that extension of royalty is given to all who believe, who learn to hold the Lord in reverent fear and who learn to love his law and keep his commands. Those who live this way, as royalty on earth, will see much fruit in their time.
It is my heart’s desire to see each and every one of you grown to full maturity and bearing the good fruit which God can work through you, as you walk and live as kings and queens, heirs of the eternal promise, here on earth.
Let us pray.
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