Deuteronomy 17:14-20

Sunday Morning Bible Study

September 9, 2001



The Test

An older couple had a son, who was still living with them. The parents were a little worried, as the son was still unable to decide about his future career. So they decided to do a small test. They put a note on the front hall table that they had left. Around the note they put a ten-dollar bill, a Bible, and a bottle of whiskey. Then they hid, pretending they were not at home. The father told his wife, “If our son takes the money, he will be a businessman, if he takes the Bible, he will be a pastor, but if he takes the bottle of whiskey, I’m afraid our son will be a no-good drunkard.” So the parents hid in the nearby closet and waited nervously. Peeping through the keyhole they saw their son arrive. The son read the note that they had left. Then he took the ten-dollar bill, looked at it against the light, and slid it in his pocket. After that, he took the Bible, flipped through it, and put it under his arm. Finally, he grabbed the bottle, opened it, and took an appreciative whiff to be assured of the quality. Then he left for his room, carrying all three items. The father slapped his forehead and said: “This is worse than I could ever have imagined!” “What?! asked the wife. “Our son is going to be a politician!”

We don’t tend to always have a high opinion of those who are in positions of leadership. Whether it be the old stories of Bill Clinton or the newer articles about Gary Condit, sometimes we have the idea that to be a leader or a politician could be about the worst thing that could ever happen to anybody.

We’re going to look this morning at God’s ideas about what a leader ought to be like.

Rules for a Godly Leader

:14 I will set a king over me, like as all the nations

This is quite prophetic. This is exactly what the people did. You can read in 1Sam. 8:4-7 how the people came to the prophet Samuel one day and asked for a king.

God is not opposed to human leadership.  In Deuteronomy He sets up some guidelines to help insure the best leadership possible.

:15 whom the LORD thy God shall choose:

God’s first requirement for a king was that it be a man whom God had chosen. God wanted the prerogative to choose the king.

The people actually followed these instructions. The way this worked out in practice was that God used the prophet Samuel to pick out the first two kings, Saul and David.


Leadership is a calling

God is the one who calls a leader.
God doesn’t seem to have the same kind of qualifications for leadership that we do. When God told the prophet Samuel to find the next king living at the house of Jesse from Bethlehem, Samuel had Jesse parade all his sons before him.
(1 Sam 16:6-7 KJV) And it came to pass, when they were come, that he looked on Eliab, and said, Surely the Lord’s anointed is before him. {7} But the LORD said unto Samuel, Look not on his countenance, or on the height of his stature; because I have refused him: for the LORD seeth not as man seeth; for man looketh on the outward appearance, but the LORD looketh on the heart.

God doesn’t look on a person’s physical appearance. He doesn’t choose a person because they are big and strong and handsome. God looks on a person’s heart.

God doesn’t even seem to require that people be extra intelligent to be used. Paul wrote to the Corinthians:
(1 Cor 1:27 KJV) But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty;
Whom does God choose?
(Isa 66:1-2 KJV) Thus saith the LORD, The heaven is my throne, and the earth is my footstool: where is the house that ye build unto me? and where is the place of my rest? {2} For all those things hath mine hand made, and all those things have been, saith the LORD: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word.

God chooses to use a person with humility and a reverence for God’s Word.

:15 one from among thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee


God’s leader comes from the family.

For the nation of Israel, it meant that their king must be an Israelite. They couldn’t post a “help-wanted” message across the World Wide Web. They needed a king who was from Israel.
For the church, this may seem obvious, but God’s leader must be from the family. God’s leader must be a Christian.
What is a Christian?
A Christian isn’t just a person who attends a Christian church. A Christian is a person who has come to find out that they are flawed, that they are sinful, and that they need God’s help.
A Christian is one who has found out that Jesus Christ came and died on a cross in their place in order to pay the penalty for their sins.
A Christian is one who has made a choice to follow Jesus. They have made a choice to invite Jesus into their heart. They have made a choice to surrender their life to Jesus Christ.
A Christian is a person who actually has a living relationship with God.

:16 not multiply horses to himself …

Four rules for being a good king –

This is really a way of saying that a king shouldn’t be trusting in military superiority.


A great leader doesn’t trust in his own power

King David understood this:
(Psa 20:7 KJV) Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the LORD our God.
Don’t misunderstand, David had a large army when he was king. But he wasn’t counting on his army to deliver him, he was counting on God. Even as a young man, David knew he could face Goliath because God was strong, not David’s weapons.
When King Asa was young, he had a pretty impressive army, three hundred thousand men.  But found one day he found that someone else had an even more impressive army. The Ethiopians were on his doorstep with one million men, and they were asking for trouble.  When you are counting on the size of your own resources, you will find that there is always someone with “more”.

(2 Chr 14:11-12 KJV) And Asa cried unto the LORD his God, and said, LORD, it is nothing with thee to help, whether with many, or with them that have no power: help us, O LORD our God; for we rest on thee, and in thy name we go against this multitude. O LORD, thou art our God; let not man prevail against thee. {12} So the LORD smote the Ethiopians before Asa, and before Judah; and the Ethiopians fled.

Asa went on to prosper and become wealthy. The kingdom was doing well. And then one day, the king in the north attacked Asa’s kingdom. But it didn’t quite seem to be a time to panic. Asa looked at the balance in his checking account and decided to hire a contract army from Syria to do all the fighting. And for the time being, Asa’s plan actually worked. But what was worse was that Asa’s kingdom would one day have to face that “contract army”. Asa got a rebuke from the Lord.

(2 Chr 16:7-9 KJV) And at that time Hanani the seer came to Asa king of Judah, and said unto him, Because thou hast relied on the king of Syria, and not relied on the LORD thy God, therefore is the host of the king of Syria escaped out of thine hand. {8} Were not the Ethiopians and the Lubims a huge host, with very many chariots and horsemen? yet, because thou didst rely on the LORD, he delivered them into thine hand. {9} For the eyes of the LORD run to and fro throughout the whole earth, to show himself strong in the behalf of them whose heart is perfect toward him. Herein thou hast done foolishly: therefore from henceforth thou shalt have wars.

When you don’t have much power of your own, it’s a lot easier to trust in God’s power. Hey, you don’t have anywhere else to go. But I think one of the steps of growing as a leader is to continue to trust in God’s power, even when you begin to grow and have some authority or power of your own.

:16 nor cause the people to return to Egypt

It’s now been forty years since Moses and the nation of Israel have been in Egypt. For some of them, they can still remember what it was like to be slaves. They have no intention of ever going back to Egypt. God’s concern is that Israel would one day be tempted to back to Egypt in search of help.


A great leader goes forward

Egypt is a picture of the world.
God’s leader will lead people forward, not backward. God’s leader will lead people closer to the Promised Land, not back to a life of bondage. God’s leader will lead people closer to Jesus and farther from the world.
Two Man Bicycle

Panting and perspiring, two men on a tandem bicycle at last got to the top of a steep hill. “That was a stiff climb,” said the first man. “It certainly was,” replied the second man. “And if I hadn’t kept the brake on, we would have slid backward.”

A leader takes people forward, takes them closer to Jesus.  A leader doesn’t put on the brake.

:17 Neither shall he multiply wives to himself

It wasn’t uncommon for a king to have multiple wives. This was one way to promote political and national security. You married the neighboring king’s little girl. That way if your neighbor wants to attack you and conquer your kingdom, he’ll have to think twice because after all, you’re family.

God wanted the king to be trusting in Him for security, not in his marriages.


A great leader doesn’t count on people

Relationships are important. The second greatest commandment is that we love our neighbor as ourselves. The world will know that we are Jesus’ disciples if we love one another. We need each other to encourage and hold each other up.
But people will let you down. They will always let you down.
As much as God wants us to be connected to each other and helping each other, God wants even more for us to find our fulfillment and strength in Him.
David wrote,
(Psa 27:10 KJV) When my father and my mother forsake me, then the LORD will take me up.

Though God will use others in our lives to help and guide us, they will also let us down.

In marriage, it is not uncommon for a couple to say their vows to love each other for better or worse, but deep inside they’re really counting on the “better”. “Just wait ‘til you see what I’m going to make of him,” a gal will say. And then he doesn’t change. In fact he may get worse.
Married couples; you will NOT find ultimate happiness in your spouse. You will only find it when you become satisfied and fulfilled in JESUS.
I am concerned for single people who begin to get desperate in finding a spouse. They become convinced that if they could just find the right person, then their life will be happy.
In reality, the best thing a single person is to find his/her fulfillment in Jesus. When you are satisfied with Jesus, really satisfied, you are less likely to scare people away (like the Muppets’ “Animal” – “WOMAN!!!!”).

:17 neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold.


A great leader doesn’t seek wealth

(1 Tim 6:9-10 NLT) But people who long to be rich fall into temptation and are trapped by many foolish and harmful desires that plunge them into ruin and destruction. {10} For the love of money is at the root of all kinds of evil. And some people, craving money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many sorrows.
Sometimes I think that I don’t struggle that much with this principle. Until someone asks the question, “What would you do if you had a million dollars?” Or you see the newspaper articles about the big Powerball Lottery running at $400 million. Or Ed MacMahon shows up on your doorstep.
The desire for more and more money will only lead to trouble.

Billy Graham has warned pastors that the three greatest things that a pastor needs to guard his heart against are sex, money, and power. I’ve even heard that there’s a chronological order to it. Usually a man’s greatest sexual temptations come when he is younger. As he begins to mature, he begins to set his sights on wealth. But as a man gets in his older years, power is the thing, the power to dominate the lives of others.


Take God’s lessons seriously.

The king who ruled during the height of the kingdom of Israel was also the one who started the downhill slide. He didn’t pay attention to the four rules that God had for kings.  If you read 1Kings 10:23 – 11:13, you will find that Solomon did everything he wasn’t supposed to.
(1 Ki 11:3-4 KJV) And he had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines: and his wives turned away his heart. {4} For it came to pass, when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other gods: and his heart was not perfect with the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father.
We ought to learn from Solomon that you can’t think that you are above God’s principles. If Solomon, the world’s wisest man could fall, certainly I could too.  Take God’s Word seriously.

:18 he shall write him a copy of this law in a book

This is the training of the leader


Make God’s Word your own.

(Deu 17:18 NIV) When he takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from that of the priests, who are Levites.
It wasn’t someone else’s copy, it was to be HIS copy. Every chapter, every sentence, every word, every period would be written by the king’s own hand.
This wasn’t just so there would be an extra Bible hanging around the king’s house. This wasn’t just so the king would be sure to spend some of his early years in God’s Word. This was to start a process of getting God’s Word into the king.
The other day my wife and I had the privilege of visiting one of her friends in the hospital. Some of you know Gloria who comes to Deb’s Thursday morning study. Gloria has these special little spiral bound index cards where she writes down the Scriptures that mean the most to her. And then she memorizes them. And she reviews them. And when she is scared or in need of some comfort, she pulls them out and reads them. Hundreds of them. She let me read through some of the notebooks. It was absolutely amazing. And then to hear her share about how God has been using His Word to encourage and comfort her. Wow. I’ve never seen anything like it.
(Psa 119:50 NASB) This is my comfort in my affliction, That Thy word has revived me.

:19-20 And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life

A king’s relationship with God’s Word wasn’t supposed to end when he finished writing out his last sentence. He was to keep reading the Book every day. For the rest of his life. If a king were to read God’s Word every day for the rest of his life, wouldn’t it be wise for us to do the same?


Benefits of daily reading

Humility – “that his heart be not lifted up”
If we’re not careful, we can be puffed up because we know more of the Word than others. But the proper kind of relationship with the Word will produce humility.
Obedience – “that he turn not aside from the commandment”
Prosperity – “he may prolong his days”
Note that it affects the “children” as well. Not only does this indicate that the king was to pass the throne on to his own offspring, but our walk in the Word affects our children.