God’s requirements are altogether different from man’s. When Israel chose its own king, she chose a man who looked the part, a giant of a man who would look good in his publicity pictures. God’s standard had nothing to do with outward appearances but with the heart. The Mosaic Law established a number of requirements for the choice of a king, but chief among them was this: “And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites: And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them” (Deut. 17:18, 19). In all likelihood, none of us is ever going to be a king, but God’s requirement for a king is the gold standard for any faithful servant of the Lord.
1. Copy it. In the days before printing presses copies of the Word were rare and dear. In order for the king to have his own Scripture, he must copy it out by hand. And he was instructed to do so in the presence of the Levitical priests so that they could ascertain the accuracy of the copy. The act of copying it, not only provided him with his own personal copy, it gave him, at the outset of his reign, an intimate knowledge of the entire law of God. The application for us is clear, though we need not copy out the Scripture by hand, we should have a personal Bible with an intimate knowledge of its entire contents.
2. Keep it. “It shall be with him” is how the law reads. In other words, the copy he made was not to be enshrined in a case in a museum or stored on the shelf of his library. He was to keep it ready at hand wherever he went and whatever he did so that his opinions and decisions would be decided, not on the basis of personal advantage, political expediency, or external pressure, but on the basis of the Word. Better to go into battle without a shield or spear than to get out of bed without the Word of God. So it should be with us. We should always keep the Book with us and should constantly be consulting it so that it is the Word of God that governs our lives rather than any temporal purpose, ploy, or pressure.
3. Read it. So that there was no mistake that, by keeping it with him, God was suggesting a mere physical proximity to the scroll, Moses stipulated that the king “shall read therein all the days of his life.” He was to read the Word regularly, routinely, and continually. Just as the food we ate yesterday is insufficient to strengthen us today, so we need to feed on the Word of God each and every day throughout our lives in order to sustain our spiritual vigor.
4. Trust it. The king was to read in order that “he may learn to fear the Lord his God.” Fear is the Old Testament equivalent of faith. The Word of God constantly contradicts our natural opinions, beliefs, and perspectives. We are to believe the Word of God and not what we see in our surrounding circumstances. Reading the Word of God is not an end in itself. We read in order that we might believe all that God has to say to us and about us. It is his view that is true; ours is always warped by the consequences of our sin nature.
5. Obey it. “To keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them” is how Deuteronomy expresses it. The king was to obey all the law. Belief has practical implications. In other words, God admits of no practical difference between believing and obeying. The two terms identify different aspects of the same truth. We read in order to know what God says; knowing what He says, we believe; and believing, we obey. What we do follows what we believe as surely as night follows day.
The capstone of faith is obedience to the Word of God. Reading and studying the Word are not ends in themselves. They are endeavors intended to encourage and strengthen a faith that results in our doing all that the Word of God instructs us to do. Though not kings in the natural sense, believers are going to reign with Christ. This life is truly intended to prepare us for that blessed eventuality. May this year find us all to be people of the Book.
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