As Israel thinks about desiring a king to reign over them, God’s advice for godly leadership lays the backdrop for leadership longevity. Worldly trappings take the leader’s heart toward pleasure and power. Contrast the deliberate humility of a leader’s heart for God…
14 When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you and have taken possession of it and settled in it, and you say, “Let us set a king over us like all the nations around us,” 15 be sure to appoint over you a king the Lord your God chooses. He must be from among your fellow Israelites. Do not place a foreigner over you, one who is not an Israelite. 16 The king, moreover, must not acquire great numbers of horses for himself or make the people return to Egypt to get more of them, for the Lord has told you, “You are not to go back that way again.” 17 He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray. He must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold.
18 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 Levitical priests. 19 It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the Lord his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees 20 and not consider himself better than his fellow Israelites and turn from the law to the right or to the left. Then he and his descendants will reign a long time over his kingdom in Israel.
The irony of studying this passage on the day of the US presidential election is not to be missed. I am not even going there, yet by the time you read this, a new president will have been ‘crowned’. I will leave it to you to consider whether any of God’s direction for leadership has been or will be followed in ‘Merica…
God was predicting that Israel would desire a king to reign over them when they entered the land. They would want to have a king just like the nations around them. We can criticize them for not wanting to be led by God only, yet in a sense, our desire to follow a transformative, visionary leader is fulfilled and will be fulfilled in Jesus our king for eternity.
Something is in us which responds to leadership, and particularly to godly leadership. And that’s what this is about. God has some pre-req’s for Israel’s king, and we can learn some lessons on leadership through God’s direction here.
The first command God gives is to not take a king from a foreign nation. Their king must be an Israelite, one of God’s people. Let’s consider how that could be practical for us. We don’t always get to choose whose leadership we are under, yet when we do choose and submit to an authority willingly in our lives, God would say, submit yourselves to someone who shares your eternal perspective.
Follow someone who is following the One.
The characteristics of a godly king continue into the vanity of wealth and accumulation of things. The collecting of horses or silver or gold will become distracting. Marrying many wives will lead the king’s heart astray. The trappings of our world can easily take the heart of a leader away from their work to focus on pleasure and power.
Those pursuits may give a leader the confidence to go in directions which are foolish, like going back to Egypt for more horses. God does not want us to go back to certain places – our Egypt’s are to be left behind. Why go back to a place from which you have been saved? When a leader gets too much courage or feelings of power, false confidence can build…
What’s the antidote? Write God’s word on a scroll and carry it around. Read it every day so as to learn to revere the Lord. The godly leader can then follow God’s way carefully in humility. Notice that the godly king doesn’t consider himself to be better than his fellow Israelites. There is a deliberate humility which Jesus modeled in his time on earth. We would do well as leaders to embrace it. Our godly leader is so dedicated to God’s leading that he doesn’t turn to the right or to the left. The result is longevity of leadership which will influence the king’s descendants to follow in the same footsteps.
How can you take from God’s directions and apply to your own leadership today, whether it’s on your job or where you serve or even at home?