“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.” ~Deuteronomy16:18-20
Someone’s got to be in charge, right? I’ve watched this unfold thousands of times with children at play. Put three children in a room and the leadership vacuum will send them pushing and shoving to be the one calling shots. Usually two will give way to the one, and a king (or queen) is born.
And everything is seemingly fine until…someone gets too big for their own britches.
Before Israel had a king, they were given an antidote for “too big for own britches” syndrome. Three things he was to do:
1. Write out the law of God…not have someone else do it…but write it himself. Why? Because when you have “position” you can become accustomed to having other people do your junk for you. Every good leader must master in delegation, but the secret is knowing what you can delegate and what you must do yourself. I’m apt to believe that copying the law was a tedious task, yet one that God was commanding of a new king as a reminder that they themselves were not above the law. They were to know it intimately–every little dotted ‘i’ and crossed ‘t.’ They weren’t going to be able to say, “I didn’t know”–they would be responsible for all of it. In the writing, a king was reminded he was human–his fingers would tire, his eyes fatigue and his mind grow dull. He would learn his humanity required divine help for strength, insight, and wisdom to rule rightly. A casual study of Israel’s king will show how quickly the Law of God was abandoned for the whim of the throne.
2. The king was to read the law every day. Why? To learn to fear the Lord. Funny how when given a position of leadership we think we woke up that morning and suddenly knew everything there is to know. God understands how our “I know, I know, I know” attitude leads to a haughtiness that makes us believe we’ve arrived. I think the most dangerous position for any leader (or any person period) is when they believe they don’t need to receive anything from anyone. They are always the teacher–never the taught. Always the counselor–never the counseled. Always leading–never led. It was God’s way of saying, “I don’t care if you are 5 or 50, king or kid, you need to know what I have to say. You need to learn my ways.”
3. The king was to keep the law. Why? “That his heart not be lifted above his brothers.” Obedience requires humility. It places people in their proper rank and file. The throne–or any position of leadership–is not an exclusion clause for doing what is right in the eyes of God all the time. We do that though, right? If leaders are talking about someone, “it’s not gossip it’s concern.” If leaders lie, it’s “protecting others feelings for the good of the all.” If leaders use their position to gain wealth, it’s not “greedy manipulation, it’s helping others hold their belongings loosely.” Is this not what we saw in the life of King David? Positional entitlement led to a compromised life–it still does today. A throne of any kind makes it so easy to believe that obedience is what the “common” people do. Obedience–full obedience–levels the playing field. Reminds the leader and that led that we’re all just people. Obedience protects the leader from being someone in the life of his followers that he was never intended to be, and protects the followers from worshiping the wrong being.
The perception of power has an ugly affect on our relationships. Give a man a throne, and he’s likely to believe that he’s not just a king, but a god. Has your position of leadership gone to your head? Do you need an antidote for your hardened heart? It’s okay…you’re just a man, or woman, like me. Whoever we are–husband, wife, parent, teacher, pastor, politician, boss–hear God’s wisdom today. Do the tedious work today or really knowing God’s word (Study it!), treasure God’s word (Read it!), and obey HIm (Do it!). Don’t swallow the pill of “self-important” deception. If you’ve become too big for your own britches, remind yourself who God is. Make Him bigger by having a right estimation of yourself–and that can only come from seeing Him the way He sees you.
It might be that this little passage holds the solution for the “cult of personality” problem that has swept through evangelicalism like a black plague–but that’s a post for another day.
Read. Learn. Obey.