Deuteronomy is the second giving of the Law. Since the entire generation of adults who had received the Law had died in the desert, it was necessary to prepare the next generation. It is in this book that the Israelites are instructed to pass the Law from generation to generation by the instruction of the priests as well as the practices within the families. God is thorough in his laying out of everything that He expects, including for the king.
“When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you, take possession of it, live in it, and say, ‘I will set a king over me like all the nations around me,’ you are to appoint over you the king the LORD your God chooses.” – Deuteronomy 17:14-15a. It will be a few books and a few hundred years until we see this event take place. But none the less God knew what was going to be in their hearts. Therefore, he addresses the expectations for those in that role.
To be the king in God’s chosen nation would mean: being an Israelite, not acquiring horses (and certainly not from Egypt), not acquiring many wives, not acquiring large amounts of silver and gold, and writing a copy of this instruction. “It is to remain with him, and he is to read from it all the days of his life, so that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, to observe all the words of this instruction, and to do these statutes.” – Deuteronomy 17:19. One of the reasons the LORD gives for this to continually be done is in verse 20: “his heart will not be exalted above his countrymen.”
It would be easy to dismiss this passage as only applying to kings, but the type of leadership given here is applicable far beyond that singular role. Most probably don’t need to concern ourselves with not acquiring many horses, spouses, or gold and silver. However, I think we could all think of modern-day equivalents for which we should be careful. But all of us could benefit from focusing on the instruction of the Lord given to us all the days of our life. For the word of God keeps us humble, recognizing that we are all the same at the foot of the cross.
Powerful leaders are not those who wield it but those who consider themselves as no better than those whom they are over. Unfortunately, there are too few examples of it, either in scripture or in our world today. The easy exercise would be for us to identify those around us who seem to consider themselves better than those under their authority. But the more challenging exercise is placing the mirror of God’s word before us and seeing whether that pride, arrogance, or selfishness has crept in. There is a necessity to keep the word of God before us continually, no matter how big or small our influence. We all need God.