Deuteronomy 17:14
When you enter the land the LORD your God is giving you and have taken possession of it and settled it, and you say, "Let us set a king over us like all the nations around us,"
Christ Our Brother and Our KingJ. M. Campbell.Deuteronomy 17:14-15
Limitations Round About a KingD. Davies Deuteronomy 17:14-20
The King in IsraelJ. Orr Deuteronomy 17:14-20
The Limitations of MonarchyR.M. Edgar Deuteronomy 17:14-20

We have here -

I. THE DESIRE OF A KING ANTICIPATED. (Ver. 14.) Moses anticipates that, when settled in the land, the people would desire a king, that they might be like other nations. This was:

1. A desire springing from a wrong motive.

(1) As involving a low estimate of their privilege in being ruled directly by Jehovah. It was the glory and distinction of their nation that they had God so nigh them, and were under his immediate care and sovereignty. But they could not rise to the sublimity of this thought. They deemed it a grander thing to have a mortal as their king, to be like other nations, and be led, judged, and ruled by a visible monarch. Their demand was a substantial rejection of God, that he should not reign over them (1 Samuel 8:7).

(2) As involving the idea of a king modeled on the pattern of the kings around them. The king they wished for was one who would embody for them their own ideas of splendor and prowess, and these were of a purely carnal type. Saul, their first king, had many of the qualities which answered to their notion of a king, while David, ruling in humble subordination to the will and authority of Heaven, answered to the Divine idea. Piety and submission at every point to the will of God are not elements that bulk largely in the common conception of a monarch.

(3) As involving self-willedness. The people did not humbly present their case to God, and entreat him for a king. They took the law into their own hands, and demanded one, or rather they declared their intention of setting one over them, irrespective of whether God wished it or not.

2. A desire in some respects natural. The spiritual government of an invisible Ruler was an idea difficult to grasp. The mind craved for some concrete and visible embodiment of that authority under which they lived. It probably lay in God's purpose ultimately to give them a king, but it was necessary that they should be made first distinctly to feel their need of it. The need in human nature to which this points is adequately supplied in the Messianic King, Christ Jesus. The central idea of the Kingship of Christ is the personal indwelling of the Divine in the human. In Christ, moreover, is realized the three things which ancient nations sought for in their kings.

(1) An ideal of personal excellence. "Heroic kingship depended partly on divinely given prerogative, and partly on the possession of supereminent strength, courage, and wisdom" (Maine).

(2) A leader inspiring them with personal devotion.

(3) A bond of unity in the State, the monarch representing, as he does still, the whole system of law and authority which is centralized and embodied in his person. "The king is the dot on the i" (Hegel). The kingship in Israel typified that of Christ.

II. THE ELECTION OF A KING PROVIDED FOR. (Ver. 15.) The position of king in Israel was essentially different from that of the monarch of any other nation. While discharging the same general functions as other kings (ruling, judging, leading in battle), his authority was checked and limited in ways that theirs was not. He was no irresponsible despot, whose will was law and who governed as he listed. He filled the throne, not as absolute and independent sovereign, but only as the deputy of Jehovah, and ruled simply in the name and in subordination to the will of God - in this respect affording another marked type of God's true king, whom he has set on his holy hill of Zion (Psalm it.). This fact gave rise to a second peculiarity, that he had no authority to make laws, but only to administer the Law already given. The manner of his election corresponded to these peculiarities of his position.

1. He was chosen under Divine guidance (cf. 1 Samuel 10:20, 21).

2. The Divine choice was ratified by the free election of the people (1 Samuel 10:24). From which we learn

(1) that the throne is strong only when it rests on the free choice, and on the loyal affection of the body of the people

(2) That kingly like all other authority, is derived from God. This is a truth of general application, though it was in a peculiar sense true of Israel. The Scripture gives no sanction to the "right Divine of kings to govern wrong." But popular sentiment has always recognized that a certain "divinity doth hedge a king." Ancient nations (Egypt, etc.) held him to be the representative of God on earth. The state and style with which a monarch is surrounded, and the homage paid to him, are expressions of the same idea. He embodies the functions of government, and has honor, majesty, and high-sounding titles bestowed on him on that ground. But this is simply to say that in certain respects he represents Deity. To constitute perfect "Divine right," it would be necessary:

(a) That a monarch should occupy the throne with perfect Divine sanction. Most rulers, on ascending the throne, try to make out, however weakly, some shadow of right to it.

(b) That he should govern in perfect accordance with the Divine will. The only perfect case of ruling by Divine fight is the reign of Christ.

III. THE CHARACTER OF THE KING DELINEATED. (Vers. 15-20.) He was to be an Israelite - one of themselves. Then:

1. He was not to multiply horses to himself, that is:

(1) He was not to be ambitious of military distinction.

(2) He was not to place his main reliance for the defense of the nation on extravagant military preparations.

(3) He was not, for the sake of supposed material advantage, to lead the people into ensnaring alliances.

2. He was not to multiply wives to himself. That is:

(1) He was to avoid enervating luxury.

(2) His court was to be chaste and pure. Cf. Tennyson, 'To the Queen:' "Her court was pure; her life serene," etc.; and 'Dedication' to the Idyls -

"Who reverenced his conscience as his king;
Whose glory was, redressing human wrong;
Who spake no slander, no, nor listened to it;
Who loved one only, and who clave to her," etc.

3. He was not to multiply to himself silver and gold; that is, he was not to affect the dazzle of imperial splendor, but to be simple and unostentatious in his manner of life. But:

4. He was to be a diligent student of the Word of God.

(1) He was to write out with his own hand a copy of the Law.

(2) He was to read in it diligently all the days of his life; the result of which would be:

(a) That he would be kept in the way of obedience;

(b) that his heart would be preserved humble towards God and his brethren; and

(c) he and his seed would enjoy prosperity on the throne. What a noble sketch of the model king, yet how contrary to current ideas of royal greatness! We have happily been taught in our own country to appreciate the advantages of a pure court, and to feel its wholesome influence on the general tone of morals, and we are able to understand, also, the beneficial effect of uprightness and piety in a sovereign in adding to the love, esteem, and reverence with which the sovereign is regarded; but how far are we from dissociating the greatness of a reign from its external splendor, its military conquests, the wealth and luxury of its aristocracy, the figure it displays in the eyes of other nations, and the terror with which it can inspire them! Nor do we look in sovereigns generally for all the virtues which we find in our own, but are apt to condone want of piety, and even acts of great iniquity, if they but prove themselves to be bold, energetic, and enterprising rulers. The character of the sovereign is in some respects of less moment than it once was, but its influence for good or evil is still very great, and the evil fruits reaped from the court life, say of a Charles II. or a George IV., are not exhausted in one or a few generations. Piety upon the throne will lead to piety in the court and throughout the nation, and will give an impulse to everything else that is good. Whereas an evil and corrupting example sows seeds of mischief, which may involve the nation in the greatest losses and disasters (see Massillon's sermon, 'Des Exemples des Grands'). - J.O.

Set him king over thee, whom the Lord thy God shall choose.
What I desire now to lay before you is the counsel of God in Christ, which is set forth to us in these words. What is contained in them is that we are to have a king over us, and that this king is to be our brother; by which is expressed the reigning of love. It is exceedingly important that we be taught to feel that our place is that of being reigned over — that it does not belong to us to be independent or to be our own masters; and again, that the control under which we are to be is one which is to govern us through the heart — that the obedience which is to be rendered is to be the obedience of the will — not an outward obedience, an obedience in word or in action, but an inward obedience, an obedience in our will. To this end it is needful that, in obeying, we should have that confidence in him whom we obey, and that understanding of the principle of his government, and that consenting to it, which will carry our hearts along with his requirements; and this our God has considered in giving us a brother to reign over us. When it is here said that God will not give us a king who is not our brother, that we are not in any wise to have a stranger to reign over us, we are taught the great truth, which is the foundation of our religion, that Christ took our very nature and became in very truth our very Brother, so that there is nothing in the whole of our human nature with which He has not personal acquaintance. The knowledge which our Creator has of us, as our Creator, is a knowledge that we cannot comprehend. But when we see Christ having our nature, then we see how He should have this knowledge of us. We might have felt as if God were a stranger — we might have said to ourselves, How very different are His circumstances from ours: He is the Creator of all things — He is independent — He is not at the mercy of any outward thing, and therefore He can have no sympathy with us — He cannot know what our situation is — this language we might have held, in our ignorance of God, were not God revealed in Christ as our Brother. God says thou mayest not set a stranger over thee which is not thy brother; and He says also, "I am the Lord thy God, thou shalt have no other god before Me." And thus when our God says that we shall have no stranger to reign over us, and yet that He will reign over us, He teaches us that He is not a stranger — that there is no lack of interest and sympathy in His heart with all the evil of our state. I shall now occupy your attention with the acquaintance and sympathy with our condition which Christ has as our Brother. He has, in truth, no sympathy with man in his natural state, while He has a perfect understanding of our natural condition. He knows thoroughly the flesh which we have, but has no sympathy whatever with our feelings in sowing to it. But, considered as regenerate persons, contending with the flesh, then we are in the condition in which Christ not only knows our state but has perfect, sympathy with it. It is of much importance that you should see where Christ's sympathy begins; that it is in our experience as living in the Spirit. What is the principle of our being judged by our equals? It is not needful that they should have any fellowship in that respecting which they are to judge — that they should have themselves transgressed; but that they be in a condition fairly to estimate the circumstances of those upon whom they sit in judgment, because they are their own. The acquaintance which Christ has with us, as our Brother, while it does not justify us in holding that He has any sympathy with the workings of the carnal heart, justifies us in holding that He is deeply alive to the evil of being under the power of the carnal heart — that He knows what it is, with such a knowledge as enables Him fully to estimate what an awful condition it is to be sowing to the flesh. Now this in our Lord is a source of exceeding great comfort. To show what comfort it is, I just press on you that, as truly as the will of Christ was opposed to sin in His own flesh, so truly is it opposed to sin in our flesh, because there is but one flesh — that Christ as truly wills my sanctification as He willed His own — as truly wills that I should be holy, in this body of sin and death, as He willed Himself to be holy in it. Now while this is a Source of exceeding great comfort, when we consider that it is the strength of Christ that is to give us the victory, it is also a source of exceeding great self-reproach, because it shows us how we have grieved Christ. For what must it be to Him to see in the members of His body that rebellion against the Father which He never had in Himself, while He has in Him all that is needful for us, and is longing to impart it all to us, that He should see us choosing to live in the flesh — choosing to live in sin, rather than to receive out of that full provision for holiness which we have in Him! And while we consider Christ's understanding of our condition, for comfort in our conflict with sin, and for self-reproach in the consciousness of sinning, let us consider how His being our Brother prepares Him for being our Judge. There is ever a voice in the flesh offering to excuse sin. There is ever proceeding from the Lord a voice condemning sin — a voice declaring that sin is altogether a thing that need not be; and I beseech you consider what an entire putting down it is of all unbelief that Christ was holy in our nature. The will that Christ has as to us, in our condition of sowing to the flesh, is a holy will that we should be holy; but it is also the will of love — of love to us. It is exceedingly important that we should never lose sight of this, that the person is not forgotten. It is not the sin simply that is considered by Christ, but the person who sins. Just as it is with a good man who has a son that is a prodigal. Inasmuch as he is a righteous man, the exhibition of evil in his son is a source of pain to him; but inasmuch as he is his son, it is a peculiar source of pain to him, seeing that he has an interest in the person apart from the character altogether, and that this interest is not destroyed by the evil of the character, but that both work on him jointly. Christ's having a personal tie to us, as well as an acquaintance with our condition, is a part of the revelation of God which is in Him; and is that first part of the truth concerning our God which addresses itself to our desire of salvation; and is therefore to be kept in the foreground, that men, convinced of God's interest in them, may give heed to the things that the Lord has what it expresses still further. First, there is actual sympathy for us in Christ our Brother. In this word "sympathy" there is contained the idea of a person — the idea of one being feeling along with another being: and so knowing Christ's sympathy, and ever turning to it, we learn personal communion with God, which is that which His heart longs for; for His heart has not the fulfilment of its desire for us, but in our having this personal communion with Him. Oh, be very jealous of reposing your hearts in any other bosom than that of God; be very jealous of telling your grief to any other ear than God. Oh, be very jealous for Christ, that He should have the confidential trust of every heart. But Christ's sympathy in our conflict is the sympathy of one who can succour us. This is a part of what properly belongs to His character as King. It belongs to His character as King to be strong in us, to supply our need and sustain our weakness. I would, therefore, now consider what we are taught in this Brother's being a King. Why is it not enough to tell us that He is our Brother? Why must we have a King? Now, this word "king," taken along with the word "brother," is, to my mind, what is expressed in God's being a Father, and brings out to us the necessity that there is for our being in a subordinate place, learning the will of another, and receiving that will to be our will. Our service, to be a right service, must be a free-will service; but still, in announcing His will, God announces it as King. In short, the sceptre is held out, and we are called to bow to it; and the love is revealed in order that the heart may bow to that sceptre; but it is as a sceptre that it is held out. Now, in Christ as King, there is the provision for strength, as well as the provision for authority. Our King is one who has power, not merely to be used against us if we refuse Him to reign over us, but to be used for us in our submitting to Him. He is a King to minister to our need, to supply the wants of the poor and needy. The true king is one in respect of whom we have nothing, but to whom we are altogether debtors. And this Brother, who is to be our King, we do not see rightly as King if we see him merely as exercising a control without us. We must see Him as the fountain of power within us; one who is to act in us by His might in the conflict with that evil with which we are contending, in assurance of His sympathy. This is the influence of the knowledge that He is King, that it makes His sympathy strength, as that of one of whom we know that He has strength for us. There is another blessedness besides that of conscious dependence on God which is connected with realising the Kingship of Christ, that thus, and thus alone, can we, as intelligent beings, meditating on the wide universe, have peace as to its government. Unless we had the omniscience of God we could not have the peace of God directly; but we may have the peace of God, without the omniscience of God, indirectly: that is, we may have the peace of God through the knowledge of God, and confiding, in regard to what we know not, in the character of Him whom we know to be King. In this way there is blessedness in having a Brother as a King, in respect of ourselves and in respect of all things; for it is when we see the Lamb in the midst of the throne, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God — it is then that we can have perfect peace about all things, because then we see the character of Him who governs, and can say that all must be well. But what I am so desirous that you should seek to realise is the sweetness of being reigned over — the blessedness of having to do with a King; and that it is not the sympathy of the Brother, as reconciling to the condition of being reigned over, that you are to learn, but that while learning the character of the King in the Brother you are to learn that being reigned over is itself a blessedness.

(J. M. Campbell.)

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