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A RULE FOR THE RULERS
For the longest time I struggled with Hebrew history with a particular focus on the mess that men made of the monarchy.
This blog entry will start a new series (The Mess of the Monarchy) and a new category (Hebrew Kings). For the longest time, I struggled with Hebrew history with a particular focus on the mess that men made of the monarchy. In my quest to analyze and figured that out, I stumbled upon the work of J. Robert Clinton and his conclusions from studying hundreds of Biblical leaders (should you want to learn more, see his article "Listen Up, Leaders!").
Still, that article did not dig deep enough into the specifics of the Hebrew kings and how they varied greatly. Yes, I recognize that some served God and others did not, but why? That question is the heart of my pursuit going forward so that I can learn to leave the right legacy behind. First, here are a few foundational thoughts.
My question of "why" focuses on a particular passage of the Deuteronomic code which predates the Hebrew monarchy - turn to Deuteronomy 17:14-20. God revealed that the hearts of Israel would turn away from Him and demand a king to be like all the nations around them. In his all-knowing nature, He deposited mandates to be followed:
The king must be chosen by God.
The king is to be a Hebrew, not a foreigner.
The king cannot have people return to Egypt.
The king should not accumulate horses, precious metals, or wives as they will turn his dependence away from God onto other things.
The king, himself, shall write a book in the presence of the priests.
That last one really got my attention as God set a rule for the rulers! Deuteronomy 17:18-19, specifically state, "he shall write for himself a copy of this law on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests. It shall be with him and she shall read it all the days of his life." This man, who was about to become king, wrote his own book so that he would fear the Lord, obey God's commandments, act in humility, and leave an enduring legacy. That expectation is some pretty impressive leadership training that reveals for us the source of true wisdom in leadership - fearing God! Modern-day leaders would do well to heed that foundation by keeping God's Word close to their hearts so that it saturates our thinking, believing, and doing.
While the books of Samuel, Kings, and Chronicles do not depict that every leader followed through with this expectation, let's assume that they did. If they took the time to copy the words, then they would have been forced to reckon with passages that they would eventually disobey. Why? What occurred in their reign that led to them making a mess of the monarchy? It is in those details that we can discover some powerful, leadership truths for our time. My focus will solely rest on the kingdom itself and the point in time that the individual became king through the end of his reign. By not considering any leadership preparation or personal pedigree, I want to "level the playing field" so to speak. The goal is to look for the factors exhibited as a leader while facing burdens and responsibilities and competing interests.
In looking back at this passage in the Torah, one possible clue about the Hebrew kings exists, and please note this is just a simple hypothesis that will either be proven or disproven in the continued study. Deuteronomy 17:20 indicates that fearing God and observing the law was instituted so "that his heart may not be lifted up above his countrymen." The implication is that leadership drifting starts with the emergence of pride and ends with the purpose being forgotten. The king was to act on behalf of his people for their own good rather than enriching himself at their expense. With purpose gone, prosperity is the game. Instead of serving others (purpose), the king would only serve himself (prosperity). Does this not have a direct correlation to leadership in our modern time?
As I close, let me make one statement that I firmly believe: if your relationship with God is not right, then your relationship with others cannot be right. I think we will see that demonstrated multiple times throughout this series.
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