The Limitations of Monarchy
Deuteronomy 17:14-20
When you are come to the land which the LORD your God gives you, and shall possess it, and shall dwell therein, and shall say…

We have here provision made for the probable demand of the people for a visible king like the other nations. The unseen King did not make the same sensation in their view, and hence Moses is inspired to anticipate the unbelieving demand. And here notice -

I. THE UNSEEN KING MUST HAVE THE SELECTION OF THE VISIBLE ONE. It is in this way that the monarchy, when it came, was kept under the control of God. The theocracy was still the fountainhead of power. The people were not to choose their king. He was to have Divine right. It is noticeable that, in giving them Saul, the Lord made emphatic the sensationalism that lay under the demand, for the visible king was head and shoulders above his brethren. David was also a big man, else Saul would never have offered him his armor, when proposing to fight the giant. And it is noticeable how the sensationalism is rebuked in the enemies of Israel producing Goliath as a champion, before whom it is evident that the big Saul feared and quaked.

II. THEY ARE NOT TO EXPECT OR TO THINK OF A STRANGER KING. Thus the patriotism of the people is fostered. It is one of themselves that is to have the kingship when it comes. It is interesting to notice this deliverance after the reservation already noticed. God's choice is thus guaranteed to Israel. He will stand to the nation, if the nation will be faithful to him.

III. THE KING IS NOT TO RELY UPON THE CAVALRY ARM. Palestine, being mountainous, did not require cavalry. Infantry would be more effective. Cavalry, if raised and relied on, would necessitate an alliance with a cattle-breeding country like Egypt, and would be the precursor of a "spirited foreign policy," such as proves ruinous to a pastoral people such as Israel was meant to be. There was thus a wise restraint laid upon the foreign policy of the nation; as God desired their separation from surrounding nations, and their religious stability upon the mountain ridges of Palestine, he warns them against this danger. Besides, the cavalry arm until recently was the most powerful in the service, and the charge of cavalry is something to be proud of or to fear. Now, of course, artillery has put cavalry out of its vaunted position. The temptation was to "trust in horses and in chariots," and not in the Lord. Hence the warning.

IV. THE KING IS NOT TO HAVE A SERAGLIO. For through the wives he will surely be unmanned and have his heart turned away from God. It is the spiritual disasters of polygamy which are here insisted upon. A divided heart socially must entail a divided heart spiritually. No wonder the Psalmist prayed, "Unite my heart to fear thy Name."

V. NOR IS THE KING TO AIM AT GREAT RICHES. For wealth is a great snare, and it competes with God for the heart. Money, like cavalry, is a most natural foundation of trust. A too wealthy monarch is likely to be worldly minded and unspiritual.

VI. THE KING IS TO MAKE A SPECIAL STUDY OF THE DIVINE LAW. He is to get a copy for himself - he is to have it daily read to him - and he is to allow its humiliating influence to be exercised over him so as to be obedient always. And if obedient, he is promised an hereditary interest in the throne. He was thus to be kept in subjection to the unseen King. And though we may not aspire to kingships, we can profit by the warnings here prophetically addressed to the coming kings of Israel. For it is surely for us to allow nothing seen and temporal to threaten our faith in God. It may not be horses and chariots; it may not be money; it may be men in whom we are tempted to trust. Whatever it be, whether persons or things, that tempts us from our trust in God, it must be avoided. Better is it to be friendless, to be poor, to be solitary, than to be skeptical. Worldly success is where skepticism is born. The idols multiply as wealth and luxuries increase. There is something, we think, to hold by in the strain of life. And whatever our position in this world, let us feel always not only our trust in God, but our subordination in all things to him. If he is King of kings, he is certainly Lord over us. Let us live under the theocracy, and serve him with our whole hearts. - R.M.E.

Parallel Verses
KJV: When thou art come unto the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, and shalt possess it, and shalt dwell therein, and shalt say, I will set a king over me, like as all the nations that are about me;

WEB: When you are come to the land which Yahweh your God gives you, and shall possess it, and shall dwell therein, and shall say, "I will set a king over me, like all the nations that are around me;"

The King in Israel
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