“Now it shall come about when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself a copy of this law on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests. ” (Deuteronomy 17:18, NASB95)
This verse drew my attention this morning. First of all, there's the obvious question of how America would be different if you made every elected federal official write out a copy of the Constitution (with Amendments) before they were allowed to do anything. That would shake a few up on all sides of politics. And if you made the IRS Commissioner hand-copy the Tax Code before enforcing it, it would never get enforced!
Yet modern American is neither modern Israel, restored Israel, or Biblical Israel. So, what do we make of a verse like this?
1. The first thought is still a valid one. The idea presented is that the king should not rule without knowing the foundational law of the land. In Israel's case that law was the Pentateuch (whatever you think of modern Israel, that was then, now is different). In America's case that law is the Constitution. It is reasonable that a good many elected officials may not know the finest details of every law, but they ought to know the Constitution.
2. That builds into this one: America is not ruled by Congress and the President. America is ruled by the people who invest power into Congress, the President, and the States. So guess what? We ought to know the fundamentals of our Constitution and that ought to bear on our actions in selecting people for those offices. We ought to understand things like separation of powers, the First Amendment, the Second Amendment, and the rest of it.
3. Israel, though, was not only a political entity. It was also a spiritual community. The king was not the top spiritual leader in most cases, but he was still one of the spiritual leaders. A large set of problems in churches would be resolved if everyone aspiring to lead in church had to take the time to re-copy even something as short as the Sermon on the Mount. The hand-copying would cement in our minds God's Word. This would be good.
4. This wouldn't hurt to be part of what we do as church members, one and and all. If you read that verse again, you'll see the king was to copy it in the presence of the Levitical priests. That was to be certain that he took no shortcuts or made no mistakes. 1 Peter speaks of all the community of faith as a kingdom of priests, and other Scriptures point to the joint responsibility of the church as a whole to ensure the church stays on track spiritually.
Except that the most common examples of a congregation exercising control are times when just the opposite happens. Whether it's electing a megalomaniac as pastor, running off a willing servant of the Lord from being pastor, or voting to close membership to someone over race, churches tend to do things that are just blatantly anti-Scriptural. If we knew the Word, we wouldn't do a lot of these things.
Let's make sure we learn the Word. Because if we learn it, we'll do it.