Our kings, our princes, our priests, and our fathers have not kept your law or paid attention to your commandments and your warnings that you gave them. — Nehemiah 9:34 (ESV)
This is going to be a Sunday School lesson, so hang on…or you can skip to the last paragraph here.
In Deuteronomy 17:14-20 God lays out the qualifications for a king:
- the king must be an Israelite,
- the king must not acquire too many horses,
- the king must not take too many wives,
- the king must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold,
- the king must keep a copy of the Torah with him to be read throughout his life, so he would rule according to God’s laws and principles.
To us moderns, these seem obscure and antiquated and a bit quaint, but hold on and let’s think about them.
First, the king is to be one of the people, not a foreigner who might hold interests from somewhere else above the people’s interests. He is to be completely in service to and beholden to the people.
Second, the king is not to acquire too many horses. Horses in that time came from Egypt, and the Israelites were not to go back to trade with the Egyptians. God had delivered them from Egypt and going back might tempt them to trade with the Egyptians and/or tempt them to long for their old lives. In addition, too many horses would set the king above the common people.
Third, he is not to have too many wives. It was common for kings to take wives of foreign countries to cement peace between nations, but many wives from foreign countries would influence the king in negative ways and negate loyalty to his own country. (Not to mention the distraction!)
Fourth, the king is not to accumulate too much gold and silver. Money. The root of all evil. A wealthy king would not be dependent on God, but on his own resources; and that wealth could lead the king down the wrong path of arrogance and self-importance.
Fifth, the king must keep that Torah close to him at all times so he would rule according to God’s principles, and so he would know the law. For how can a king rule justly and wisely if he does not know the law?
When the Israelites asked for a king like the other nations had, they got Saul (1 Samuel 8). He ruled them capriciously and by his own desires. He was not prepared to rule and suffered from mental illness. By contrast, the king after God’s own heart was David. He was not perfect, and he had sins and troubles a-plenty, but he loved God and was faithful. David was the imperfect human king who points us to the perfect king Jesus.
Here on earth we can’t expect to have a perfect king (and perhaps we got the one we deserved) but even looking at a few of those requirements Trump fails… He has had three wives and two of them have been foreign-born; he has too much wealth and it has gotten him into trouble. In fact, he has spent millions of his own dollars buying his way into the presidency.
And he does not know the law…
Encouraging a foreign head of state to investigate his political rival?
Refusal to produce witnesses or papers when subpoenaed?
Using the Justice Department to fight his own legal battles?
Encouraging election interference by a foreign country?
Attacks on the integrity of the voting system? Encouraging voters to vote twice?
Firing heads of independent agencies because they are investigating him?
Holding the Republican National Convention at the White House?
Insisting he is above the law?
In 2016 I downloaded the song Christ for President by Woody Guthrie recorded by Billy Bragg and Wilco. Lately, I’ve been humming it again. You can listen to it here. But since we can’t have Christ for President in this imperfect world, what kind of president do you want?
Let me repeat: For how can a king rule justly and wisely if he does not know the law?