Other comments on this day's readings can be found here.
Reading 1 - Deu 17:14-20
"When you enter the land the LORD your God is giving you and
have taken possession of it and settled in it, and you say, 'Let us set a king
over us like all the nations around us,' be sure to appoint over you the king
the LORD your God chooses. He must be from among your own brothers. Do not place
a foreigner over you, one who is not a brother Israelite" (Deu
These words will echo through the ages of the Old Testament.
When the grand old prophet Samuel is rejected by a people he had served so
faithfully, it is because they think they MUST have a king "like all the
nations"! God Himself assesses the situation: "It is not you they have rejected,
but they have rejected ME, that I should reign over them" (1Sa 8:5,7). In
rejecting God, the people selected a "stranger" to rule over them -- for Saul
proved to be a "foreigner" in his understanding and affections. And even when
Saul was displaced by David, the king God chose, the people persisted in
rejecting this king as well -- the proud, rich Nabal asked scornfully, "Who is
David?" (1Sa 25:10), and later the rebel Sheba cried, "We have no part in David"
(2 Sa 20:1).
And finally we come to the Roman "Pavement" in Jerusalem,
where the king chosen by God above all others stood in the presence of his
subjects, crowned with thorns! "Behold your king" (John 19:14). These were not
the words of Pilate only; they were God's words also. But the people cried out
with one voice: "We have no king but Caesar!" (John 19:15). Finally and
conclusively the nation selected a "foreigner" to be over them, and so it was,
and so it has been for nearly 2,000 years.
The commandments for the king, of Deu 17, seem to have been
set aside by most of Judah's kings, and especially by Solomon. But how well they
were fulfilled by Christ:
"The king, moreover, must not acquire great numbers of horses
for himself or make the people return to Egypt to get more of them, for the LORD
has told you, 'You are not to go back that way again' " (Deu 17:16).
Contrast with Solomon in 1Ki 4:26. The horse was the basic
instrument of ancient warfare -- the Biblical equivalent of the tank or airplane
or missile. Horses were "vain things" (Psa 33:17) when it came to true safety;
they could not be the security of a king whom God chose: "Some trust in chariots
and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God" (Psa
It is never recorded that Jesus owned or even rode upon a
horse. When the time came for his revelation at Jerusalem as a king, he chose
instead to enter the holy city in a symbolic gesture of meekness, upon "a colt
the foal of an ass" (Mat 21:5; Zec 9:9).
"He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray"
Contrast with Solomon in 1Ki 11:3. Jesus, understandably, was
not married; his mortal life was to be a short one -- there would be no time for
the proper development of an intimate relationship with even one woman, and no
time for the rearing of a family. Nor would it have been true love for Jesus to
subject a wife to the sorrow of widowhood and then permanent separation from her
husband. "An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord's affairs -- how he can
please the Lord" (1Co 7:32). Jesus' work was to be all-consuming; the otherwise
lawful indulgences of ordinary men were not for him.
"He must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold" (Deu
Contrast with Solomon in 1Ki 10:14-23. Probably no man lived
up to this standard better than Jesus. And he who had nowhere to lay his head
instructed his disciples in the same philosophy: "Do not store up for yourselves
treasures on earth... But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven... For
where your treasure is, there your heart will be also... No one can serve two
masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted
to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money" (Mat
The three negative commandments for the king are followed by a
last great positive commandment:
"When he takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for
himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from that of the priests, who are
Levites. It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so
that he may learn to revere the LORD his God and follow carefully all the words
of this law and these decrees and not consider himself better than his brothers
and turn from the law to the right or to the left. Then he and his descendants
will reign a long time over his kingdom in Israel" (Deu 17:18-20).
How did Jesus spend those "hidden years", from age 12 to age
30 -- while the young "prince" prepared for his role as "King of the Jews"?
While the time of his public ministry was relatively short, the time of his
preparation was eighteen years -- five to six times as long. Most likely, in
addition to the ordinary tasks of life (daily work, and oversight of his younger
siblings), Jesus spent much of his spare time writing out his own copy of the
Law, AND the prophets and the psalms... and memorizing them also, and studying
them intensely! The man whose name is "The Word of God" could scarcely have done
less. Of him David spoke prophetically: "Here I am, I have come -- it is written
about me in the scroll. I desire to do your will, O my God; your law is within
my heart" (Psa 40:7,8).
There are other references to these commandments for the king
which also have to do with Christ. And, surprisingly, they present a picture
contradictory -- on the surface -- to that of Deu 17! In Rev 19 Christ appears
from heaven to assume his throne: he is riding upon a white horse (Rev 19:11),
and followed by the armies of heaven upon a great number of white horses (Rev
19:14). His reason for returning is to claim his bride -- a multitudinous bride
(the saints: Rev 19:8). And in Rev 21 is shown the results of his victorious war
-- a "city" of unsurpassed wealth (Rev 21:11-21).
The one who in his mortal life refrained from the multiplying
of horses, wives, and wealth is seen as finally possessing all three in the
greatest abundance. They are the gifts of his Father. The faithful Son who
resisted temptation in the wilderness is at last rewarded. He who saw all the
kingdoms of the world and their glory in a moment of time (Mat 4:8; Luk 4:5)
refused to strive for their attainment by worldly means. Instead he believed and
cast himself upon the Father, who had simply said: "Ask of me, and I will make
the nations your inheritance, the ends of the earth your possession" (Psa
And why should God bestow upon Jesus all the trappings of a
king? The answer is found in a comparison of Rev 19:11,13 with Deu 17:18-20: "He
was called Faithful and True... and his name is called The Word of
This man was the only king to write the law of God perfectly
upon his mind and his heart -- to make it the guide of every moment and the
basis of constant prayer. Here was the only King to acknowledge always the
sovereignty of a greater Monarch. And thus the Creator Monarch will finally
acknowledge him, and give him a name above every other name, that at the name of
Christ every knee shall bow and every tongue confess (Phi 2:9-11). Those
privileges and honors that kings have always fought to obtain for themselves
will be Christ's by right. Of all the world's royalty, Christ alone will -- with
his spiritual "seed" -- "reign a long time over his kingdom in Israel!"
Reading 2 - Ecc 9:11
"I have seen something else under the sun: the race is not to
the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth
to the brilliant or favor to the learned" (Ecc 9:11).
"Five accomplishments are listed, none of which guarantees
success or prosperity: (i) the swift-footed may find himself a loser (cf 2Sa
2:18) [cp also Amo 2:14,15]; (ii) military strength is no guarantee of success
in battle (cf Isa 36; 37); (iii) wisdom similarly is no guarantee of a
livelihood (cf Ecc 9:13-16; 10:1); (iv) understanding may be accompanied by
poverty (cf Ecc 9:15); (v) favor may be delayed for innocent Joseph (Gen 37--41)
and not come at all for others (Ecc 9:13-16)" (Eaton).
The same point is made by David: "No king is saved by the size
of his army; no warrior escapes by his great strength. A horse is a vain hope
for deliverance; despite all its great strength it cannot save" (Psa 33:16,17).
And also by Jeremiah: "This is what the LORD says: 'Let not the wise man boast
of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of
his riches" (Jer 9:23) -- for all these abilities and achievements of mortal men
are so many fleeting shadows; they do not in any way guarantee "success" in this
life. But David continues: "But the eyes of the LORD are on those who fear him,
on those whose hope is in his unfailing love, to deliver them from death and
keep them alive in famine. We wait in hope for the LORD; he is our help and our
shield" (Psa 33:18-20). And likewise Jeremiah continues: "But let him who boasts
boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the LORD, who
exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight"
(Jer 9:24). Each of these Old Testament prophets realizes that God is in
control, and will ultimately reward those who have faith in Him, and manifest
His character to the world around them. They may be the poorest and the weakest
of men and women, and they may possess little of the wisdom of this world (cp
1Co 1:20) -- but nevertheless they dwell in the bosom of the Eternal One; they
are His special treasure; and all He has will finally be given to
"But time and chance happens to them all": "Chance" is
"pehgah", which signifies to impinge upon, to meet with -- apparently by
accident, but most often by the providence of God. Some "chance" meetings (where
the same word occurs in the Hebrew) -- which are plainly not random happenings,
but God-directed events -- are to be found in Gen 32:1; Exo 5:3; 1Sa 10:5;
22:18; 1Ki 2:29; Isa 53:6; 64:5. "On the lips of an Israelite, 'chance' means
what is unexpected, not what is random" (Eaton).
Jesus rules out such "time and chance" random circumstances in
the lives of believers, when he says: "Are not two sparrows sold for a penny?
Yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from the will of your Father.
And even the very hairs of your head are all numbered" (Mat 10:29,30).
Reading 3 - Acts 8:34
"Who is the prophet talking about?" (Acts 8:34).
"It needs to be recognised, specially by those who write
themselves off as incompetent in this field, that even the most ill-equipped
among us are capable of Bible study of the best sort. For this is not a matter
of erudite commentaries and lots of Greek and Hebrew. It consists, quite simply,
of developing the faculty, which we all have, of asking questions. One of the
first mathematicians in Britain, a man with an international reputation, once
said to me, 'The way to make advances in mathematics is to find problems that
need answering. Once you realise you are faced with a problem that no one else
has yet dreamed of tackling, then you are on the way to extending the boundaries
of the subject.' He did not know that he was, in effect, enunciating a wholesome
principle for much rewarding Bible study. There is no block of three or four
verses in the Bible which when read with care does not provoke questions. And
often, though not always, the search for answers leads to wider understanding"