“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; Thou shalt in any wise set him king over thee, whom the LORD thy God shall choose: one from among thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee: thou mayest not set a stranger over thee, which is not thy brother.” (Deuteronomy 17:14)
People want other people’s approval. The most determined rebel or rugged individualist may try top shock others, but he seeks those who have a similar attitude to obtain their approval. God knew that Israel one day would not be satisfied with being different from everyone else even to be a special people to God. As other nations became more influential they would begin to want to be like them.
God knew the tendency for man to begin to worship power, and he deliberately did not give them a powerful leader to prevent that from happening as long as possible. In Revelation 2, God states that he hates the both the doctrine and the practice of those who want power over people, the Nicolaitanes. Matthew 20:25-28, Mark 10:42-45, and Luke 22:25-26 all forbid that philosophy among Christian leaders.
God also understood that sooner or later they would insist on their being like the other nation even though it didn’t please him and made provision that when that time came, he would bless them in spite of their rejection of his plan. Five hundred years later, in I Samuel 8 Israel finally demanded a king so they could be like the other nations, and God instructed Samuel to give them one, but he warned of the effects such a decision would have on them. In Chapter 10, he made it clear that this was not what God wanted, but that they would be permitted to have it their way.
Since the time of the Reformation there has been conflict over the form of government of the church, Some have held that there must be a Supreme leader such as the Pope in the Catholic Church, or the Archbishop of Canterbury in the church of England, who rules through various levels of intermediaries such as bishops and priests. Most religious organizations use some variant of this design for the main organization, all though the titles vary, even to being called the chairman or president of the group. While I don’t wish to deal with that subject at this point, I believe that Paul makes it clear that the entire system is contrary to God’s plan.
Most of the controversy in our day stems from disagreements about whether a local church is to be governed by a single pastor, a group of elders, or a democratic group of some kind. Each type of administration has both positive and negative aspects, and as I Corinthians 12:4-7 points out God is capable of using any one of them to accomplish his purpose. “Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.”
Knowing the danger of power being used to turn people away from God, God set down specific guidelines for choosing a ruler to minimize the danger. They were to choose one of themselves as King. This would minimize his feelings of superiority and enable them to know what kind of attitude he had toward God. There were certain things they were to look for.
“But he shall not multiply horses to himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt, to the end that he should multiply horses: forasmuch as the LORD hath said unto you, Ye shall henceforth return no more that way. Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away: neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold.” (Deuteronomy 17:16-17)
An attitude of faith would be demonstrated by a willingness to trust God rather than depending on a great military buildup, or depending on Egypt when things got tough. A deficient moral standard would indicate weakness in his relationship to God, and a focus on accumulating wealth would indicate an idolatrous fixation. While many recognize it was his wives that eventually led Solomon into idolatry, an examination of his life shows that he had neglected all these instructions. He had been moving in that direction from the time he began to sacrifice in the high places contrary to God’s command. Much of the idolatry found in the reign of the various kings of Israel and Judah had it’s roots in Solomon’s reign.
“And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book out of that which is before the priests the Levites: And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them: That his heart be not lifted up above his brethren, and that he turn not aside from the commandment, to the right hand, or to the left: to the end that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he, and his children, in the midst of Israel.” (Deuteronomy 17:18-20)
Once he became king, it was crucial that he stayed focused on God’s commands. There is and old saying that “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Unless he stayed focused on what God said, the king would almost certainly begin to replace God’s commands with his own ideas and standards, leading the people away from God.
Although a monarchy was not God’s preferred form of government, he could work with it, but it was critical that the ruler chosen meet certain standards. While God can work with different types of church government or “polity,” it is critical the leaders selected meet certain standards. I Timothy 3 and Titus 1 Specify certain attitudes and behaviors that are to be considered in selecting a leader.
I and II Timothy and Titus all stress the need for the pastor to have a sound understanding of the scripture in order to properly lead the Church. II Timothy 2:15 sums it all up. “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”