Godly Habits for Leaders and Others

All the people benefit from leaders and rulers who fear God.  In Deuteronomy, when God reluctantly says Israel may set a king over them in the future[1], He also required the king to have specific habits to cultivate a fear of God in them:

And when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests.  And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the LORD his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them, that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel.”  (Deuteronomy 17:18-20, emphasis mine)

These requirements have several parts.  First, the king was to “write for himself in a book a copy of this law.”  “This law” refers to what we now think of as the first five books of the Bible – all 187 chapters of it.  Imagine the time that would take, but this tedious exercise was designed to help the king internalize the message.  Quickly skimming over the Bible would not do.

Second, the king had to get this copy “approved by the Levitical priests,” to make sure nothing was added or left out, but also to remind the king that His authority is subject to God’s authority, as intermediated by the priests at that time.  Regardless of what laws the king might pass, God’s laws would always reign supreme and eternal.

Third, the king was to “read in it all the days of his life,” because it takes time and effort to dig the treasures of wisdom out of the Bible.  However, it is worth the effort because Psalm 19:10 tells us these truths are:

More to be desired are they than gold,
                        even much fine gold;
sweeter also than honey
                        and drippings of the honeycomb.

Also, the king would be surrounded by reminders of his worldly greatness every day, so constant meditation on the law would show him his reliance on God.  The king needs a constant reminder that he is under God, whose law applies to everyone.

These habits exist “that he may learn to fear the LORD,” which leads to “doing” the law.  Even the king is expected to do what God commands, not just tell others to.  With “doing” as the objective, the king will remain humble and learn the fear of God, because we may be able to know God’s word, but doing it is the real challenge and we can only succeed by His grace.

These habits also exist to make sure the king does not err “either to the right hand or to the left.”  This encouragement is later echoed in Moses’ words in Joshua 1:7-8, but what does it mean?  I think it means that without constant saturation in God’s word, we can fall into a trap of not following God’s positive will, but instead defining ourselves by what we’re against.  In trying to avoid one sin, we drift too far in the opposite direction and into another, equally destructive, sin.  Instead, positive obedience coming from the fear of God should be better than fine gold and “sweeter also than honey.”  Truth is often subtle and not as black-and-white as we’d like it to be.

Most of us aren’t kings, but we can apply the passage from Deuteronomy in our prayers.  1 Timothy 2:1-2 “First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.”  But what shall we pray for them?  As Deuteronomy suggests, we should pray that they know God, fear God, and obey God, that they may be humble, and we may prosper.

Also, are you a leader?  Do you serve in a position of authority at your church, workplace, or other organization?  These habits will benefit you and those you serve anywhere.  (In societies where we can easily get a Bible, we don’t need to create our own copies of it, but we should seek to internalize as much of the Bible as possible, through memorization and other means.)  As Solomon wrote in Psalm 127:1 –

Unless the LORD builds the house,
            those who build it labor in vain.
Unless the LORD watches over the city,
            the watchman stays awake in vain.

If you’re not a leader, these habits are beneficial for you as well, as Psalm 128:1 says:

Blessed is everyone who fears the LORD,
                        who walks in his ways!


[1] Deuteronomy 17:14-15

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