6–12 May 2018.
Deuteronomy 17–18 (click to read).
Our lives are full of temptations. Some of us are tempted by popularity, by possessions and money, by power, or countless other things. It doesn’t matter whether we are great or small, pastors or lay people, men or women or children, we all struggle with temptations. That’s because there are things that God knows aren’t good for us, things that will hurt us and those around us, but our hearts don’t want to listen. And so we chase after those temptations anyway.
Deuteronomy 17 talks especially about the temptations facing kings. Actually, some Jewish traditions tell us that Israel was never supposed to have a king. God was meant to be their leader and king, not a human person. But Deuteronomy 17 recognizes that the Israelites will be tempted to have a king, because they will want to be like other nations. But once they choose a king, that king will face temptations of his own. The text mentions 3 specific temptations, all of which revolve around the misuse of power.
A king’s first temptation will be to build up a huge military and use it to expand his power. Verse 16 warns that kings must not build up large stables of warhorses. That’s because the king’s role is to defend justice and righteousness, not to be an aggressive warrior. But the temptations of power and massive militaries are hard for kings and country leaders to resist. Verse 16 warns that kings will even want to sell their own people into slavery, sending them back to Egypt in exchange for more warhorses and more military power. Even today, national leaders tell us that military power is important to protect the people, but then they sacrifice the lives of our people for that military power. That’s how destructive the temptation for power can be.
The second temptation facing a king is to abuse his power for his own sexual desires. So verse 17 forbids a king from taking many wives and boosting his own ego and lusts in this way. On the world stage today, it’s not hard to find nations with presidents who have fallen prey to their sexual desires. The third temptation is money and riches. When we think of kings and royalty, we immediately think of great palaces and extravagantly rich living. But verse 17 forbids the king from stockpiling huge amounts of silver and gold for himself, sucking the wealth out of the country, the people, and the land.
These prohibitions are clear and sensible. But sadly, Israel’s kings failed badly at all of them. We see this failure in King Saul, King David, and most of all in King Solomon. The lesson here is that all of us face the dangers of temptation. It doesn’t matter if we are kings or ordinary people, we each have temptations that pull us away from the right path and encourage us to serve our own sinful desires.
But while it’s not good to give into temptations, failure doesn’t mean that God abandons us. God knows our weaknesses. God encourages us to stay strong, and he wants us to do what is right. But when we fail, we still have the chance to seek forgiveness and try hard again to change. Whatever our temptations may be, with God’s help, I pray we will all have the strength to overcome them.
Pastor Stephen Lakkis