King Me by Christopher Mack

Scripture: Deuteronomy 17:14-20

King Me by Christopher Mack

As a young kid who dabbled in checkers, I relished in getting to say to my opponent “King me.” It was the moment a predictable foot soldier became a powerful king. It could tilt the tide of a game dramatically. And though I was unaware of it, there was likely a significant part of me that enjoyed telling my opponent to make or crown me a king. I never said, “crown my checkers piece a king.” It was always ME. 

The Hebrew Bible tells a story. Genesis shows God’s promises with humanity from the very beginning through a particular family to bless the whole world. Exodus is how this family is freed from slavery and inaugurated as God’s covenant people. Numbers tells of their wayward wandering in the wilderness. Deuteronomy is the summation of Moses’ teaching to a people about to enter and attempt to conquer the Promised Land. The report had come back about both the great rewards and daunting risks that awaited them. 

The people were mostly concerned with the physical and military stature of their adversaries. Moses was more focused with their ways of governing, worshipping, and living as a people. Moses trusted God to be able to give the Hebrews the land. His experience in the wilderness had taught him not to underestimate the Hebrews’ uncanny ability to forsake God’s Dream for them to chase conformity and comfort.

Much of what is written in Deuteronomy as warning becomes an indictment for the people throughout the scrolls of Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings. Deuteronomy stands as a game plan and the proceeding stories show the victories and mounting defeats the people endure trying to enact God’s Dream for them and the world.

King Solomon served as a hinge in the history of God’s People. He started off strong, but it became clearer that he was straying further and further away. The scroll of Kings makes this clear by cataloguing the ways Solomon’s Empire had come to mirror self-serving and exploitive values of the other nations and ceased being a blessing to the whole world. This list in 1 Kings 10 and 12 of Solomon’s transgressions finds its words of warning in Deuteronomy 17.

Arms Importation

Deuteronomy 17:16

“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.’ ”

1 Kings 10:28

“Solomon’s horses were imported from Egypt”

Political Alliances Through Marriage

Deuteronomy 17: 17a

“He must not take many wives, or his heart will be led astray.”

1 Kings 11:1-2 

“King Solomon, however, loved many foreign women besides Pharaoh’s daughter—Moabites, Ammonites, Edomites, Sidonians and Hittites. They were from nations about which the Lord had told the Israelites, ‘You must not intermarry with them, because they will surely turn your hearts after their gods.’ Nevertheless, Solomon held fast to them in love.”

Accumulation of Vast Sums of Wealth

Deuteronomy 17: 17b

“He must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold.”

1 Kings 10:14, 23, 27a

“The weight of the gold that Solomon received yearly was 666 talents… King Solomon was greater in riches and wisdom than all the other kings of the earth… The king made silver as common in Jerusalem as stones.”

After Solomon’s reign, the Hebrew people were split apart as a nation. Both the Northern and the Southern Kingdom were eventually conquered and exiled. Disregard for God’s Word has disastrous consequences for us personally and communally too. When we live out of harmony with the Way of Jesus we are going against who God made us to be and how we were created to live in relation to one another. We become selfish, violent, indifferent, debased, and corrupt. We miss out on God’s Dream of a people who are servant-leaders, peacemakers, compassionate, honorable, and just.

Christopher Mack