Deuteronomy 14-20: Rulership

Sovereignty of God

What does it mean to be sovereign?  Does it mean that you have the right to rule, or the right to give commands, or the right to demand obedience, or the right to the respect of others?  By definition, sovereignty means: supremacy of authority or rule, complete independence and self-government.  Basically, it means to have the authority to make sovereign decisions free from influence or input of others.  By definition then, the answer to my second question would be yes.  But just because someone has the right to all of those things, does not mean that they will be able to pull off all of those things.  One might have the right to make decisions or give commands, but that does not mean that those decisions or commands will be carried out by those under you.  In fact, we’ve seen a lot going on in our world lately where the people who have the right to make decisions (elected or otherwise) are being deposed by their citizens.  Their right to be in charge is being overturned by their citizens right to, well, not listen or obey.

In essence, this is the situation that God faces on a regular basis.  Let me make one distinction here: God CAN enforce his decisions and commands any time he desires to, but he does not do so.  If our readings from Israel’s history so far have shown us nothing else, they have shown us that God is unwilling to exercise his full right to enforce his decisions (probably because exercising that right would have resulted in Israel’s complete destruction).  The truth is, God respects our right to decide when it comes to whether or not we obey his commands or follow his decisions.  It breaks his heart, but he respects our choice.  Take these two examples from these chapters in Deuteronomy.

1) Chapter 14:22-29.  God directs that 1/10th of Israel’s harvest is to be brought to God.  As the years pass, this directive is followed less and less.  Even when you consider our own giving practices, how many of us follow this guideline that God established?

2) Chapter 17:14-20.  God always intended for Israel to be a theocracy.  Basically, it means a state that is ruled solely by God.  But in his wisdom, God knew that Israel would see the other nations with their rulers and desire an earthly, kingly ruler to follow.  So God made provision for that occurrence here in Deuteronomy.  In that provision, God makes it very clear that the King was to be a student of God’s commands; “so that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, to observe all the words of this instruction, and to do these statutes.”  As we get past Deuteronomy, pay attention to how many of Israel’s kings adhere to this.

The truth for us in this is that our ability to follow God’s commands is determined by our will to do so.  If we choose to obey, then obedience is easy.  If we choose to buck God’s authority, then obedience becomes harder.  In everything, we must realize that we have a choice, and God will honour our choice, whether we choose right or wrong.

Happy reading.

  • What was familiar from this passage of scripture?  What was something I already knew?
  •  What was new from this piece of scripture?  What was something that really stood out for me that I have never paid attention to before?
  • Does Jesus appear in this passage of scripture?
  •  How does this passage apply to my life, here and now?  Do I need to do anything about it?
  •  What prayer would I offer up to God after reading this piece of scripture?

Tomorrow’s Reading: Deuteronomy 21-23

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