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The next instruction that Moses gives to the future kings of Israel is given in Deuteronomy 17:18-20,
18 Now it shall come about when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself a copy of this law on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests. 19 And it shall be with him, and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, by carefully observing all the words of this law and these statutes, 20 that his heart may not be lifted up above his countrymen and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, to the right or to the left; in order that he and his sons may continue long in his kingdom in the midst of Israel.
The king was to write his own copy of the law and discuss its meaning with the priests as he writes it. Once he has mastered what the priests already understood, then he would be able to meditate upon it later and allow the Holy Spirit to teach him further—or perhaps to make corrections in the understanding of the priests.
The king was to follow the food laws in this case, because he was to eat and “chew the cud” (Leviticus 11:3) by meditating upon the word and assimilating it by the Spirit. Any spiritual food that is eaten apart from a second work of the Spirit to digest it properly is unclean. For this reason King David not only read the law daily, but he also meditated upon it to obtain the mind of God. Psalm 1:2 says of the blessed man,
2 But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night.
Likewise, Psalm 119:47 and 48 says,
47 And I shall delight in Thy commandments, which I love, 48 and I shall lift up my hands to Thy commandments, which I love; and I will meditate on Thy statutes.
Apart from the action of the Holy Spirit, reading the law—or any part of the Word—only brings the type of knowledge that tends to puff up a person’s ego (1 Corinthians 8:1). Paul understood this, having been educated in the law in the school of Gamaliel. The scribes and Pharisees had enormous pride in their knowledge of the law, but they did not truly understand it. If they had understood the law, they would not have rejected the Messiah when He came. If they had understood the law, it would have humbled them.
Moses says that a true understanding of the law humbles a man, for Deuteronomy 17:20 says “that his heart may not be lifted up above his countrymen.” Humility is a requirement for kings in the Kingdom of God, whether we apply this to the kings of Israel or to the overcomers in the final manifestation of the Kingdom. When men “eat” the meat of the Word but do not chew their cud, that food is yet carnal to them, and the result is pride. But when they meditate on the Word, the Holy Spirit makes it a revelation, and then we can say with Paul in Romans 7:14, “we know that the Law is spiritual.”
This does not mean that the law has no physical application in a judicial system on earth. Rather, it means that the judge understands the mind of Christ in applying the law in every situation, so that he always renders a verdict that Christ Himself would render. This requires not only a knowledge of the law, but an internalization of the law so that the law is written on the heart, according to the New Covenant (Hebrews 8:10).
We are given the biblical examples of Saul and David to show us the contrast between a king who was in rebellion and one who was a man after God’s own heart. It is doubtful if Saul made his own copy of the law. There is no doubt that David wrote his own copy and meditated upon it day and night. See the difference in the way they reigned.
Both were anointed of God, and both kings were handpicked by God Himself. If Saul had not rebelled, theoretically he would have had a continuous dynasty. After all, the purpose of writing this law and meditating upon it is stated in Deuteronomy 17:20, “in order that he and his sons may continue long in his kingdom in the midst of Israel.” We know, however, that Saul was not destined to rule Israel forever, because he was of the tribe of Benjamin (1 Samuel 9:1, 2), but the kings were prophesied to come of Judah (Genesis 49:10).
David was of Judah, and he considered himself to be a steward of the throne of Christ. His heart was not lifted up in pride above his brethren, neither did he treat the throne as if it were his own. He understood the law and knew the intent of its Author. For these reasons, God made a covenant with David, saying in Psalm 89:36 and 37,
36 His descendants shall endure forever, and his throne as the sun before Me. 37 It shall be established forever like the moon, and the witness in the sky is faithful. Selah.
In other words, David was given the promise that the Messiah, the final King of Israel, would come from his lineage. In the end, the Messiah would be raised from the dead and attain immortality. The promise of the scepter, once given to Him, would never end. And those of His household, the household of faith called overcomers, will rule under His headship until all things are fulfilled.