In these chapters one underlying theme that ties a few things together is that we’re dealing with how Israel is to live in the time after Moses’ death. It does seem to make a lot of sense to me that Deuteronomy is (at least substantially) the ‘Book of the Law’ that was found during Josiah’s reform and repair of the Temple in 2 Kings 22. The ‘Limitations of Royal Authority‘ and the commands throughout the book on centralising worship at Jerusalem fit so neatly with the concerns and progress of Josiah that it’s hard not to see a strong link.
There are others who will lead in Moses’ stead – priests and judges, and above all a prophet like Moses. There are rules for the conduct of war and justice which combine ruthlessness against all who corrupt Israel’s faith with humanity when it comes to accident and false accusation, or to the raising of an army.
But it’s for the king that the restrictions and commands are focussed. Whenever the ‘Book of the Law’ found in Josiah’s day was actually written, these words would have echoed after generations of kings who indulged themselves and exploited the poor, who were immoral and idolatrous. The priests must have rejoiced to find that God had foreseen all their problems and had given the remedy long before. Those who would rule must remember that they do so by God’s choice and under God’s Law. This is to bring them faithfulness to God and humility among their community. The first thing a king is to do on taking the throne is to commission a personal copy of the Book of the Law of God – for us, the Bible would be a decent successor.
Not every good leader is a prophet, filled with God-given vision and wisdom. The ideal leader will rely on others – as did Josiah – for advice and support. Among those may be priests, judges and guardians of sacred culture (the Levites, back then). There may even be a prophet or two, though they may be careful how they speak if they’re not very sure of their ground!
In whatever situations and positions we find ourselves in roles of leadership, how willing are we to remain one of the community we lead? How can we become better leaders by seeking wise counsel and by soaking our minds in the Bible?
Leadership isn’t easy. Thanks be to God for opening up more than one way to do it – and for keeping them all within his supreme and overall authority.