When he [the king] sits on the throne as king, he must copy for himself this body of instruction on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests. He must always keep that copy with him and read it daily as long as he lives. That way he will learn to fear the Lord his God by obeying all the terms of these instructions and decrees. [Deuteronomy 17:18-19 (NLT)]
Back in the days before spell-check, we studied spelling in elementary school. In an attempt to commit the week’s words to memory, my mother made me write them at least five times. She would watch me do it (no cheating allowed). Although the spelling tests were on Friday, we were expected to remember those words forever (or at least until the end of the school year).
Each week, we also had a spelling rule to learn which we were to apply to any new words we encountered. Surely you remember the old maxim, “It’s i before e, except after c, or when sounded as a as in neighbor and weigh!” Applying that rule helped us know how to spell words like siege, yield, ceiling and rein.
The book of Deuteronomy was written to remind the Israelites of what God had done in the past and to guide them in their future conduct once they reached the Promised Land. Although God did not want them to have a king, He knew they eventually would insist on having one. As a result, in Chapter 17, He included instructions for all future kings. Each new king was to make a copy of the law. Without scanner or copy machines, this tedious task was to be done by hand. Although he certainly had scribes who could do this for him, the king had to do it himself and in the presence of the priests (no cheating allowed). Like writing spelling words, transcribing the law was to imprint its message on his mind. Writing the words, however, was not enough. In the same way children study their spelling words, the king was instructed to keep his copy of the law with him at all times and to read the words he’d written daily. That, however, was still not enough. Just as children are expected to apply the principles learned in their spelling primers, the kings were to obey God’s law and to wisely apply everything they learned in the scriptures. All the writing and reading would be worthless to them if it was never put into practice!
Write it, read it, and practice it in life! That’s what children are supposed to do in spelling class and what the kings were supposed to do in the Promised Land. They may have written and read the law but, as the rest of the Old Testament aptly illustrates, they didn’t do a very good job of applying it. Let’s learn from their mistakes. Study God’s word but remember that it does no good to be able to recite every chapter and verse if we fail to apply its truth to our lives!
The Bible is very easy to understand. But we Christians are a bunch of scheming swindlers. We pretend to be unable to understand it because we know very well that the minute we understand, we are obliged to act accordingly. [Søren Kierkegaard]