When a king takes the throne of his kingdom, he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law, taken from that of the priests, who are Levites. 19 It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to revere the LORD his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees 20 and not consider himself better than his brothers and turn from the law to the right or to the left. Then he and his descendants will reign a long time over his kingdom in Israel. — Deuteronomy 17:18-20
Somehow I missed it! Perhaps I was sleeping in class the day they talked about it. Or, maybe I was talking to the girl next to me. But I matriculated through a liberal arts education without anyone breathing a word to me about the true roots of our nation’s rule of law and liberty.
Now I look back and think that this gap in my learning might have something to do with being schooled in the Enlightenment rather than the Scriptures. Well, you can imagine my amazement when I later discovered that long before there was a fledgling democracy in Athens, or a republic in Rome, there was in ancient Israel a rule of law and liberty. Fourteen hundred years before Christ, the Lord God provided for the poorest peasant to stand equal with the king before the rule of law.
As seen in today’s text from Deuteronomy, the Lord God required something quite remarkable for a king – submission to the law. The Lord commanded that a new king was to “write for himself on a scroll” a copy of the law. It’s not that the king didn’t have scribes and secretaries to do the copying for him. Rather the Lord wanted the king’s first act to be an act of submission to the law, and immersion in the law, by carefully copying it, letter by letter, word by word, and line by line.
Then, having copied the law, the Lord required the king to keep that copy of the law “with him” and “to read it all the days of his life.” Thereby bowing before the law the king would not “think himself better than brothers.”
Our nation’s debt to Moses and divine law is expressed in our nation’s Supreme Court building. There are six representation of Moses in the Supreme Court building.
In the House of Representatives, the chamber is ringed by twenty-three marble faces, including those of Hammurabi and Napoleon. Eleven of the faces look left, eleven look right. All of them look to Moses in the middle, the only one facing forward.
The roots of our nation’s liberty and limited government reach far back to the wilderness of Sinai, when thirty-four centuries ago God commanded the people to “Proclaim liberty throughout the land” Leviticus 25:10.
Let us care for and nurture our Biblical roots! Tim Smith