As in so many readings — and I’ll say it again — there are so many things to comment on here and so little time! So let me get started.
God understood a need for someone to be a final arbiter in difficult circumstances. Moses filled this function during his lifetime, but Moses was about to go the way of all the earth soon. So (17:8.9) the Lord appointed a sort of supreme court in the high priest or a judge (in the sense of Samuel, Samson, or Gideon). Such godly men were apparently (due to the fact that they were supposed to go to the Tabernacle or Temple) to receive their answer from the Lord Himself (possibly with the help of the Urim and Thummim). Is there meaning for us in this?
Well, it clearly isn’t that we have a final human arbiter — uninspired (and I’m making an assertion here that I haven’t got time to explain at this point) men are notoriously mistaken about right and wrong. But God’s word is not, and our advantage over the Israelites is that we have so much more written, so many more prophecies, so many more instructive stories and examples and parables and refinements of the Lord’s will. “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” 2 Timothy 3:16, 17, NAS95. And if all else fails, that’s also why God gave His church elders and preachers: “And He gave some as apostles, and some as prophets, and some as evangelists, and some as pastors and teachers, for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ; until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ.” Ephesians 4:11-13, NAS95.
And when it came time for Israel to have a king — it really was God’s intention to give Israel a king in time, Israel just seemed to have “jumped the gun” a little — God wanted even the king to be directed by this same written authority. The king was to have his own hand written copy of the Scriptures that he would keep near his person all the time — as his ultimate advisor. Sadly, we’ll not read in the rest of Scripture whether or not any of the kings ever did such a thing; it seems really clear, however, that there are a lot of problems, sins, and errors that would have been avoided. And while we’re thinking about that, isn’t that true of us, too?
I also find it interesting that the king should handwrite his own copy. Most of understand the value of taking notes in a class. Oh sure, you hear the teacher and learn a little something, but you retain so much more when you write it down. There’s just something memory-enhancing about writing it that God knew and wanted the kings to benefit from. If you’re serious about getting to know God’s word, it could be a good exercise to write it down word for word yourself.
And I’ll not take too much time to elaborate here, but chapter 18:9ff forbids the practice of the occult: spiritism, necromancy, witchcraft, etc. It has become an increasingly embraced practice in our modern world — possibly as a function of the “Goth” world. But dabbling in the occult is no innocent pastime; it is inviting interaction with malevolent spirits in opposition to God.
So how will we know the future and the spiritual stuff we need to know? Listen to God. How will we know who speaks for God? If 100% of the prophecies come to pass (Deut 18:21,22). Spiritists and others will occasionally be right — even a broken clock is right twice a day. But no spiritist, no necromancer, no sorcerer, no fortune-teller will ever be 100% accurate. Only God and His prophets. It’s one of the ways that we can test the authenticity of the Bible itself — all of its prophecies have been fulfilled with the exception of the “end time” prophecies.
Hope you have a great day walking in the Lord’s will. See you tomorrow, Lord willing.