Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Copy That!

In radio speak there is a phrase, “Copy that!” to inform the broadcaster that you received the message.  Maybe that should be used by church leaders in response to God.  What do I mean?

There is a prescribed ancient practice that should be undertaken when recognized for spiritual oversight of a local assembly.  As Moses addresses the people of Israel before crossing over into the land of promise, he gives instructions to kings recognized over the people.  As first order of business upon coronation, the king
shall write for himself in a book a copy of this law, approved by the Levitical priests.  And it shall be with him, and he shall read in it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God by keeping all the words of this law and these statutes, and doing them, that his heart may not be lifted up above his brothers, and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, either to the right hand or to the left, so that he may continue long in his kingdom, he and his children, in Israel.  (Deut 17:18-20)
This is a remarkable requirement: the king is to make his own copy of Torah to read and study.  Moses’ instruction appears to state that “he king himself copy the covenant out by hand to impress it more deeply upon his memory.”*  Israel, as a nation called of God, was to be distinct from other nations in its administration,† therefore the administrative head needed to be on top of what He requires.  Since the king was not required to understand the minutia of Levitical practice, only the book of Deuteronomy would need to be copied, as it sufficiently summarized all the Lord required of the his people.

Of course, we cannot directly equate the king of Israel to the pastors or overseers of a local assembly, but the practice of hand-copying a document would cause the message to be instilled into the copier’s life.  There is no way the message could not have an affect.  Our overseers (plus deacons and any other teachers) should do the same.

You may ask why I would want a New Testament leader to write out the book of Deuteronomy.  First, the Pentateuch is the foundation of the Bible.  If our leaders do not know those five books intimately, they do not understand the purpose of the church as the Body of Christ and how it functions.  Those books are basic.  Second, I do not trust those in position to study it on their own, or if they do, that it be done properly.‡ Although these men may be otherwise trustworthy, they are still susceptible to sin and skirting sound doctrine.

This is a taxing requirement, but God’s people are to be led and served by those who can rightfully handle the word of truth (2 Tim 2:15), shepherd the flock of God (1 Pet 5:2), and speak/serve in the strength as God supplies (1 Pet 4:10-11).  They need to know the basics of the Bible, and such a practice would help.

*  Raymond Brown, The Message of Deuteronomy, 180 .  He continues that this may simply be ordering the ruler to makes sure scribes create a copy for him, however the force of the language seems more pointed.
†  J. G. McConville, Deuteronomy, 295.
‡  I am not being negative but understanding how the latent sin nature interferes with our intentions.

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