Balance of Power

In Deut. 17:14-18:21, the Lord sets forth the roles and responsibilities of the prophet, priest and king. The concept of having checks and balances in government as well as the idea of having executive, legislative, and judicial branches of government originated from this text. The prophet brought the law, the priest interpreted it for the people, and the King executed it. The king would be roughly parallel to our executive branch of government. The Lord never told the Israelites to have a king, but He anticipated that they would ask for one in order to be like other nations (17:14,15).

The King must be chosen from one of them and not a foreigner. The President of the United States must also be a natural-born citizen. The king was not to use his office as a means of personal gain (horses, gold, or wives). Solomon, the third king of Israel, violated every one of this restrictions (see 1 Kings 10:21-11:3). Laws are also in place to make sure that the Presidents of the United States do not use their office for personal gain. Finally, the king was to keep for himself a copy of the law so that he would revere God and follow carefully the word of the Lord. The king was to execute the law as interpreted by the priests.

The Priests represented the judicial branch of government. They could not have an allotment or inheritance with Israel. In other words, they could not have any conflict of interest. Judges in the judiciary branch of the American government must recuse themselves if they have a conflict of interest. The Prophets were to speak the words of the Lord. They wrote the law. If they spoke presumptuously, they were to be removed and they were not to be feared if what they said did not come to pass. The legislative branch of government creates the laws of the land. In a representative form of government, legislators (senators and representatives) are supposed to speak on behalf of the people who put them into office. If they speak presumptuously and fail to represent the people, they are voted out by the people in coming elections (or they should be).

Only Christ is qualified to be prophet, priest and king. No person is good enough to rule without checks and balances. Under the New Covenant, we have pastors (pastor-teacher), shepherds (elders), and administrators (overseers). Although the terms pastor, elder and overseer refer to the same office, they do not describe the same function. They roughly parallel the roles of prophet (pastor), priest (elder), and king (overseer). They make up the leadership of the local church. The New Testament teaches a plurality of elders so that one person doesn’t rule. Christ is the head of the Church and He rules. Elders collectively discern the will of God and lead the people by proclaiming the word of God, caring for the people, and by overseeing a ministry that ensures every member of the body of Christ is contributing to the good of all.

Dr. Neil

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