Beginning well makes ending well a whole lot easier! Too often we have high hopes to accomplish great things but we have the extremely unrealistic idea that we can start with a whimper and yet somehow end with a bang. This month I would like to share with you some unusual and largely unnoticed instructions for beginning well that were given to the future kings of Israel in Deuteronomy 17:18-19.
“When he 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. 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…”
Isn’t that something! The king, upon taking the throne, was to get an officially sanctioned copy of the law – understood at that time to be our Bible books of Genesis through Deuteronomy – and make a copy of it in his own hand, for himself.
This text continues with the promise that if the king does this, turning neither to the right nor to the left,
“then he and his descendants will reign a long time over his kingdom in Israel.”
If the king started this way – by writing out his own copy of the law for his own benefit and then actually kept it – God assures him that he will finish well. That is a pretty remarkable promise.
But it is also an example of God’s own pastorally brilliant advice. Notice the emphasis on the king copying it himself. The king would always have this testimony of God the great Creator and Deliverer, the great Shepherd and Lawgiver, in his own handwriting. Not only would the act of writing it out rather than simply listening to it or reading it enable the king to remember it and know it better, but he would have God’s promises and warnings in his own handwriting as a constant witness either for or against him to strengthen his conscience and firm his resolve to do right and please God – to finish well.
Many of you may keep journals as a personal discipline. This year I want to challenge all of you, who are “seated with princes” (Psalm 113:8) to write a different kind of journal. Recount for yourself, in your own hand, the word of God. Write out the text of Genesis through Deuteronomy. Or choose the gospel of Matthew or John. Pick a prophet or an epistle. But copy out God’s word for yourself and keep it with you – and then keep it. By grace let us seek to finish well!
Here’s a link to buy a journaling bible like the one in the picture above.