“Write for Himself”

Deuteronomy 17:18-20 jumped out at me yesterday! Since I have read the Bible through for each of the last 25+ years, I know I have read this passage at least 25 times. But there was a phrase I had never paid attention to before.

Yes, I know the text did not change, but my thinking has. This is sort of like when you purchase a new (at least to you) vehicle and you begin to notice how many people drive the same make, model and color. They did not all rush out the same day to purchase their automobiles. Your information sorting grid opens to allow you to notice that particular car.

Lately I have been training several different groups to use 3-column Bible studies. In February I traveled internationally to train people to do such studies. I have introduced a small group focusing on making disciples to use the study strategy. I expose guys in the local jail to do such studies. Tonight I will meet with four more to introduce them, also. With all these experiences a swirl at this time, I finally saw this “new-to-me” insight in Deuteronomy.

Through Moses, God tells the people of Israel that there will come a day when they insist on having a king to lead them. He gives directives and warnings. Such a king will be susceptible to leading the nation away from their allegiance to God. He will be at risk of trusting in his ability to fight battles, gain wealth and/or enter into pacts with the surrounding nations rather than staying true to the covenant with Yahweh. But the king is told to do something to protect his heart from being lead astray by pride, wealth, power or even his wives:

“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 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).

Did you catch it? Probably not, unless you know me pretty well. If you have been with me in one of those trainings lately, you might have noticed it too.

Upon ascending to this position of power, “he is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law” (Deuteronomy 17:18). One of the things I am training people to do is to write out the Word of God in their own handwriting. I am admonishing they do this as a form of spiritual discipline. We (especially in the Western world) experience what I call “Spiritual Attention Deficit Disorder” and it is SADD! Television is rapidly eroding our capacity to be attentive. We long for interruptions and will create them if necessary.

Due to this condition we are unable to meditate on the Word of God. We will pay men well to chew it up, and spit it into our mouths so we only have to swallow it. We become enraged by those who would dare to expect us to do our own reading, our own meditating, our own study. We tell ourselves and others that we are “too busy.” The truth is we are too lazy and too distracted!

Could anyone in Israel be busier than a newly anointed King? Are you responsible for the oversight of hundreds of thousands of people? If not, please consider what God wants leaders to do—write out Scriptures, keep them with you all the time and read from them every day.

Did you notice the three fruits that will be born from such meditation? Moses says:

1. You will learn to revere the Lord.
2. You will learn to carefully obey his commandments.
3. You will avoid pride.

As I noted in my last post, which was written almost five years ago, there is a great value in writing out sections of Scriptures. When you do that and couple it with re-phrasing it in your own words, you have to read it numerous times. The task demands focus. It disciplines us to stick with a passage. Then take it to a third action—writing out the things God is calling you to do to obey this text. To help you with that process I challenge people to start all their sentences in the third column with the two words, “I will…” Here I write out what I will do to be obedient to what God is directing.

Kings and Chronicles would contain different stories if God’s will had been done by her leaders. Too many rejected God’s right to reign in their lives and lead the nation into sin.

How would you combine Deuteronomy 17:18-20 with 1 Peter 2:9? Do you remember that one? Here Peter makes that beautiful affirmation regarding our identity, “you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.”

We like the idea of being kings and queens with Jesus! We like the sound of being seated with him on his heavenly throne! I am convinced we will do a better job at what Peter is talking about when we practice what kings are supposed to do.


  1. good post. i’ve never noticed that verse either. but i’ve marked it down now.

    out of curiosity, what are your feelings on typing the Word of God for a 3-column study. i’m not talking for church planting and reproducibility — i just mean for my own personal study. have you read any studies or even have any guesses on how similar that might be to handwriting?


  2. I discourage typing it since the best typists do not remember what they have typed. My suspicion is that a different portion of the brain controls typing than handwriting. You actually “handle” the Word when you write it. Re-typing it after it is written to make it more legible for someone else is certainly another way of passing it on, but I think we will gain more personally by handwriting it.

    But as I mentioned on your blog, it is possible that there are differences between generations on this matter. My children were not trained in a formal “typing” class. They had computer keyboarding in junior high, but not typing. Those of us who had typing were trained to be machines (some of the fruits of modernism). It was all about speed which equaled words per minute less errors. Generally speaking, the less you read for content, the faster your speed. It would be interesting to see some brain scans of handwriting and typing the text taken from people from different generations.


  3. John:
    I am doing a search for veiwpoints on this very thought. I, like you, noticed it one day and did/do tie it to I peter 2:9 as well. If we are kings then we should at least know the law as well. So now my questions I am searching for answers on (not being a Hebrew scholar) are “Is there an indication that this writing was done by his own hand as opposed to paying a scribe to do it” (I have preached as ‘in his own hand’ but want to see if I am sound footing) and two, is the copy of the whole Pentateuch or just the book of Deuteronomy? Not that you have the answers but I am glad to see that someone else saw what I did…


    1. Steve, the context points toward the new king writing it with his own hand since he will personally have to fulfill everything mentioned in this section (e.g., revering the Lord).

      I do not read Hebrew, but the Orthodox Jewish Bible translates this as referring to the Torah (Pentateuch).


      1. And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the kisei mamlakhto (throne of his kingdom), that he shall write him a mishneh hatorah hazot (copy of this torah) in a sefer out of that which is before the kohanim, the Levi’im; (Devarim 17:18 OJB)

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