God, through Moses, sets up local leadership in the form of judges. This is to be their leadership once they inhabit the Promised Land.
The Levites are the intermediaries between God and man but the judges are to be the mediators between man and man. The judges are to be righteous judges. Impartial, honest, above reproach, and God fearing.
I know all these traits are not mentioned in our reading today but we have seen these requirements for appointing judges in our earlier readings. The men appointed to this role are to provide God’s judgment between the parties. Without these characteristics they would be incapable of rendering fair judgments.
“Justice, and only justice, you shall follow, that you may live and inherit the land the Lord your God is giving you” (verse 20). The integrity of the judges and the people’s willingness to follow their just decisions will impact how long they remain in the land. God hates a judge who perverts justice. And they will not escape His judgment; His final justice.
I wanted to know the true meaning of the word “justice” so I Googled it (of course). In the bible study tools dictionary I found they state, “Justice is rooted in the very nature of God.” He judges without partiality or bias. He cannot be bribed and is not blind to any of the facts. He ALWAYS rewards good and punishes evil. He doesn’t always render immediate judgments; however, we can be CERTAIN that there will be a reckoning.
God also judges by a standard. These standards are communicated to Israel in the form of the Law. Jesus went beyond the Law when He gave us God’s ultimate standards. “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind… and…love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:37-37). This is the standard the judges to be appointed in Israel were to follow as well as the judges who sit on the benches today. This is also the standard for use to employ when judging our own issues.
The dictionary definition of “Justice” is as follows:
the quality of being just; righteousness, equitableness, or moral rightness: to uphold the justice of a cause.
rightfulness or lawfulness, as of a claim or title; justness of ground or reason: to complain with justice.
the moral principle determining just conduct.
conformity to this principle, as manifested in conduct; just conduct, dealing, or treatment.
the administering of deserved punishment or reward.
the maintenance or administration of what is just by law, as by judicial or other proceedings: a court of justice.
judgment of persons or causes by judicial process: to administer justice in a community.
All these definitions harmonize with upholding a standard of right and wrong. Funny how our world today tries to say there is no right or wrong; that all is relative. Without right and wrong there would be no law; no justice.
I also find it interesting how many of our ideas of right and wrong are based on God’s ideals. The Supreme court in the United States may say that the Ten Commandments are not allowed to be posted in the courtrooms in our country but those same commandments are at the foundation of our laws. It is against the law to commit murder. It is also one of God’s commandments. You can go down the line with all the commandments and find them in our justice system. “Separate” or not, we follow God’s path. Unfortunately we deviate from that path too.
Israel’s judges would run afoul of their initial orders from God too. This was the beginning of their troubles. Once righteous judgment is perverted there is no justice.
Father God, we have moved SO far away from Your ideals of justice. This is not an issue only with one country or system but the whole world. It is also a personal issue for each of us today. I know I have had “selective judgment” at times. When I didn’t treat “my neighbor” as myself or how I would want to be treated.
I have honestly had a hard time with “judging” others. Not because I judge too harshly or pass judgment often but because I want to know ALL the facts first. Then I want to know all the motivations that could have influenced the actions. I don’t know the hearts of others so am more likely than not to withhold judgment even when judgment may be due. I get angry when people try and pass judgment without knowing both sides of the story and all the facts. I guess that in itself is judging.
Holy Spirit, help me to know when I need to act regarding judging someone in my life. Lead me to live a life of justice in all I do and say. Show me also when “justice” for myself needs to be set aside for the sake of showing Your love and mercy instead. Keep my heart tender instead of judgmental.