For the week of September 10, 2016 / 7 Elul 5776
Torah: Devarim/Deuteronomy 16:18 – 21:9
Haftarah: Isaiah 51:12 – 52:12
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You shall appoint judges and officers in all your towns that the LORD your God is giving you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with righteous judgment. (Devarim/Deuteronomy 16:18)
Two years ago, I did a TorahBytes message on this passage, where I discussed the need for righteous judgment. This time, I want to delve into some aspects of the process necessary to establish justice.
First, while we hear a lot about justice issues, especially with regard to the systemic abuse of certain groups of people, there is a prevailing mood among us that undermines justice in our personal and societal relationships. Justice is establishing what is right. To bring about justice requires making judgments. Making judgments is difficult when we embrace the contemporary view of tolerance. Classical tolerance is showing respect for differences. Contemporary tolerance dictates that we treat all differences as equal. If our differences are equal, then it becomes wrong to compare them or prefer one over the other. While some things are indeed based on personal preferences (such as a favorite color), not everything is. People can pretend that all human activity is based on nothing more than taste, but we will never escape the fact that we live in a moral universe. If you and I don’t acknowledge the validity of right and wrong, the universe (God actually) will make it clear to us eventually, and likely sooner than we think.
It’s most tragic when people who should know better buy into a misguided version of Yeshua’s words “Judge not, that you be not judged” (Matthew 7:1), thinking he is supporting the idea that we should never make value judgments regarding human behavior. What he is really speaking against is having a condescending, arrogant attitude toward others. One cannot take Yeshua’s teaching seriously and take on the moral relativism so prevalent today. Check out the rest of the Matthew passage to see that. Far from accepting everything everybody does, he calls us to carefully point out issues in one another’s lives (see Matthew 7:2-5).
Once we accept the need to make righteous judgments, we then need to learn to make decisions. That may seem obvious, but partly due to the effects of extreme tolerance, we sometimes confuse discussions with decisions. I am aware that for many people even broaching a difficult subject, especially an item of disagreement, can be a very big deal. But just because a matter is finally brought into the open doesn’t mean it is necessarily effectively resolved. It is resolved when a decision is made, but not any decision; one based on righteous judgment.
While some are satisfied simply to talk about a subject without ever resolving anything, others are happy making a decision for its own sake. But the appearance of a resolution is not the same as a just one. In order to make the kind of decisions God is calling for we need to be better informed as to what is right and what is wrong from his perspective. In other words, we need to know the whole Bible better. Then we also need God-given wisdom to understand how to apply his written Word to the personal and societal issues of our day. It won’t be easy, but our lives depend on it.
All scriptures, English Standard Version (ESV) of the Bible