For the week of August 5, 2000 / 4 Av 5760
Torah: Devarim / Deuteronomy 1:1 - 3:22
Haftarah: Isaiah 1:1-27

You Are a Judge

Do not be afraid of any man, for judgement belongs to God (Devarim / Deuteronomy 1:17).

This week's portion includes a passage which provided the basis on which judgement was to be conducted within the community of Israel. Moses gave the judges of Israel these directions:

Hear the disputes between your brothers and judge fairly, whether the case is between brother Israelites or between one of them and an alien. Do not show partiality in judging; hear both small and great alike. Do not be afraid of any man, for judgment belongs to God. (Devarim / Deuteronomy 1:16,17).

Did you know that God has appointed you as a judge?

Many people today are uncomfortable with the concept of judgement. Yeshua taught his disciples, "Do not judge, or you too will be judged" (Matthew 7:1). But this has to do with personal attitudes toward others, not societal issues. He wasn't saying that there should not be courts of law and that leaders of our communities should not make judgements when necessary.

As an individual it is not for me to judge other people. But from time to time a dispute may be such that a third-party would be needed to make a judgement. In that case this passage provides very helpful guidelines. In a few words it deals with many important issues.

Disputes should be handled fairly and impartially without favoritism. All people were to be given equal treatment, whether they were members of the community or outsiders, whether they were prominent and powerful or not.

Moses said, "Don't be afraid of any man." When settling disputes, the judge was not to be intimidated or manipulated by anyone. Settlements were to be decided based on objective standards alone, not upon anyone's personal concerns or agendas, whether it be that of the judge or the parties involved.

Here's the foundational statement: "For judgement belongs to God." Judges needed to understand that they were stewards of God's judgement and not their own. Whenever they heard a case they had to defer to God's will, however they themselves may have felt.

How then are we judges? If we know God, then we represent him to others. Therefore we need to be careful what we say or don't say when hearing other people's problems. You may not think of yourself as a judge. But you will either help or hinder others from understanding how God regards their situations of life.

Yeshua's telling us not to judge in fact supports this. We are not to stand over people, criticizing them for how they live. But at the same time, we need to help people understand God's ways.

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