Thursday, August 20, 2015

Parasha Shoftim-Judges

Deut. 16:18-21:9

Judgment and Righteousness, is the beginning theme found in the first reading of this Torah portion: “You shall set up judges and law enforcement officials for yourself in all your cities that the Lord, your God, is giving you, for your tribes, and they shall judge the people [with] righteous judgment. You shall not pervert justice; you shall not show favoritism, and you shall not take a bribe, for bribery blinds the eyes of the wise and perverts just words. Justice, justice shall you pursue, so that you will live and possess the Land that the Almighty your God, gives you" Deu 16:18-20. The Hebrew word “tzedek” means “righteousness” or “justice” and is one of the attributes of the God of Israel. God is called the Lord our Righteousness; (Jer 23:6), the Righteous God; (Psalm 129:4 & Isa 45:21), and so on. So from a Jewish Encyclopedia we have “Righteousness is the fulfillment of all legal and moral obligations. Righteousness is not an abstract notion but rather consists in doing what is just and right in all relationships; "…keep justice and do righteousness at all times" (Ps. 106:3; cf. Isa. 64:4; Jer. 22:3; Ezek. 18:19–27; Ps. 15:2). Righteous action results in social stability and ultimately in peace: And the work of righteousness shall be peace (Isa. 32:17; cf. Hos. 10:12). Renderings given in the English versions of the Hebrew root "ẓadaḳ" and its derivatives "ẓaddiḳ," "ẓedeḳ," "ẓedaḳh." The use of "righteous" as a translation for "yashar" (="upright") is less frequent. "Just," "justice," "justify" also occur as equivalents for these Hebrew terms.”

 Earthly kingdoms or nations are characterized by their rulers in the administrating of justice to their subordinates or citizens. In this way one can say that a ruler is a benevolent one in his ways or a harsh dictator when he undermines justice to his own benefit, ref; Pro 29:2 “When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice, but when the wicked bear rule, the people mourn”. There’s also a sense of everyone living at peace and the enjoyment of being blessed with prosperity when justice is administrated in a nation and the people are in obedience to God; ref Deu 6:24-25. Righteous judgment is a biblical concept that we see throughout the Tanach, because this is a basic concept of God and He is asking the Israelites to do the same in this parsha. The kingdom of God is to be demonstrated here on earth by the people of Israel (which are His children) in the keeping and administrating God’s Torah. God is commanding the people of Israel to not only establish a judicial system that mirrors his kingdom, but to safeguard it from our human ways and inclinations of perverting it with corruptions of bribery and unjust partiality to the poor. I believe that by doing this God is saying that he is not only Israel’s king that adheres to laws and judgments, but that He’s also Israel’s father that when He does judge them he’ll do it in a merciful and loving way as a just Father.

 At Mt. Sinai in the giving of God’s Torah to Israel, right after the Ten Words or Ten Commandments are given, we see God staring to set laws that deal with social justice starting with the Hebrew slave and so on; Exo 21-23:9. God could have given the Israelites instructions of worship, instructions on building the Tabernacle or any other instructions, but God choses to make the people aware of how to treat the Hebrew slave, which is a form of righteous judgment to others, ref; Exo23:9, God declares "You shall not oppress a stranger, since you yourselves know the feelings of a stranger, for you also were strangers in the land of Egypt.” The words of our Master Rabbi Yeshua are a direct quote to the Torah when he was asked the question “Of all the commandments, which is the most important? He replied Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.' The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these."

 When Israel fails to observe God’s Torah by mishandling justice to the poor, the fatherless and the widows, God is not pleased at all.  When they’re no longer reflecting the essence of the living God, judgment is imminent to them and that judgment has been played out in the form exiles to Israel. We can definitely use these examples and apply them to us who not only have the knowledge of Torah but of Messiah Yeshua as well, we should be demonstrating the qualities of righteousness and justice more than anyone else. Again because we’re made in the image of God, this attribute of righteousness should be reflected by us in all our dealings, especially if we say that we belong to Him, the apostle John tells us in 1 John 4:20 “Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.” And also in 1 John 2:29 “If you know that he is righteous, you know that everyone who does what is right has been born of him.” Psalm 89:15 Righteousness and judgment are the basis of Your throne; kindness and truth come before Your countenance.

 Let us take heed to these attributes of God, that are not just His, but should be ours as well! 1 Cor 15:34 Awake to righteousness, and sin not; for some have not the knowledge of God ……


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