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Incorruptible Leaders
(Justice, Judges, and Priests)
Printed Text:
Deuteronomy 16:18-20; 17:8-13
Bible Background: Deuteronomy 16:18-20; 17:8-13; 19:15-21
Devotional Reading: Proverbs 15:25-26

Daily Bible Readings


Monday: True and False Witnesses (Deuteronomy 19:15-21)
Tuesday: Addressing Church Conflicts (Matthew 18:15-20)
Wednesday: The Duty to Forgive (Matthew 18:21-35)
Thursday: Moses' Court of Appeal (Exodus 18:13-26)
Friday: Speak Truth and Act on It (Ephesians 4:25-32)
Saturday: God Is an Impartial Judge (Deuteronomy 10:14-22)
Sunday: Appoint Leaders to Administer Justice (Deuteronomy 16:18-20, 17:8-13)

 

Keep in Mind

"You shall appoint judges and officials throughout your tribes, in all your towns that the LORD your God is giving you, and they shall render just decisions for the people.” (Deuteronomy 16:18, NRSV)

Aim for Change

DISCOVER why God established the roles of judges, officials, and priests and what those roles entailed,
VALUE people who make decisions based on God's justice; and
PRACTICE justice in our roles as leaders.

Background

After forty years of wandering in the wilderness, the children of Israel were ready to become a nation.  God wanted Israel to be a theocracy, where His people would live in a manner that would reflect His government.  In this transfer of power, Moses stood as the intermediary serving as prophet and judge.  In the book of Deuteronomy, God restates and reaffirms to a new generation the decrees and ordinances given to Israel, starting in Exodus with the Ten Commandments to the laws written in the books of Leviticus and Numbers.  The descendants of Israel are instructed throughout the book of Deuteronomy to be careful that they do as the Lord has commanded so that they would live long and prosper in the land.  They were to be an example to the other nations of God's power and blessing by administering justice as a civil society (Deuteronomy 5:32, 6:'17-19, 7:12-22, 8:11).  God, through His ordinances, decrees, and precepts, set the culture for Israel as the mark of His presence.  His handprint makes Israel a peculiar nation that worshiped the true and living God.

Lesson Commentary:

Just Officials (Deuteronomy 16: 18-20, NRSV)

18You shall appoint judges and officials throughout your tribes, in all your towns that the LORD your God is giving you, and they shall render just decisions for the people.
19You must not distort justice; you must not show partiality; and you must not accept bribes, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and subverts the cause of those who are in the right.
20Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue, so that you may live and occupy the land that the LORD your God is giving you.

God, through His Prophet Moses, instructs Israel as they become a nation to be governed by His standard of right and wrong.  God is righteous, just, and upright in all His ways.  He sets the expectation through His commands that those placed in civil authority among the tribes and towns be submitted to God as the highest authority.  He directs that leaders be chosen from among the people to administer justice just as Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, had advised him soon after escaping Egypt (Exodus 18:13-26).  Those chosen were to be people who feared God, were considered trustworthy among the people, wise, impartial, had integrity, able to discern between right and wrong, and not subject to bribery.  Justice is at the heart of God's character, and He hates unbalanced scales (Proverbs 11:1).

Moses implores the judges and officers among the tribes to have an unwavering commitment to justice and truth above all in representing the people and making decisions when upholding the Law.  God recognizes that when people accept bribes and partiality, it is unjust to the righteous.  People living in community will have disputes and disagreements, but there must be a representative who can listen to the facts, review the rule of law, and with the wisdom of God administer fair judgment.  Leaders must seek God's heart in mediating a peaceful resolution to conflicts and upholding the rights of all people, seeing them as God’s creation.

1.            What is the evidence of a godly leader?

2.            What is the mark of God’s presence in our culture?

3.            How important is it for church and civic leaders to work together in partnership?

Civil Obedience (Deuteronomy 17: 8-13, NRSV)

8If a judicial decision is too difficult for you to make between one kind of bloodshed and another, one kind of legal right and another, or one kind of assault and another—any such matters of dispute in your towns—then you shall immediately go up to the place that the LORD your God will choose,
9where you shall consult with the Levitical priests and the judge who is in office in those days; they shall announce to you the decision in the case.
10Carry out exactly the decision that they announce to you from the place that the LORD will choose, diligently observing everything they instruct you.
11You must carry out fully the law that they interpret for you or the ruling that they announce to you; do not turn aside from the decision that they announce to you, either to the right or to the left.
12As for anyone who presumes to disobey the priest appointed to minister there to the LORD your God, or the judge, that person shall die. So, you shall purge the evil from Israel.
13All the people will hear and be afraid and will not act presumptuously again.

In establishing civil order for Israel, Moses further instructs the officials on how to handle difficult cases such as murder, assault, or lawsuits.  They are told to seek the Lord and go to the Tabernacle to seek the counsel of the Levitical priest and the judge. The Levitical priests were to be in lockstep with God to hear His voice.  The priests were to serve as spiritual advisors to judges to support their discernment in interpreting the Law.  The judge was in charge of rendering a decision on the matter, like the Supreme court in our time.  The judge's decision under the auspices of godly wisdom was to be final, and once the decision was announced, it could not be overruled or overturned.  Moses gives God's command that if the person should not abide by the judge's decision, they would be put to death.  It was considered evil before the Lord to not adhere to godly authority, and God expected swift justice so that others would not follow that example.

Further, God expected the judges and priests to be fully submitted to His authority and display excellent moral character so that the people will view them as His representatives.  When leaders fail in exhibiting godly character, people lose faith in authority and the result is social disorder.

1.            How can those in authority change the narrative on leadership to reflect God's heart for justice?

2.            What was the significance of God's command to appoint leaders in the land?  Why was it important for these leaders to exhibit excellent moral character and sound judgment?

3.            Why do you think God established an order to deal with difficult cases?  Why was God stern on the consequences of disobedience to the judge's decision?

Lesson in Our Society

Our world needs authority in every realm, and there should be healthy respect and honor for those in leadership.  However, when power is misused, it erodes trust and systems break.  God provided instructions to safeguard against broken trust, and He also established that when those leaders are proven trustworthy; their word is bond.  Leaders and the people under their authority must work as partners in progress; one should not oppress the other.  A just society is when all are equal under the law, and people are judged fairly.  The people have to be able to trust the integrity of leaders.  People must receive due process and have their voices heard for the fair resolution of conflicts.  Further, as citizens, we must hold leaders accountable to guide us under the protection of God's authority.

Sources:

Achtemeier, Paul J. Harper's Bible Dictionary. 1st ed. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1985.

Brown, Raymond E., S. S., Joseph A. Fitzmyer, S. J.; Roland E. Murphy, O Carm. The Jerome Biblical Commentary. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1968.

Dummelow, J. R., M.A. Rev. The One Volume Bible Commentary. New York: The Macmillan Company Publishers, 1961.

Christensen, Duane L., Word Biblical Commentary Deuteronomy 1-21:9, Volume 6a. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2014.

Gaebelein, Frank E., The Expositor’s Bible Commentary Volume 3: Deuteronomy, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, 1&2 Samuel, Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishers, 1992.

James Orr, M.A., D.D., International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Electronic Edition, Parsons Technology, Inc., Cedar Rapids, Iowa 1998.

Keck, Leander E., The New Interpreter's Bible Commentary, Volume I: Introduction to the Pentateuch, Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, New York: Abingdon Press, 2015.

Merrill, Eugene H., New American Commentary: Deuteronomy, An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture, Volume 4. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1994.

Morris, William, ed., Dictionary of the English Language, Houghton Mifflin Company, 1981.

Spence-Jones, H. D. M. (Hrsg.): The Pulpit Commentary: Deuteronomy. Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2004

Strong, James, Strong’s Hebrew and Greek Dictionaries, Electronic Edition STEP Files, QuickVerse, a division of Findex.com, Inc., Omaha, Nebraska. 2003.

Vine, W.E. Vines Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words. Edited by Merrill F. Unger and William White Jr., Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1996.

 

Next Week Lesson:  30 January 2022

 

Countercultural Compassion
(Justice, Judges, and Priests)
Printed Text:
Deuteronomy 16:18-20; 17:8-13
Bible Background: Deuteronomy 16:18-20; 17:8-13; 19:15-21
Devotional Reading: Proverbs 15:25-26

Daily Bible Readings


Monday: God Executes Justice for the Poor (Psalm 140)
Tuesday: Remembering Our Marginalized Ancestors (Deuteronomy 26:1-11)
Wednesday: Woe to Those Who Mistreat Workers (James 5:1-11)
Thursday: Justice for the Weak and Orphaned (Psalm 82)
Friday: Jesus' Compassion for the Helpless (Matthew 9:27-38)
Saturday: Do Not Oppress the Alien (Leviticus 19:32-37)
Sunday: Justice for the Poor (Deuteronomy 24:10-21)