“It isn’t fair.” How many times have we heard people say this? Fairness is a rather complicated concept, and often we don’t understand all the implications of our demands, but regardless we tend to argue our idea of ‘fairness’ anyway, don’t we?
As adults, and especially as believers, we should recognize injustice when we see it; but where do we get this sense of justice or injustice?
Justice is a character trait from God. The fact that humanity has a sense of right and wrong, offense and injustice, is because God is the standard for what is right. It’s not a shifting ideal, because He never changes. As the benchmark for what is right and just, Adonai leads, guards and expects His people to act justly. He gives wisdom to those who impart justice on His behalf.
This week’s Parasha is entitled Shoftim, which means “Judges” and it covers Deuteronomy 16:18 to 21:9.
Though God is perfect and His ways are just, He knew His people were not. His chosen and beloved people were fallen, marred by sin and selfish by nature. So, in this first section, God instructs the people to appoint judges to deal fairly with disputes. The judges were to act as God’s ambassadors of justice. His instructions to the judges were to act fairly and refuse bribery.
But this call for justice wasn’t exclusive to the judges; it was given to all of God’s people. As believers, we should be people of justice and integrity, free from prejudice and uncorrupted by selfish motives. Because justice is an attribute of our holy God, we should be the standard-bearers of this virtue.
The pagan nations in the land of Canaan all had kings. In His wisdom, the Lord knew His people would eventually be tempted to want a king like the nations surrounding them. So, God put specific conditions into place for the protection and welfare of His people.
In Chapter 17, Moses gave God’s strict guidelines for the selection and conduct of kings. Israel’s king must be native born, and not a foreigner. He must not accumulate horses (especially from Egypt), nor amass gold or silver. He was not to have many wives, because they would turn his heart from God.
And the requirement I wish to focus on in this chapter… the king would be obligated to write a copy of God’s Law for himself. Why write his own copy of the Torah? Copy work is an excellent way to study something, and the discipline of repetition helps move the material from the paper onto our hearts and minds. God’s design and desire was that future kings of Israel treasure and follow His Word. A king who spent time writing, learning and reading God’s Word would be more inclined to lead and rule with a humble and faithful heart and mind.
We are all leaders to some degree. Having an active knowledge of God’s Word will help us live our lives justly. Reading it daily, and even writing it down, will help us maintain a proper reverence for Him and an attitude of respect and humility toward others.
Chapter 18 addresses the tribe of Levi and the priests, the tribe God set apart to serve Him. Unlike the other tribes, the Levites had no share of the Promised Land to set down roots and call their own.
On its face, this sounds unfair. But in reality, it was a gift. It allowed the Levites to focus on their singular call to serve the One True God and His people, and not get entangled in the worries of the world. The Lord…not the land…was their inheritance. They lived by faith in God’s promised blessing to be their share and their portion. Think about this when you feel you have less than others.
In Chapter 19, Moses instructs the people of Israel to set up cities of refuge where someone could flee if they unintentionally killed another person. It was a place of safety, designated for a special purpose and period of time, until the accused person was able to have a fair trial declaring them innocent of murder.
Just as those cities were a place of security and protection, our amazing God is a place of refuge for us today. In a fallen world, troubles come to all of us at times. Sometimes they come unexpectedly, without any warning. Other times we create our own problems. Instead of trying to combat troubles in our own strength and treating God as a last resort, our first inclination should always be to seek God first.
The final two chapters speak of going to war and making atonement for unsolved murders. Chapter 20 begins, “When you go to war against your enemies and see horses and chariots and an army greater than yours, do not be afraid of them, because the Lord your God, who brought you up out of Egypt, will be with you.”
Sometimes we can feel like we are on a battlefield, with arrows flying at us from every direction. The attacks can be so close and frequent we begin to wonder if God sees or even cares. These thoughts couldn’t be further from the truth. God does see, and He does care. No matter how troublesome our circumstances, we don’t have to be afraid, for He is the God of justice.
Just as the kings of Heshbon, Bashan, Bethel and others tried to prevent God’s people from successfully entering the Land of Promise, we have an enemy who feels the same way about us. Satan will do anything to keep us from living a victorious life in Yeshua. I’m not sure what you are facing today, but be encouraged with the truth we find in this key verse: “do not be afraid…because the Lord your God…will be with you.”
While directed to the nation of Israel, this is a universal truth. Our God is present in all places and all times and He reigns on high with wisdom, holiness, faithfulness and justice. So, what is ‘fair?’ Adonai provided His mighty Word for you to focus your heart and mind; like the Levites, He has given you a great and beautiful inheritance; and He chose to let His Son die to overcome everything that would try to overpower you. From where I stand, I’d say that is far beyond fair, wouldn’t you?