The Torah portion for Monday 9th August is called “Shoftim” meaning “Judges”. Deuteronomy 16:18 – 21:9
In this week’s Torah Moses is still addressing the Israelites as they prepare to cross over Into the Promised Land. He is calling Israel to “Appoint judges, and officials in every town the Lord your God is giving you and they shall judge the people fairly. Do not pervert justice, or show partiality; Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the righteous. Follow justice and justice alone, so that you may live and possess the land your God is giving you”.
(For us this means the Prime Minister and his cabinet, Premiers, Mayors and judges and judicial systems)
However, The Israelites were not to be like all the other nations. They must be Holy which means to be different and to be set apart. When honesty, justice and integrity are not adhered to in leadership, it creates unrest and chaos when governments are unscrupulous, as we know. “When the righteous increase, the people rejoice. When a wicked man rules, people groan”. (Prov:29:2)
What does the Torah portion teach us today about these things and how do the governments today deal with mass protests and unrest? - The answer is simple “with more policing, more force and more suppression”.
What Moses is proposing in this week’s Torah portion is fundamentally different. He says there will be social order in the promised land they were about to inherit, but who would bring it about? Not Moses, not Joshua, not a government, not a tyrant, not a charismatic leader, not the army and not the police. “Who will do it”, says Moses, “you will”. It’s our responsibility and we cannot delegate it away; we will govern ourselves for ourselves. This is Kingdom government. God’s plan for us.
Deuteronomy 17: 14 to 17 “When you enter the land the Lord your God is giving you and have taken possession of it and settled in it, and you say, “let us set a king over us like all the nations around us”, be sure to appoint over you a king the Lord your God chooses. The king that does not acquire a great number of horses for himself. He must not take many wives, he must not accumulate large amounts of silver and gold, yet the wisest of men, King Solomon, fell into all three traps and broke all three laws.
It goes on: “When he takes the throne of his kingdom, the king is to write for himself on a scroll a copy of this law – The Torah. It is to be with him, and he is to read it all the days of his life so that he may learn to fear the Lord his God and follow carefully all the words of this law and these decrees and not consider himself better than his fellow Israelites”.
Although we are all called to humble ourselves, only one man in the entire Torah is commanded to be humble and that’s the king. Politics is often seen as “the use of power”. Moses on the other hand sees politics as “the use of self restraint”. Politics with Moses is about the voice of God within the human heart, to hear the words of God say,
“thou shalt not”. Politics in the Torah is not about the fear of Government but about the Fear of the Lord.
So radical is this political program that it gave rise to a phenomenon that is unique in all of history. The Jews kept the law whether they had no land, no government, no power, no army, and no police. In Israel today you will not find a Jewish shop open on Shabbat or bread in a Jewish Household that keeps Torah and the Feast of Passover.
What Moses understood in a way that has no parallel anywhere else, is that there is only two ways to create law and order, either by power from outside or by self restraint from within. Either the use of external force or by the internalized knowledge of commitment to the Law of God. The Torah.
How do you create such knowledge and commitment? Strong families, strong communities and schools that teach children the ten commandments. Parents that teach their children when they sit in the house, when they walk by the way, when they lie down and when they get up. (Deuteronomy 11:19) The result is that when asked what is right and what is wrong, they can recite the commandments as easily as their own names. They become engraved upon their hearts.
This is a unique view of politics and one we are in danger of losing in Canada and Europe as we lose our Judeo/Christian heritage. We need to return to our Hebraic roots of the 10 commandments.
The only nation today that retains a covenantal view of politics is the United States of America, and that Declaration is seriously under attack. Abraham Lincoln articulated in the Gettysburg address which was inserted in the Declaration of Independence (not the Constitution) was the true expression of the founding fathers’ intention. The fundamental idea of Covenant that when there is “government of the people, by the people for the people” there is a new birth of freedom.
The 10 commandments do not bind us to the law, they set us free. Billy Graham’s daughter said: “For years we have told God we didn’t want Him in our schools. We didn’t want Him in our government, and we didn’t want Him in our finances and God was being a perfect gentleman in doing just what we asked Him to do. We need to make up our mind — do we want God or do we not want Him. We cannot just ask Him in when disaster strikes.” And look what a mess it is without Him.
Jesus said in Matthew 5:17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law and Prophets. (Torah and Haftorah) I have not come to abolish but to fulfil. Jesus is the Torah.
“Whom the Son sets free is free indeed”. John: 8:36
Ref: Deuteronomy 16:18 – 21:9: Prov:29:2: Deuteronomy 17: 14 to 17: Deuteronomy 17:18-20: James 4:10 Jeremiah 13:18 NBC Today Billy Graham’s daughter said… Deuteronomy 11:19 “The Gettysburg address – Abraham Lincoln: Exodus 20: Deuteronomy 5:6 The Ten Commandments. Notes from Hebrew4Christians; Rabbi Sacks: El Shaddai Ministries