Deuteronomy Lesson 38
Judges, Justice, Law, and the State
30 November 2010
© Charles A. Clough 2010
On the outline you’ll see that I’ve kind of condensed the individual parts; Deuteronomy 14:1-21 is the same, but 12:1-13:18 is a coalescence of two previous sections, and then I condensed from 14:22 to 16:17, there were three sections in there and I’ve condensed that down to one. And now you’ll see the one that we’re working on, 16:18 on through 18:22. The purpose in doing that condensing and compressing those separate units is so it’ll be clearer as to which of the Ten Commandments are being emphasized. So we don’t lose the forest for the trees because remember chapters 12-26 is actually the Ten Commandments as they work out culturally. So 12:1-13:18 that was two sections, chapters 12 and 13, and both of them emphasize the theological unity of Israel and therefore the first and second commandments. Then chapter 14, that was the one about don’t cut; no cutting at a funeral and the dietary things, and that was basically a witness on Yahweh’s name, it sort of integrates with the third commandment. Deuteronomy 14-16, the three sections we’ve just gone through, heavy, heavy in economics and those are basically looking at the fourth commandment, “Keep the Sabbath,” and the trust crisis there of trying to trust the Lord in order to keep the Sabbath rest there. And remember, we went with the tithing and so forth. So all that was economic. And of course, because it’s economic it does involve also somewhat of the eighth commandment, the private property issue.
Tonight we’re dealing with a piece left over from chapter 16. I don’t know why the chapter breaks in the English there; really the chapter break should have been at the end of verse 17 as far as subject material. And this goes on all the way through chapter 18, there’s a whole section now in the book of Deuteronomy which deals with different sections which deals with different officials, different positions of authority in a society. And you can look at the list there, there are four different kinds of officials and their duties are spelled out: the judges, the kings, the Levites and the prophets. And the thing to look at in each one of these sections is how those official positions in a society were defined. And you’ll see very interesting things. If you think about how we—you know, we had Christian influence in our country but basically it’s also pagan influence—define offices and authority versus how Deuteronomy defines it.
So watch as we go through these four sections, watch the controls that are placed on the officials. It’s very interesting; the Bible insists that there’s a transcendent standard of the Word of God and no matter how much authority a position has it’s always underneath the higher standard of the Word. And it’s actually that 2 Kings 17:14-20 was the historic source material for the Reformation in Scotland that attacked the divine right of the English king: Lex Rex, Law is King. The guy that wrote that, Samuel Rutherford, picked up his idea out of that chapter. That’s why these sections are so important. We don’t really respect our history enough to anticipate or appreciate that these sections we’re reading were well known two or three hundred years ago. Today most Christians don’t even open the Old Testament but two or three hundred years ago these were well known passages. And the Christians in those days looked to these passages to try to figure out how they should organize their society, or how as Christians they ought to work out things. So these passages have historic importance.
I ask the question: What is the linkage with this whole set of offices, what is that linkage, how does it tie in with the Ten Commandments. If you look at Deuteronomy 16:20 you’ll see a clause in verse 20 and it should remind you of one of the Ten Commandments. It says, “You will follow what is altogether just, that you may live and inherit the land which the LORD your God is giving you.” That is very parallel to the commandment of honor your parents. Turn back to Deuteronomy 5 and look at the fifth commandment. There’s a section inside the fifth commandment that Paula picks up in Ephesians 6 when he deals with parents. And Paul makes this point. So going back to the Ten Commandments, keeping in mind that the Ten Commandments were God Himself publicly proclaiming this in the Hebrew language, such that we could have tape recorded this amazing event, the God of the universe actually speaking in audible terms, not just to one person but to a whole entire group of people that could have heard His voice. And it’s a neat exercise in your imagination, in your mind’s eye, or your mind’s ear, I guess, try to imagine what it would have been if you had been there at Mount Sinai and how did God voice sound when you would here it in your native tongue.
Well, here in verse 16, this is God speaking, not Moses: “Honor your father and your mother as the LORD God has commanded you, that,” purpose clause, “that your days may be long and that it may be well with you in the land which the LORD your God is giving you.” That’s not in any of the other Ten Commandments. It’s only in the fifth, and that triggers an idea or a thought. And I want to develop the idea here. We’re going to look at officials, four different offices. Now what is it that those offices all have in common? They all deal with authority. Where in our lifetime do we first learn about authority? It’s in our homes, it should be. And the issue there in honoring your father and your mother doesn’t mean that you accept everything they do, but it means to honor them, that they are in charge of the family. Kids are not in charge of the family; it’s the mom and the dad who are in charge and the mom and the dad are the final reference point there, under the Word of God of course.
But there’s an important point to this, and I want to, in your outline follow through, I have two points in there, and they’re both based on recent studies, both published studies. One is, educational success is clearly a function of the family. If you don’t believe that, look at the scholar’s last names when you see honor rolls, and you see scholarships, and you see the merit scholarships and so forth, what is true of most of the kids that are getting scholarships today? What social groups do they come from? Asian. Now isn’t that interesting? They breathe the same air, they live in the same society, why is the Asian kids grabbing all the scholarships and the grants? What is it about it, is it their genes or is it something else going on here? It’s the expectation of the mom and the dad on those kids.
I’ll never forget, we were in Texas at the time and it was after the Vietnam thing, and remember the Vietnam boat people. You know, after the liberals were knocking us for our role in Vietnam and they were so morally indignant about what America was doing to the Vietnamese people, and after the communists came in and slaughtered people and a million of them were out in the south Sea in boats dying of thirst, and anger, where was the moral concern then about the Vietnamese people? It evaporated overnight because there never was a moral concern; it was just a political liberal manipulation. But in that case we had many Vietnamese people come to our country and I remember distinctly one of my boys was in a spelling bee, and I told him, when he was learning his words, I said you’d better learn these carefully because there’s some kids out there, some of the Asians are going whip your butt in a spelling bee, and you know who won that spelling bee? A Vietnamese girl who two years before didn’t know a word of English. Now what is going on here? Well, it’s because the parents expect, they come here, they endure the hardship of immigration, they come practically penniless, but what they decide is that our children are not going to go through this, we are going to go through it so the next generation is higher, better and more equipped. And they expect their children to meet those standards. And granted, in some areas of Asia there’s too much pressure on the kids.
But my point in raising this whole thing is it gets back to the family; the basic social unit is inescapable in the Scriptures; it is the family, it’s the mom and the dad that are the conveyers of culture. It’s not the church, it’s not the Sunday School, it’s not the public schools; it is the family. And you can see this again and again.
The second blank is another study and that is—and this is important in the light of the homosexual arguments that are going on—Lesbianism is now linked to weak or absent father in the family. That’s very important because the homosexuals like to make you think that it’s genetic, that it’s nature, not nurture. If it’s nature, how do you explain this result? Are you going to say that the genes are different in families with an absent or weak father? That doesn’t make sense, it’s nurture; it’s not nature. So here again we have another malfunction in the home that tends to propagate into the next generation.
So down below I have a comment about the failure of socialism’s programs. Let’s think this through here; this is a good application of the Word of God, contemporary. If the Word of God is true, and if it really is true that the family is the genesis, it’s the soil from which the plant grows, if that’s really the case and the Scriptures say it is, and we have dysfunctioning families that are cranking rotten fruit out into the society at large, and we’re running around putting billions and billions of dollars, trying to deal with the rotten fruit but not deal with the soil and the plant, what’s the problem here? This is why the social programs don’t work very well, because they’re out there busy chasing the effects of a cause that they never address. And the reason why is, of course, the government can’t really address it. I mean, what’s the government going to do to replace the family? It can’t really do that because by God’s design the family is the family, and the family is a social unit.
So unless the family functions you can pour all the millions of dollars you want to into the results but you’re dealing with the wrong end of the stick here, you’re trying to deal with effects and never get back to the cause. And of course evangelical Christianity, judging by the divorce rate in our community, it isn’t too much better. And so we need as evangelicals to pay attention to our families and in that regard I’d say that the home school movement is one of the most revolutionary things that we see in our generation. I think the home school movement is a radical revolution. People can knock the parent and the mom and the dad and say, oh well, they’re not as equipped as the schoolteachers and so forth. Well, in many cases that’s true, but the counterpart to that, if you ask a public school teacher, not the union but the public school teacher, the individual, they’ll all tell you that they have to waste 30% of the time in class disciplining kids that come out of homes where they don’t learn authority. So they could have greatest public school teacher, but if you’ve got chaos in the classroom the greatest teacher can’t deal with the problem.
In the last two decades, the growth of the home school movement has been making families very, very coherent. They’re having to sacrifice economically. When I hear somebody knocking the home school movement, if they’re in the public school thing, particularly teacher’s unions or something like that, my answer to them is you ought to be ashamed of yourself. If you were doing your job there wouldn’t be a home school movement. The only reason there’s a home school movement is because you people are failing, and use millions and millions of dollars of tax payer’s money, and you’re a failure. So don’t blame the home school movement; the home school movement is a reaction to your failure. And the problem here is you can tell how possessive are is their resistance to vouchers. What happened in Washington D.C. last year? Here we had a school choice in an urban environment where there were a lot of poor people, and a lot of these poor moms and dads take a voucher to get their kid out of school A because this was corrupt, to move them over to school B. And they could do so because they had a voucher. Well now we have the new administration come in and they destroyed the whole voucher system. So now there’s no more choice, they have to go to the bad school. Now what is that solving? You know who the people were behind that? The teacher’s unions because the teacher’s unions argued that well, if you have vouchers and they might use the voucher, for example, in a charter school somewhere, they might use it in a private school, I mean, this would take money away from us. Well, of course it would because you’re not doing service. I mean, read the results of your own program.
So it’s a failure to come to grips with this, it’s a profound thing. So when we get into this authority section of Scripture what we’re dealing with is a social structure, a way of looking at society and looking at authority bounded, what vehicles are used, and it’s very important in our thinking today.
So let’s go to Deuteronomy 16:18 and we’re going to look from verse 18 down through 17:1. Because if you look at 17:2, it starts case law. These are the rules of evidence for a judge, “if there’s found among you, within your gates,” and so forth and so on, here’s what you do, here are the evidences, here’s the rules of evidence and the trial, here’s your finding and here’s the punishment, then there’s the sentence. So obviously 17:2 starts a section of case law.
Well, now we’ve got a problem, because if we start with verse 18 it starts talking about “judge.” “You shall appoint judges and officers in all your gates, which the Lord your God gives you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with just judgment.  You shall not pervert justice; you shall not show partiality, nor take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the righteous.  You shall follow what is altogether just, that you may live and inherit the land which the Lord your God is giving you.” Now out of the clear blue we have three verses that you wonder, how on earth, what do these three verses have to do with the context; they don’t seem to follow from what we just read and they don’t seem to go into the next section very well.
So here’s verse 21, “You shall not plant for yourself any tree, as a wooden image, near the altar which you build for yourself to the Lord your God.  You shall not set up a sacred pillar, which the Lord your God hates. [17:1] “You shall not sacrifice to the Lord your God a bull or sheep which has any blemish or defect, for that is an abomination to the Lord your God.” And of course later on it’s going into religious defection and so on. But there’s a connection here, but before we get to the connection let’s go back to verse 18 and look at judges and offices. And as we do that we want to look at how God had set up the Law.
There are four stages as Moses is transitioning God actually, transitioning from Egypt through the forty years of wilderness wanderings, through the conquest on up to the land. Now obviously you’re going to start with a group of people with no social order whatever, there are millions of people pulled out of Egyptian society and they’re all over the desert. So what kind of social order do you have here? Well, the first stage is this order that we show here, with Yahweh, and then under Him is the Law and under the Law is Moses. And then you have the twelve tribes with their elders and this gets back to Exodus 18 and we see what kind of a mess Moses got himself into. This is a great example, by the way, of management and how to organize things, because he had a management problem. It’s so nice in the Old Testament is that you actually see real people dealing with real problems.
Let’s look at Exodus 18:13-16, “And it was so that on the next day, that Moses sat to judge the people…” Stop right there. Moses is going to judge the people. How many people are there here? There are millions plus people, so something is wrong with the social organization here, right away, you can tell right before you finish this whole clause. How is Moses, one person, supposed to judge millions of people? “… and the people stood before Moses from morning until evening,” there’s a waiting line. Well, obviously there’s a waiting line because there’s so many people that have to go with their disputes to Moses.  “So when Moses’ father-in-law saw all that he did for the people; he said, What is this thing that you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit, and all the people stand before you from morning until evening?” It’s ridiculous he says. And it’s interesting why Moses wouldn’t have thought about reorganizing this, I mean, if he grew up in Pharaoh’s home, Pharaoh’s house you’d think gosh, the guy knows bureaucracy, he knows how to organize, what is going on here, and the funny part is his father-in-law. His father-in-law was a pagan priest who comes to faith and Moses, of course, marries his daughter, Zipporah, but Zipporah doesn’t like Hebrew law so she takes off, and Moses is estranged from his wife right here, but apparently he gets along fine with his father-in-law; it’s kind of an interesting family dynamic. “So when Moses’ father-in-law saw it” he asked Moses about it.  “And Moses said to his father-in-law, Because the people come to me to inquire of God.”
So Moses’ argument there was that he was the only one who had a conduit to God, because he was the first prophet.  When they have a difficulty,” oh, and by the way, let’s think about what Moses answers in verse 15, why is it important for Moses to assert that they have to come to me because I’m the prophet from God, I’m the one who heard God, I’m the one that established the Law? Now there is something positive in what Moses is trying to do here, it’s not just he’s being foolish; and that is, and this is going to play throughout the rest of this entire section, is that the basis of justice has to be something above man, there has to be a standard here. And Moses understands it can’t be his own personal opinion and it can’t be the elders’ opinion, it’s got to be God’s statutes and judgments. It’s got to be that opinion.
So Moses is trying to figure out how do I do this, I’m the only guy here that actually heard the Law. So he says, “they come to me to inquire of God,” when they have a difficulty they come to me, “and I judge between one and another; and I make known the statutes of God and His laws.” So Moses is trying to act as a teacher and at the same time he’s trying to be a judge of everybody.  “So Moses’ father-in-law said to him,” and this is where we get into the second stage of arrangement, his “father-in-law said to him, The thing that you do is not good.  Both you and the people who are with you will surely wear yourselves out, for this thing is too much for you, you are not able to perform it by yourself.  Now listen to my voice; I will give you counsel, and God will be with you: Stand before God for the people, so that you may bring the difficulties to God.  And you shall teach them the statutes and the laws, and show them the way in which they must walk and the work they must do.  Moreover, you will select from all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them to e rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties and rulers of tens.  And let them judge the people at all times. Then it will be that every great matter they shall bring to you, but every small matter they themselves shall judge. So it will be easier for you, for they will bear the burden with you.  If you do this thing, and God so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all this people will also go to their place in peace.”
Well, Moses wasn’t prideful, you know, here’s a guy who has much less experience with the Lord than he does, and verse 24, this is the humility of Moses, “So Moses heeded the voice of his father-in-law and did all that he said.  And Moses chose able men out of all Israel, and made them heads over the people,” and so forth and so on.  “… the hard cases they brought to Moses but they judged every small case themselves.”
So there you have a transition in leadership. So you go, then, to the next stage, these offices are called in Hebrew sarim, s-a-r, sar, and i-m plural, the sarim. And these are over the marching units. You’ll notice that they break it down smaller than the tribe. See, the take it down all the way to ten. So you have tens, you have fifties, you have hundreds and you have thousands, so there is a level here of the offices. So that’s why we have the second, stage two. But notice the chain of command here. Moses is still key. Moses is acting as the final judge because Moses is the one who walks close with God.
Well now we have another problem happen, so let’s turn to Numbers 11. This whole period of time is where Moses is having to adjust. And it’s one of the kind of interesting things and pastor sometimes don’t really learn this until they learn the hard way, and that is you have to be flexible based upon what the local situation is, within the confines of the Word, but you have to adapt. Well, here we are. Numbers 11, people complain. So now we’ve got a problem with everybody fussing.  “Now when the people complained it displeased the LORD; for the LORD heard it, and His anger was aroused. So the fire of the LORD burned among them and consumed some in the outskirts of the camp.  Then the people cried out to Moses, and when Moses prayed to the LORD, the fire was quenched.  So he called the name of the place Taberah, because the fire of the LORD had burned among them.” There’s discipline.  Now the mixed multitude who were among them yielded to intense craving; so the children of Israel also wept again and said: Who will give us meat to eat?  We remember the fish,” so now they’re going back to their previous Egyptian society, “which we ate freely in Egypt.”
Did they really eat freely in Egypt? They were slaves. See, they forget the bad side of this thing. And then they start listing the diet, “the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic;  but now our whole being is dried up; there is nothing at all except this manna” stuff,  “Now the manna was like coriander seed,” and it describes this, which was God’s… God was giving them this logistical diet. Remember this transition diet in Egypt? They didn’t like it.  “Then Moses heard the people weeping throughout their families, everyone at the door of his tent,” well, here again is crisis in leadership, probably some of the sarim are included here, “and the anger of the LORD was greatly aroused; Moses also was displeased.  So Moses said to the LORD,” now here’s the frustration of a leader; now look at how ticked off he gets; this is another thing that’s no neat about the Hebrew is that it doesn’t hide things. Howard Hendricks at Dallas Seminary always used to say when God paints a picture He paints a picture of man warts and all, and here’s an example of how Moses got frustrated. And so he takes His frustration out to the Lord. “Why have you afflicted Your servants? And why have I not found favor in Your sight, that You have laid the burden of all these people on me?  Did I conceive all these people? Did I beget them that You should say to me, ‘Carry them in your bosom, as a guardian carries a nursing child,” to the land which You swore to their fathers?  Where am I to get meat to give to all these people? For they weep all over me, saying, Give us meat, that we may eat.  I am not able to bear all these people alone, because the burden is too heavy for m.  If You treat me like this, then kill me here and now….”
Now can you imagine somebody praying that in a prayer meeting? But this is the way the prayers do go in the Scripture. Look at the Psalms, there’s some pretty give and take here between man and God. They’re not afraid to express frustration and anger, but they talk it out to God, they just don’t keep it in and simmer and get bitter, they have it out. And so this is what’s going on. So, now,  “the LORD said to Moses,” so now we come up with stage three of the arrangements. Now this is a spiritual problem, see, this isn’t a quantified problem of too many people, this is a different problem, this is a spiritual problem that needs people who are close to the Lord and have discernment and can stabilize the group, because you don’t need a mob. The first thing you need is a wide panic and everybody turns and becomes a mob. Now we’ve got a spiritual problem so now God’s going to do something different. So now we come into the third version of the government.
 “So the LORD said to Moses, Gather to Me seventy men of the elders of Israel, whom you know to be the elders of the people and officers over them; and bring them to the temple [tabernacle] of meeting,[that they may stand there with you],” so now these are quasi judges in one sense here.  “Then I will come down and talk with you there. I will take of the Spirit that is upon you and I will put the same upon them; and they shall bear the burden of the people with you, that you may not bear it yourself alone.  Then you shall say to the people, Consecrate yourselves,” and he calls for a meeting and so forth. And then verse 21, “The people whom I am among are six hundred thousand men on foot; yet You have said, I will give them meat, that they may eat for a whole month.” And so forth.
And so the Lord says in verse 23, “And the LORD said to Moses, Has the LORD’s arm been shortened? Now you will see whether what I say will happen to you or not.” And so he goes out, and then in verse 25, “Then the LORD came down the cloud and spoke to him, and took of the Spirit that was upon him, and placed the same upon the seventy elders, and it happened, when the Spirit rested upon them, that they prophesied, although they never did so again.” Sort of like Pentecost in the New Testament here. It’s a validation that God had put His Spirit in these men.
So now we have seventy shoterim over the officers and over the marching units. Well, that’s where things are at the stage we’re at in Deuteronomy. So now this whole area, this situation now involves Moses. But you see, the problem is, this third layer, Moses is going to go away. Remember Deuteronomy is his end speech because he’s going to die. So now we’ve got to have a fourth arrangement. So let’s look at Deuteronomy 16 and see what he’s going to do. That’s the background for this first verse.
“You shall appoint judges and officers in all your gates, which the Lord your God gives you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with just judgment.  You shall not pervert justice; you shall not show partiality, nor take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the righteous.  You shall follow what is altogether just, that you may live and inherit the land which the Lord your God is giving you.” Now out of the clear blue we have three verses that you wonder, how on earth, what do these three verses have to do with the context; they don’t seem to follow from what we just read and they don’t seem to go into the next section very well.
Deuteronomy 16:18, “And you shall appoint judges and officers,” who? Moses, “in all your gates, which the LORD your God gives you, according to your tribes and they shall judge…” I’m sorry, verse 18 “you” is not Moses; it’s the people there, the whole group. “And you shall appoint judges and officers in all your gates, which the LORD your God gives you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with just judgment.” So the first thing is, it says “in all your gates.” And the idea here is the word “gate” is a metonymy for local city government. Remember Handel’s Messiah, “Open ye gates and the Messiah shall come in.” I know when you sing that sometimes you hear it you think of gates opening, but it’s actually an autonomy, they were gates, yes, they were physical gates on a wall village, but the idea there was that the town meeting of the elders, where the business was conducted, the courthouse, if you will, was at the gate. That’s where the people congregated, the elders did. And why they did that I don’t know, maybe it so they could see who was going in and out of the city or something, but that was the meeting place. So the word “gate” was… yes, it can mean the literal gate but it also means a gate is where the local leadership met.
So what he’s arguing here in verse 18 is I want you to make judges locally where they are immediately accessible. And that leads us to the first principle of this idea of a judge, that true justice requires local and immediate accessibility. You do not want a ponderous bureaucracy to go through one level after another to get to a verdict; you want it local, localized. And that’s an argument for local justice, because they know about it, the people are known there, they’re accessible. And then it says, “they will judge the people with righteous judgment.”
So now we come up to what is “righteous judgment.” So the next verse is going to deal with tsaddiyq, which is the Hebrew word for righteousness. And here are the things that God considers righteous or the threats to righteousness. So beginning in verse 19, “You will not pervert justice…” Well, that’s nice but what does that mean. Literally if you look at the handout, in the Hebrew, the expression in the Hebrew language is funny, in one sense, it says you will not recognize faces. That as just their idiomatic expression for showing partiality: you recognize faces. And then it says, and it defines what’s going on, you will not show faces. Now what they mean by that is “you will not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the righteous.” Observe who is affected by perverted justice. Yes, the victims are affected, but here the emphasis is not on the people coming to the judge; the emphasis here is the judges themselves. Notice what it says, “the wise,” and “the righteous.” Those are the qualities of the judge; they’re not the people coming to the judge.
So the idea here is that bribery or recognizing faces perverts justice by affecting the whole judicial process. The wise, and then he emphasizes how it does that, it says it blinds the eyes. Now when a judge has his eyes blinded what does the judge not do? He doesn’t see evidence; he doesn’t see the case. So blinding the eyes means I don’t see; I overlook this. And we use the word in our English language, we overlook, over-look details, we look over them, we don’t look at them.
And then the next one is a very, kind of neat expression; it “twists the words”. And I would imagine that twisting the words would have to do with the sentencing, or the finding of this, that twisting the words is a manipulative way of describing things. And we see that today; language is being used as a tool of manipulation, it’s not being used with integrity to communicate truth, so we redefine how we speak.
Now in verse 20 he emphasizes something else. He says, summarizing this, you don’t want justice compromised, “You shall follow what is altogether just…” And the King James, the New King James translates it “altogether just,” but if you look in the Hebrew and you look in your outline here, right under 16:20, that verse, I have given you the literal Hebrew. This is how the Hebrew comes across; “righteousness—righteousness you will follow.” Now if you heard somebody say that what kind of meaning would you grab from that? What are they emphasizing? Righteousness, because it’s a noun and it’s doubled, it’s emphasized, “righteousness—righteousness you will follow.” So the emphasis is on a standard.
Now I’ve said that the family is the key to this. Why have I said that? Where is this standard transmitted into the next generation? It is through the family. So let’s hold the place and turn over to Leviticus 19; Leviticus is written pretty much to the priesthood and it’s a lot of issues about sacrifice, cleansing and so forth, the emphasis is holiness. And in Leviticus 19:1, “And the LORD spoke to Moses, saying,  Speak to all the congregation of the children of Israel, and say to them: You shall be holy, for I the LORD your God am holy.” So there’s an ethical demand on the whole Jewish society to line up ethically with the character of God. Then immediately after that look what it says,  “Every one of you shall revere his mother and his father, and keep My Sabbaths,” the family and the idea of economics and property, remember we just covered the Sabbath, the family and property are an essential in this thing; this is not some abstract, you know, religious thing here, it’s talking about a very practical thing.
And then you come over to Deuteronomy 6, right after the Ten Commandments, after he’s given all this, if you’ll remember, he goes through in Deuteronomy 6:4. The central confession of faith in the Old Testament is Deuteronomy 6:4, as any Jewish person will tell you. This is their synopsis of the content of their faith. And right after this, verse 6, the problem is how do you get this into the heart of this society? Remember we had the “how to” situation where Moses goes through verses 6-9 and he also, from verse 20-25 in this chapter, two sandwiches, two pieces of bread, remember, each one deals with the procedures, how to, very practical. He says how do you get it in their heart, you’re going to “teach them diligently to your children, you will talk in terms of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, when you rise you, you’ll bind them as a sign on your hand, they will be frontlets between your eyes, you’ll write them on the doorpost.” That’s taken literally sometimes by Jewish people but it is a metaphor for living in the Word of God. Then in verse 20, same chapter, move of the “how tos” and that is, “when you son asks you in time to come, saying, what’s the meaning of the testimonies, the statutes and the judgments which he has commanded you?” There’s the child coming to his mom and his dad, asking him in one of those teachable moments that only a parent can appreciate because he can’t schedule these things, that the child will come and he’ll ask you this question. And so that’s the point that goes on, and so forth, that the family is vitally involved.
So principle number 3 that we have in the handout is: The foundation of justice is God’s righteousness, the revelation of which the family imbues the next generation with both by words an deeds. See, the point here is that you cannot read the text of these exhortations of Moses and not come away with a conviction that the Levites that, yeah, they would do some teaching, but you don’t find this, the Levite, central to the teaching system. It is the family that is central to this. It’s a tremendous burden on mom and dad that we carry and we’re not really, I don’t think too often in your evangelical circles, we don’t prepare young people, who are about to be parents, for the level of responsibility that is involved in being a parent. And these poor kids that are shacked up, fornicating, without a marriage contract because they don’t trust one another, having sex and getting pregnant, and then all of a sudden, now here we’re creating human beings, and where’s the context to train these people to be socially mature people? Where’s that coming from? And then we kiss ‘em to day care center, and then throw them in a public school because the teacher is supposed to be a parent to them. It doesn’t work. It’s not working. The Asians understand that. In fact, many of them come from a pagan background but they seem to have almost an intuition about how a family should function.
So now we come to verse 21 and 22, and these three strange verses. What on earth, and how do we tie these in? Well, Moses here is going to make two connections between religion and law. And we want to think carefully here because in our society, for the past, shall we say, going back to maybe World War I and surely after World War II, our society has progressively bifurcated, law/politics on one hand from religion on the other, under the guise of pluralism. Now I understand, you know, you have different faiths. The problem is that the founding of our country, even though you had different faiths, you had some Roman Catholics and you had some Jewish people, but they basically held to a quasi-biblical view of man and sin and law and so there was a coherence. And we’re not; we’re going like this in our society, splintering into all this stuff. We are going to pay a price judicially in the law, and a lot of the lawyers don’t see this because they’re schooled in law school, as one lawyer said to me, I went to three years of law school and never had one assignment on the Constitution. Well, it’s showing up.
So now watch, here are two connections between law and religious faith. Number one is in verses 21 and 22. Let’s think about what’s going on here. “You shall not plant for yourself any tree, as a wooden image, near the altar which you build for [yourself] to the LORD your God.  You shall not set up a sacred pillar, which the LORD your God hates.” What has he just got through saying, by way of emphasis in verse 20? What was it that they are to use? Tsaddiyq, righteousness; righteousness shall decide. Question: Where are you getting your standard of righteousness from? It is always a religious source, always; law is inherently religious because it seeks a standard which deals with a conscience issue. And so the idea there is that in verse 21 God is concerned that they have no pagan influence on the court system, because if they have pagan influence on the court system, you’re going to distort tsaddiyq; you’re going to have a problem.
Let’s take Nuremburg, I’m using the German spelling here, let’s go back to 1945; let’s pretend you are on the jury and you’re listening to the arguments of the Nazis and the Gestapo agents that have been captured by the United States Army. And there are defendant lawyers; some good competent lawyers here and you’re going to see the judge try to grapple with this. Here’s the defense that the Nazis would use: #1, our society made its own laws based upon its needs and its desires. Coming out of the 19th century Germany was involved in paganism, through Wagner and music, of course, and through Schopenhauer and others, who set up the whole nation for anti-Semitism by identifying Jews with the idea of industrialization. Therefore, it was the Jewish influence that ruined Germany, therefore we have to get back to the urban environment, therefore we had to destroy the Slavs, we had to destroy the Russians so we can build parks through Poland and through the Ukraine. That was the whole idea of the invasion to the East. People forget that. Get the book called Nazi Oaks, written by a friend of mine, you’ll see the documentation for that statement. So our society made it’s own laws, based on its needs and its desires; our society commanded us to exterminate the Jews, therefore it would have been illegal for us not to exterminate the Jews. Laws of non-Nazi German societies are irrelevant to this case.
Do you see their argument? If you’re going to hold that law comes out of a local community and society you have no answer to this. There’s no answer to the Nazi defense. Think about it. The only way you can condemn the Gestapo and the Nazi officers that were in charge of the slaughter of the Jews is to import a non-German standard into the court. You could not convict them on the basis of the German law. And this created a crisis, and one of the justices there happened to be one of our people, the United States Supreme Court Justice, Robert Jackson. It was in this context that Justice Jackson, who presided as one of the prosecutors here, said you should be tried (the Nazis, should be tried) on this basis: on a higher law, a higher law which rises above the provincial and the transient. Now he used two words here, let’s look at them carefully. You need to be judged on the basis of a higher law, so what is he trying to do? He’s trying to answer against the German defense, which says that the laws of non-Nazi German societies are irrelevant to the case. Right?
So if those laws are irrelevant what law do you use? So Justice Jackson argued that you have to have a higher law, and that particular higher law, in order to answer this one, because then the Nazi defense would simply say well, who says that your society is better than our society, this is where all this relativism gets you, finally you wind up digging yourself a hole and going all the way down to the bottom. So they argued that there had to be a higher law, but the law that was higher had to rise above the provincial and the transient. Now he deliberately used those two words, two adjectives.
What do you suppose he meant when he said it must rise above the provincial? What was Justice Jackson getting at in that point? What did he mean, do you suppose, by “the provincial?” [Someone answers] Yeah, it has to be everywhere. In other words, he’s answering the argument over here that non-Nazi German society is irrelevant to the case because he says we can’t bring another sub-society, we can’t bring American law into this, we can’t bring English law into this, we can’t bring French law into this because it is provincial; the German law is provincial, it’s limited to a space. So we have to have a standard that rises above the provincial. And then we have to have something else; we have to have law that is the same next week as it was last week, that is, that it’s not transient, it’s not temporary.
Now this is an eloquent problem and Nazi case this is a very famous dilemma. So what I’ve tried to show you on the screen and in your handout is, this is a legal dilemma and a nightmare for people who are relativists. Somewhere they’ve got to grab an absolute somehow, and that’s the problem. Where do you get tsaddiyq, where do you get the absolute, where do you get the righteousness from? Now we’re in deep doo-doo here in our country because here are three statements to show you people in the legal community and what they’re saying. We’re shooting ourselves in the foot here.
Here’s the Chief Justice, this is the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court in 1902–1932, Oliver Wendell Homes. This is our Chief Justice saying this: “Law is only a prophecy of what the courts will do in fact and nothing more. It is provincial and it is transient.” So now we have a spectacle of a hundred years ago, the Supreme Court already, basically arguing that there’s no transcendent absolute standard of tsaddiyq, or righteousness.
Then we come down to Chief Justice US Supreme Court, this is the time when Eisenhower was President, Frederick Vinson. Vinson, by the way, was the Chief Justice who died early in office and was succeeded by Earl Warren, and we had the Warren court, famous for its segregation decision, 1954. Chief Justice Vinson: “There is nothing more certain in modern society than the principle there are no absolutes.” See what’s happening here? This is a major, major point I’m bringing up here tonight, that’s why I’m spending so much time here before we get into all the details, because everything else in Deuteronomy 17 is going to be contingent on all of us understanding what’s going on, the battle that’s going on here.
Then here’s Obama, in Audacity of Hope, and keep in mind the context; this is written when he was a Senator. What did Obama do at the University of Chicago? What did he teach? Constitutional law. Now here’s a guy in a reputable University, the University of Chicago, teaching Constitutional law, and he writes in a book this statement: “Implicit in the Constitution’s structure was a rejection of absolute truth, the infallibility of any idea or ideology or theology or ism, any tyrannical consistency that might lock future generations into a single, unalterable course.” What is he saying? That the Constitution has to be flexible. Well, there is a part in the Constitution called Amendments, but nobody wants to do that because it’s very ponderous to cause an Amendment, and deliberately so. The founding fathers made it hard to amend so that it would be conservative.
But here you have everything from 1902 down to 2008? 2007? And there’s uniformity of rejection of the principle that we’re looking at right here. In place, in verse 21 and 22, in place of a false religion, and idolatry, what we have now is an idolatry of man; and so man, in effect, becomes the standard. And that’s why this painting that I keep showing over and over and over hoping to burn it into our memories so we will always remember this painting of Paul Robert in the old Supreme Court building in Switzerland. When he painted this painting with Lady Justice, without her blindfold, and she’s holding the standards, but the way he pointed this--and by the way he painted this right in the lobby of the courtroom, so every single judge that walked in every single morning had to walk by his painting—was saying something.
Look at the date here, this is 1905; this is the same time Oliver Wendell Holmes is saying in the United States that law is transient and so forth and so on, while Paul Robert is over in Switzerland trying to say the opposite thing.
Lady Justice, and here you have the men in the cloaks, these are the judges, so here’s your judges, like in Deuteronomy 16, here are the judges, down here are the litigants, here are the people with their court cases. So he has this painting at three levels, it’s artistic this way. Down here at the lower level you have the litigants, they’re arguing, they’re bring cases before the judges. So here’s a judge, he has the case document; he’s looking down at the litigant. Then the other judges who are involved in the decision-making, and Paul Robert has painted them with their eyes looking up at lady justice. So what are they doing? They’re looking for a transcendent standard that they can bring down and solve this case with so that it’s a standard of justice; so they are looking up to her. And then in a great way, instead of having her blindfolded, he has her left arm holding a sword pointing down at a book called The Law of God.
Now in that one painting you’ve got the whole story of Reformation law, as Frances Schaeffer said. Now what happens is when you go the route we’ve gone, you’ve eliminated this. So it’s as though the painting would be here with the litigants and the judges, with no lady justice. It’s like something is missing in this picture. The first connection that Moses is making here is that religion and law are connected, because connection number one, the law requires a transcendent standard above individual man or judgments become merely the judge’s personal opinion.
So that’s the first connection. Now you say okay, well I see verse 21 and 22, but what do you do with 17:1? So here’s connection number two. “You shall not sacrifice to the LORD your God a bull or a sheep which has any blemish or defect, for that is an abomination to the LORD your God.” Now what is he getting at there? Let’s think about law. By the way, on your outline the blank, chapter 16:21-22, those verses prohibit God denying counterfeit standards of righteousness. Those verses prohibit God denying counterfeit standards of righteousness. And I have three points under that. And I think this gives us insight into what may be happening with our times, internationally and globally right now. Why is God allowing Islam to expand like He hasn’t allowed it for five to six hundred years? What is going on in history right now? In fact, eight, nine hundred years. Eight to nine centuries have come and gone and we haven’t seen Islam take off like it is taking off today, particularly against the West.
I have three statements there that, as I’ve thought about Scripture and this point that we’re making in verses 21-22, I think it has something to do with this. Various Muslim spokesmen argue that the West cannot show a transcendental standard of righteousness, which statement is true, since the so-called Enlightenment rejected the genuine, revealed truth of the Bible. So the Islamic theologians who are looking at the West, in one sense they are right, they see very perceptively, that the West has no transcendent standard. The guy that wrote the book, and I can’t think of his name, it’s three letters, got his PhD at UCLA and he saw California culture and he goes back to Egypt and he starts the Egyptian Brotherhood, it started by a UCLA graduate who looked at California culture and he said this is Western Christendom, forget this. And he wrote In the Shadow of Islam, saying that Christianity has failed and it’s going to have to be Islam that holds society together again. But what they’re looking at is this argument that we are looking at tonight, where is the tsaddiyq, where is the transcendental standard?
So I believe God is using the Semitic based religion of Islam and it’s counterfeit doctrine of verbal revelation to chasten Western secularism. It’s also a rebuke to Christians for not insisting upon the supreme authority of the Bible over all society. It’s challenging us now, we have to stand up, and one of the places, thankfully right now, and I give three areas where we are standing up, and we’re getting attacked for it, is the area of creationism versus evolution. We are mocked because of that, the anti-abortion movement, which we’ve been forced to take a stand here because we’re being taxed to support government-funded abortions that make the state the executors of fetuses. And that’s forced us to fly the flag. And now the gay marriage crusades, and just today we have an announcement from Apple, Steve Jobs, that Apple has put away the app on the iPhone so that people can’t use it to contact the Manhattan Declaration of Marriage, which was Jewish, Christian conservatives, Catholics and evangelicals, where they define marriage as one, marriage defined as one man, one woman. That is considered a hate site. So Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, has been snowed by pressure, calling the Christian position as a hate thing. Home Depot, right now, is encouraging and using money to fund, not just homosexual things, but exhibits for children in homosexual crusades. So this is the contamination, these ideas. I’m not saying that CEOs or the guys are deliberately thinking this through, they’re not; they’re probably theologically stupid; all they do is they to respond to create a good company image. But in effect we have a subtlety going on here and it’s forcing black and white; before we were gray, now we’re coming to a black and white issue here.
So verses 21 and 22 are important. We come to 17:2, the second connection is that when you deal with law you deal with wrongness, you deal with evil, and that raises a conscience issue of, how do you deal with guilt? So I give you a long quote by J. Budziszewski who teaches political philosophy at the University of Texas, Austin, which is one of the most liberal schools in all of Texas. He has written a book that I would recommend for you if you can get it (I don’t know, a second-hand bookstore or something), What We Can’t Not Know. It’s a great book to cope with some of the basic background of things. But let me read this through and then we’ll be done tonight.
“A clear vision of the moral law,” follow what he’s saying and you’ll see why sacrifice comes in here. “A clear vision of the moral law reveals a debt which exceeds anything we can pay. Apart from an assurance that the debt can be forgiven—something available only in biblical revelation because it transcends what human reason can find out on its own—no human being dares to face the law straight on. Yet we can’t wipe the law from our intellects. Unable to make it go away, we use every means we can devise to pretend that we are really being good. Evasions and rationalizations spread through our intellects like the mycelium of a fungus. That is why the ancient world was brutal. Not even the greatest of the pagans could admit what was wrong with infanticide, although they knew very well that the child was of our kind. It is hard enough to face the moral law even with the revelation that divine justice and divine mercy are conjoined. It offends our pride to be forgiven and terrifies it to surrender control.”
I want you to notice the second sentence from the end, where “divine justice and divine mercy are conjoined,” what’s he talking about? The cross of Jesus Christ; where sin has met with grace, and has been dealt with in full by the finished work of our Lord Jesus Christ. And what Budziszewski is perceptively seeing here is that ultimately behind all the law and the procedures and the thing is guilt; it’s guilt. And guilt seeks an atonement; it seeks a way to cope with this.
And so in verse 1 of chapter 17 the argument there is don’t be sloppy in the way you seek forgiveness. The procedures in verse 1 are just sloppy, any old bull, any old sheep will do, I’m going to go through the motions so I can feel good, so I can feel forgiven, so I can feel better. But this is not bona fide sacrifice, it’s not doing it as unto the Lord, as He has instructed. So verses 21-17:1 deal with the link between the profound link, the deep, deep links between law and religion.