Torah Portion: Shoftim (Judges) Devarim (Deut.) 16:18-21:9
HafTorah: Isaiah 51:12-53:12
NT Matt. 5:38-42; 18:15-20; Acts 3:13-26; 7:35-53; I Cor 5:9-13; I Tim 5:17-22; Hebrews 10:28-31
Today I want us to look at Devarim 16:18 to begin our discussion. This verse says to set up judges and policemen in all your gates. First, I would like to look at this on its surface and see how this was applied in both Judaism and Christianity. In the Land in the time of Yeshua every Jewish town had a panel of at least three people considered to be knowledgeable and honest to handle the legal questions that arose in the town. They were to apply Torah principles in their decisions. On a national level there was the Sanhedrin that dealt with the most difficult questions. One rule observed by the people was to bring their cases only before a Jewish court. To take it elsewhere was seen as a great sin. Why? Other Gentile courts would not hand down rulings based on Torah but based on their own system. In I Cor. 6:1-6 we read where Paul uses the same reasoning when speaking to the church at Corinth admonishing them to not go before unbelievers to decide a matter of justice. Why, for the same reason. So early believers were urged to follow the pattern of their roots on this question of judges.
Now, to a deeper level of the same verse: What could the Torah be saying to us today? What are the gates to our city? I think the Torah is urging us to guard what enters our eyes, ears and eventually our minds. Job 31:1 Those things that enter our city will influence us for good or for evil. We are the gate keeper. We decided what enters and what is left outside. It is like our house. Do we just leave the front door open so anyone or anything can come in? I doubt it. So we should be with our minds. It is a lot harder to get rid of something that enters our city than it is to not allow it in in the first place. Our battle is to make sure whatever comes in does so because it meets G-d’s criteria and does not sneak in or is let in in some weak moment. Our filters are different than the worlds and will be the watchmen at the gates of our minds. Proverbs 4:23-26 puts it very well when it talks about guarding our heart. II Cor 10:3-5 says to take every thought captive.
Now I would like us to jump over to Devarim 18:13 where we read, “Be wholehearted with your G-d.” (Or actually pure before G-d) This verse follows immediately after the verses listing all the things to avoid like witchcraft, sooth sayers, mediums and more. What is the connection? In our world today many people seek out some way to know the future, what is coming. When is it coming???? People have a preoccupation with what is yet to come. People worry and fret over what is coming or what we think is coming and stay up at night, can’t sleep, trying to figure out what can’t be figured out.
So the Torah follows these verses with be pure before G-d. We are to leave the future to Him. Matt. 6:34 tells us the same. Don’t worry about tomorrow. Either G-d is in control or not. Either He has a plan or not. He knows more than we. If we are unable to stop worrying about tomorrow it shows us that our faith may be in need of some work. It is like saying to G-d our relationship to Him is conditional.
Look at it like a marriage. Your husband or wife comes and says they have a wonderful romantic weekend planned. Would your first thought be to know what they plans are? This could mean we are more interested in how the time is spent rather than whom we are spending it with. True love means that time shared with our beloved is always time well spent. Whatever happens, whatever we are doing or wherever we go.
If G-d were to speak to you and invite you to live in His presence, to follow him at every turn, would you ask about the itinerary? Our task is to stay in the present with Him and let Him who is above time take care of what is to come. He is with us and He is running the show. He is reading the map. That really is all we need to know.