Torah Portion: Shoftim (Judges) Deut. 16:18-21:9
HafTorah: Isaiah 51:12-52:12
This Torah section occurs in the first Sabbath of the month of Elul each year. What do we know about the month of Elul? It is the month leading up to the High Holy Days of Rosh HaShana, Yom Kippur and Succoth. It is devoted to repentance and getting our lives spiritually in order.
Here we read about earthly judges and officers who were to administer justice. They were to administer justice using G-dly principles. Could they be swayed by anything like a person’s position in life, wealth or whom they knew? No, they had to administer Torah with no outside influence.
Maybe we need to define justice in Hebrew. Hebrew uses the same root word for justice and righteousness. In the New Testament the Greek word can also be translated as either. So, what does this connection tell us? To be just is to be righteous. G-d is totally righteous and also totally just. When He passes out justice we can be assured that His justice is a picture of His righteousness. G-d sets up a system here that emulates His character.
However, since this is the month of repentance, can repentance sway an earthly judge? He must judge on what his eye can see. We may be sorry for what we did but we still must be judged by an earthly court on what the facts are. But, our Father in Heaven can take repentance into account. He looks at our heart and knows if it is true repentance or not. Only G-d can see a man’s heart. We may be able to sway people on an earthly court but G-d knows our heart. Which brings us to repentance. What is repentance? It is a turning around from what we were doing and going in a different direction. But there is a second step. We quit what we were doing and change our behavior. This is what G-d looks at and sometime only He can see the truth. However, to emulate this quality of G-d we must try to look at a person not just in a context of one event but how does he or she live their life after repentance. We often do exactly the opposite. We are quick to judge and slow to forgive. We must, to be like G-d, look at a person in their totality. Does their life show a change and if so we go on and encourage them as G-d encourages us.
Now to Shoftim or judges. What are some of the principles of justice set out in our verses?
Verse 18 Righteous judgment, is competent and impartial
Verse 19 Not perverting justice, the word also means to twist or bend
Verse 19 Not be a respecter of person, everyone must be treated the same
Verse 19 Does not accept a bribe
Verse 17:6 Even death penalty case can not be decided unless there are two or more witnesses (Where do we see this principle misused) It was misused by Jezebel and Ahab when they took the vineyard of Naboth.
The result of this is the people would live and inherit the land that G-d was giving them. What are we to learn from these verses on justice? In our own lives as a reflection of G-d through Yeshua, we must be righteous in our relations with people. We cannot cull people in any way. But as children of G-d we must be fair and loving to everyone we meet.
In the Hoftorah section of Isaiah it is the fourth of seven consolations that we have looked at following the anniversary of the destruction of Jerusalem on the 9th of Av. In each of these we see Isaiah comforting Jerusalem and prophesying her place.
This one starts in Isaiah 51:12 where G-d says that He is the one to comfort her. So why is she afraid of man? I think this is a beautiful statement for us as well. G-d is our comforter in the midst of what ever befalls us. G-d is with us.
I asked you to find a New Testament reference to Isaiah 51:11. What is it? It is II Cor. 6:17-18 and Revelation 18:4. What they have in common is the term “depart, depart” or “Come out”. We should see these verses as an admonition to not participate in the unclean things of the world. We should have no part in them. We should have no covenant relationship with people that do not share our core beliefs. If we do we will be unequally yoked.