Parashat Devarim (Words)
Devarim (Deuteronomy) 1:1–3:22
Our weekly Scripture portion (parasha) reading brings us to a new book, Deuteronomy. The book of Deuteronomy is an amazing book! I believe it is a very important book since in it, God reminds us of so many precepts that He laid out in previous books. There are two main reasons for these reminders: 1) We tend to easily forget and really need to be reminded — this is just part of who we are as human beings. 2) God is emphasizing things that are really important to Him.
With those principles in mind, let’s get to this week’s reading:
Then I charged your judges at that time, saying, “Hear the cases between your fellow countrymen, and judge righteously between a man and his fellow countryman, or the alien who is with him. You shall not show partiality in judgment; you shall hear the small and the great alike. You shall not fear man, for the judgment is God’s. And the case that is too hard for you, you shall bring to me, and I will hear it. And I commanded you at that time all the things that you should do.”
This echoes God’s command in Leviticus 19:15: “You shall do no injustice in judgment; you shall not be partial to the poor nor defer to the great, but you are to judge your neighbor fairly.”
While the above verse speaks to the leaders of Israel, there is an important principle here that applies to us all. The issue of passing judgment on one another is an area where many of us stumble on a daily basis. We are quick to let our eyes judge and forget the fact that one day, each one of us will give an account to God! (Romans 14:12)
Just last week, while waiting to board a flight in the USA, a man cut in front of me to get on the airplane. He had a big beard, tattoos all over his body, and wore a big gold necklace. He was big and burly, and basically someone you wouldn’t want to mess around with. I was annoyed that he cut in front of me, and I must confess that I was quick to judge him based on his outer appearance, thinking that of course a man like “that” would cut in line.
As we boarded the airplane, it should not have surprised me that he sat next to me; God is always stretching us and giving us opportunities to grow, isn’t He? I was convicted and asked God to give me an opportunity to speak to him if He wanted me to… and He did.
We started to chat and I learned that he is a war veteran and suffers from some PTSD. His tattoos tell his life story and are a way for him to express some of the difficult things he has endured. Suffering from a very similar reality of post-traumatic stress from my IDF service allowed me to minister to him and encourage him. In the midst of our conversation, I mentioned that I teach the Bible and he immediately became very defensive, telling me that he can no longer go to his congregation because people judge him based on his outer appearance.
That was an “ouch” moment and was really painful for me on many levels. Shouldn’t a place of worship be the most welcoming place for him? This man put his life on the line, defending the freedoms of the very people who judge him based on how he looks. I was even more convicted and had to repent for judging him. In the end, we had a wonderful conversation, and I can only pray that seeds were planted and that he will find true, unconditional acceptance in the LORD.
James refers to the verses from our weekly parasha when he writes:
My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Yeshua the Messiah with an attitude of personal favoritism. For if a man comes into your assembly with a gold ring and dressed in fine clothes, and there also comes in a poor man in dirty clothes, and you pay special attention to the one who is wearing the fine clothes, and say, “You sit here in a good place,” and you say to the poor man, “You stand over there, or sit down by my footstool,” have you not made distinctions among yourselves, and become judges with evil motives?
Yeshua was — and is — no respecter of persons; we should not be either! He treated the least of men and women the same as the greatest of them.
Let’s search our hearts for areas where we hold judgment towards someone, and seek repentance from it. Are there people in your life that you are playing favorites with, based on their status, their outward appearance, etc.? Remember that each of us will give an account to God!