Parashat Shoftim (Judges)
Devarim (Deuteronomy) 16:18 – 21:9
Our text this week is another reminder that God’s justice is different from our human sense of justice! In Deuteronomy 17, we read that if someone commits the grievous sin of idol worship, that person should be taken to the gate and be stoned to death:
If there is found in your midst, in any of your towns, which the LORD your God is giving you, a man or a woman who does what is evil in the sight of the LORD your God, by transgressing His covenant, and has gone and served other gods and worshiped them, or the sun or the moon or any of the heavenly host, which I have not commanded, and if it is told you and you have heard of it, then you shall inquire thoroughly. And behold, if it is true and the thing certain that this detestable thing has been done in Israel, then you shall bring out that man or that woman who has done this evil deed, to your gates, that is, the man or the woman, and you shall stone them to death. On the evidence of two witnesses or three witnesses, he who is to die shall be put to death; he shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness. The hand of the witnesses shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.
There is no doubt in my mind that by today's standards, such punishment would be considered harsh. However, regardless of how we feel, sin equals death! But there is hope in Messiah Yeshua:
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Messiah Yeshua our Lord.
I would now like to turn to another topic that I think we would do well to understand better: God's order in His Kingdom. God has a specific way of handling things in His economy; while it may be hard for us to accept this, it is an important part of us walking humbly with the LORD. (Micah 6:8)
In this week’s Scripture portion, God establishes a method for giving a fair trial to the accused. He is very precise in His instructions and requires a step-by-step process. First, one needs to inquire or examine the accusation thoroughly to see if it’s true. If it is found to be true, the accused is to be brought to the gates, to the place where the judge sits; this also serves as a clear warning to others as it is a visible place of punishment. There, the person ought to be stoned to death, but only on the evidence of two or more witnesses. This safeguard is here in order to make sure that no one is wrongly put to death on a false accusation.
It is amazing that we find a very similar concept in the New Covenant! God’s order in His kingdom is consistent:
And if your brother sins, go and reprove him in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED. And if he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the congregation; and if he refuses to listen even to the congregation, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax-gatherer.
Matthew 18:15–17 (emphasis mine)
This is yet another example of Yeshua maintaining His Father’s order in the Kingdom! We see here that if someone sins, we are to confront him personally in hopes that he will be reconciled to God. If he refuses, then we are to confront him with another person present, so that there will be more than one witness to verify the truth. If he still refuses to repent, then we are to bring the issue before the entire community, and if necessary, to break fellowship with the unrepentant person. This is difficult, but this is God's order of things in His kingdom. He cannot tolerate any evil in His midst, and neither should we.
Once again I am amazed by the consistency of God’s Word! Be encouraged to follow God’s way of doing things, always with a humble and loving heart, and without hesitation.