Bits of Torah Truths, פרשת שפטים, Parashat Shoftim, Having Our own Form of Righteousness and therefore Justice


Today more than ever, our generation is being shaped by the social, political, and economic events of the day.  Examples may be found by observing how each subsequent generation are different than the prior generations.  This is the result of our lives being saturated by mobile technology, social media, and skewed news reporting all for the purpose of manipulating the current generation for political and financial gain.  As a result of these things due to the advancement of technologies that are entering into our lives, our culture is stricken with poor emotional health.  These technologies cause men and women to be more lonely, anxious, and depressed, and is undermining social skills and even sleep.  Today most people spend five to six hours a day if we add together the time spent texting, chatting, gaming, web surfing, streaming, sharing videos, and hanging out online, etc.  Studies have shown when one spends more than two hours a day one raises the risk for serious mental health problems.  There is a lot of correlational data that suggest the raise in mental health problems correlate to the increase in electronic devices, cell phones, etc.  When one gives up the internet for a period of time for nature and normal face to face communication, one becomes happier.  The reason this is so is because “online content” leads us to have unrealistic expectations about happiness, body image, morality, etc.  This leads to feelings of being left out, and loneliness, etc.  What is worse, this internet lifestyle is a sort of augmented reality where the way we think is being reshaped and transformed and our understanding and approach to life is being pushed in a direction that is contrary to God’s truth as described in the Scriptures.  This leads to having our own form or righteousness and justice.  In this week’s Torah portion the Lord God calls for justice and truth to be established in our communities.  He states this in the following way:

Devarim / Deuteronomy 16:18-17:7
16:18 ‘You shall appoint for yourself judges and officers in all your towns which the Lord your God is giving you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with righteous judgment. 16:19 ‘You shall not distort justice; you shall not be partial, and you shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and perverts the words of the righteous. 16:20 ‘Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue, that you may live and possess the land which the Lord your God is giving you. 16:21 ‘You shall not plant for yourself an Asherah of any kind of tree beside the altar of the Lord your God, which you shall make for yourself. 16:22 ‘You shall not set up for yourself a sacred pillar which the Lord your God hates. 17:1 ‘You shall not sacrifice to the Lord your God an ox or a sheep which has a blemish or any defect, for that is a detestable thing to the Lord your God. 17:2 ‘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, 17:3 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, 17:4 and if it is told you and you have heard of it, then you shall inquire thoroughly. Behold, if it is true and the thing certain that this detestable thing has been done in Israel, 17:5 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. 17:6 ‘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. 17:7 ‘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. (NASB)

ספר דברים פרק טז יח שֹׁפְטִים וְשֹׁטְרִים תִּתֶּן-לְךָ בְּכָל-שְׁעָרֶיךָ אֲשֶׁר יְהוָֹה אֱלֹהֶיךָ נֹתֵן לְךָ לִשְׁבָטֶיךָ וְשָׁפְטוּ אֶת-הָעָם מִשְׁפַּט-צֶדֶק: יט לֹא-תַטֶּה מִשְׁפָּט לֹא תַכִּיר פָּנִים וְלֹא-תִקַּח שֹׁחַד כִּי הַשֹּׁחַד יְעַוֵּר עֵינֵי חֲכָמִים וִיסַלֵּף דִּבְרֵי צַדִּיקִם: כ צֶדֶק צֶדֶק תִּרְדֹּף לְמַעַן תִּחְיֶה וְיָרַשְׁתָּ אֶת-הָאָרֶץ אֲשֶׁר-יְהוָֹה אֱלֹהֶיךָ נֹתֵן לָךְ: ס כא לֹא-תִטַּע לְךָ אֲשֵׁרָה כָּל-עֵץ אֵצֶל מִזְבַּח יְהוָֹה אֱלֹהֶיךָ אֲשֶׁר תַּעֲשֶֹה-לָּךְ: כב וְלֹא-תָקִים לְךָ מַצֵּבָה אֲשֶׁר שָֹנֵא יְהוָֹה אֱלֹהֶיךָ: ס ספר דברים פרק יז א לֹא-תִזְבַּח לַיהֹוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ שׁוֹר וָשֶֹה אֲשֶׁר יִהְיֶה בוֹ מוּם כֹּל דָּבָר רָע כִּי תוֹעֲבַת יְהוָֹה אֱלֹהֶיךָ הוּא: ס ב כִּי-יִמָּצֵא בְקִרְבְּךָ בְּאַחַד שְׁעָרֶיךָ אֲשֶׁר-יְהוָֹה אֱלֹהֶיךָ נֹתֵן לָךְ אִישׁ אוֹ-אִשָּׁה אֲשֶׁר יַעֲשֶֹה אֶת-הָרַע בְּעֵינֵי יְהוָֹה-אֱלֹהֶיךָ לַעֲבֹר בְּרִיתוֹ: ג וַיֵּלֶךְ וַיַּעֲבֹד אֱלֹהִים אֲחֵרִים וַיִּשְׁתַּחוּ לָהֶם וְלַשֶּׁמֶשׁ | אוֹ לַיָּרֵחַ אוֹ לְכָל-צְבָא הַשָּׁמַיִם אֲשֶׁר לֹא-צִוִּיתִי: ד וְהֻגַּד-לְךָ וְשָׁמָעְתָּ וְדָרַשְׁתָּ הֵיטֵב וְהִנֵּה אֱמֶת נָכוֹן הַדָּבָר נֶעֶשְֹתָה הַתּוֹעֵבָה הַזֹּאת בְּיִשְֹרָאֵל: ה וְהוֹצֵאתָ אֶת-הָאִישׁ הַהוּא אוֹ אֶת-הָאִשָּׁה הַהִוא אֲשֶׁר עָשֹוּ אֶת-הַדָּבָר הָרָע הַזֶּה אֶל-שְׁעָרֶיךָ אֶת-הָאִישׁ אוֹ אֶת-הָאִשָּׁה וּסְקַלְתָּם בָּאֲבָנִים וָמֵתוּ: ו עַל-פִּי | שְׁנַיִם עֵדִים אוֹ שְׁלשָׁה עֵדִים יוּמַת הַמֵּת לֹא יוּמַת עַל-פִּי עֵד אֶחָד: ז יַד הָעֵדִים תִּהְיֶה-בּוֹ בָרִאשֹׁנָה לַהֲמִיתוֹ וְיַד כָּל-הָעָם בָּאַחֲרֹנָה וּבִעַרְתָּ הָרָע מִקִּרְבֶּךָ:

The Lord speaks of appointing judges to make judgements in righteousness and to avoid corruption. We are called to pursue justice and truth according to God’s Word. The way this is to be understood is by comparing to the person who would raise up an Asherah pole beside the altar of the Lord perverting the truth, drawing in the context of worshiping the Lord the way the nations worshiped their gods. Note how in Asherim worship the people were involved in various levels of sexual immorality and perversions. In addition, the context of justice and truth, we are told not to deceive, by offering to the Lord a defective animal (one with a blemish or defect) thinking that we can fool God or that we do not have to give Him our best but just those parts of our lives that we don’t want. These things are related to the man or woman who does what is evil in the sight of God transgressing his covenant. The perversion of justice and truth is synonymous to going and worshiping other gods.  We are told those who practice wickedness and unrighteousness are to be removed from the community because of the effects this may have upon the community of believers. In the justice of God, the proof of these things are brought only at the witness of two or more people and not just by one person.

I believe it is because of technology and access to anti-Judaeo-Christian ethics and morality on the internet that we are seeing the completely absurd mindset today that paints a picture so upside down that it defies logic and reason.  What we are seeing today on a massive scale is the face of mental illness.  This is the direct result of having embraced the ways of the world as opposed to the ways of God.  It is possible that one may do this and not even realize it and assume their way is the most logical way to truth.  This leads to being unable to hear from God because one’s mind is broken and cannot connect to the Lord God even when one wants to connect to God.  The point is whatever gets in your mind gets in you, because the battle is in the mind.  The Apostle Paul wrote about this the following way in 2 Corinthians 10:3-5.

2 Corinthians 10:3-5
10:3 For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh, 10:4 for the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh, but divinely powerful for the destruction of fortresses. 10:5 We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ, (NASB)

Paul writes to the Corinthians that our bottle is not of the flesh but to destroy fortresses which he parallels to “speculations” and “lofty thoughts” that stand against the knowledge of God.  Paul is speaking of presuppositions, pretensions, and arguments that are set up against God and His Ways.  This is a reference to a mental battle that is taking place, the exact thing we are seeing today in our culture.  These mental fortresses, speculations, and lofty thoughts may be one of a few things:

  • One’s worldview, such as materialism, hedonism, Darwinism, secularism, relativism, socialism, communism, and atheism, etc. All of the different -isms are mental strongholds that people set up against the knowledge of God.
  • A mental fortress may be a personal attitude. Worrying about something can be a stronghold. Seeking the approval of other people can be a stronghold. Anything that we can make an idol of in our lives can be a stronghold, such as fear, guilt, resentment, and insecurity. All of these things can be strongholds in our minds.
  • Another form of stronghold (fortress) may be related to habitual sin, or the sins that we enjoy and find pleasurable.  This was the point of the Torah portion where God tells us to tear them down and to have no part of them.

What Paul is talking about is to take every thought captive.  In the Greek text on 2 Corinthians 10:5 (καὶ πᾶν ὕψωμα ἐπαιρόμενον κατὰ τῆς γνώσεως τοῦ θεοῦ καὶ αἰχμαλωτίζοντες πᾶν νόημα εἰς τὴν ὑπακοὴν τοῦ Χριστοῦ), the Greek word aichmalōtizontes means “to control, to conquer, to bring into submission.”  Paul is saying we are to take captive and submit our thought life in obedience to the Messiah.  We are to make our thoughts hupakoēn “bringing into submission or under control.” The question then is how do we do that in light of all the influences in our lives today?  If you have noticed anything about your thought life, our minds tend to always be disobedient.  Our minds are often very disobedient, I know mine is and I struggle daily to keep my mind on the right path.  When I want to think a certain way, my mind always wants to go another way. A few things to be mindful of to prevent this from happening:

  1. Don’t believe everything you read or think.  Our minds tend to run constantly in the wrong direction and what we read sometimes tends to facilitate that.
  2. Guard your mind from garbage, what you see and what you listen to.
  3. Continue to learn (study God’s Word) and double check what is reported in the news.
  4. Allow the Lord God Almighty to move your heart.  This comes only by continuing to remain in the Word of God (daily reading).

The point is that we don’t only need to know the Word of God.  We also need to have the mind of God and the heart of God and to develop the character of God.  This means that we are to do the will of God just as James wrote, “Be doers of the word, and not hearers only” (James 1:22).  This is exactly where this week’s Torah portion comes into action.  Our culture today wants to reshape and transform our understanding and approach to life in a way that is contrary to God’s truth as described in the Scriptures.  This leads to having our own form or righteousness and justice.  This week’s Torah portion tells us to tear down the ways of the world excluding them from our lives and calls us back to the ways of God starting with each one of us, and in our relationships with others and with God.  In this week’s Torah portion the Lord God calls for justice and truth to be established beginning with our lives. This is what Yeshua the Messiah taught us and continues to teach us as we walk in God’s ways, and bear His testimonies to all the world!