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Saturday 25 March 2023

The Judges Have Been Restored


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What is the ideal political system from the Biblical perspective? Most people when asked this question think either monarchy or democracy. Younger people tend to say monarchy, older people who grew up in the height of liberal democracy and enjoyed the peak of its benefits tend to say democracy. But neither are the preferred biblical model, rather a theocratic structure where God is King, and he is represented to his people by judges is the preferred model.

We see this model in action in the book of Exodus where Moses sets up the Judges (Ex. 18), and in the book of Judges where we see it in both its good and bad forms, as well as the book of Ruth and well up into the time of Samuel in the book of 1 Samuel. We read there about how this was God’s intention for his people:

“1 When Samuel became old, he made his sons judges over Israel. 2 The name of his firstborn son was Joel, and the name of his second, Abijah; they were judges in Beersheba. 3 Yet his sons did not walk in his ways but turned aside after gain. They took bribes and perverted justice. 4 Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah 5 and said to him, “Behold, you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint for us a king to judge us like all the nations.” 6 But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” And Samuel prayed to the Lord. 7 And the Lord said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. 8 According to all the deeds that they have done, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt even to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are also doing to you. 9 Now then, obey their voice; only you shall solemnly warn them and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them” (1 Samuel 8:1-9).

God's intention was for Israel to have judges, but Israel wanted to have kings like the nations around them. This is similar today to churches that want to be led by CEO’s and vision casting leaders, instead of pastors, teachers and evangelists, et al. The people of God in rejecting Samuel were actually rejecting God from being their king. Their structure was God as King and men as his representative judges. This was preferred by God for Israel over monarchy.

When you see what happens to Israel, particularly the northern kingdom Samaria, after they establish the reign of kings, you can see why. Most of these men had an authority and power to do evil that was beyond what the previous judges could do. Their increased power led them to be a greater danger to the spiritual state of Israel and also to the people of Israel. That is why God made this prophecy to Israel through Isaiah, “And I will restore your judges as at the first, and your counselors as at the beginning. Afterward you shall be called the city of righteousness, the faithful city” (Isa. 1:26).

Is this going to be fulfilled in heaven, or in the millennial thousand year reign? Maybe, this may be looking to a complete fulfilment in the future state. But in a real and genuine way this prophecy has already been fulfilled. Paul tells us,  

“6 When one of you has a grievance against another, does he dare go to law before the unrighteous instead of the saints? 2 Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to try trivial cases? 3 Do you not know that we are to judge angels? How much more, then, matters pertaining to this life! 4 So if you have such cases, why do you lay them before those who have no standing in the church? 5 I say this to your shame. Can it be that there is no one among you wise enough to settle a dispute between the brothers, 6 but brother goes to law against brother, and that before unbelievers? 7 To have lawsuits at all with one another is already a defeat for you. Why not rather suffer wrong? Why not rather be defrauded? 8 But you yourselves wrong and defraud—even your own brothers!” (1 Cor. 6:1-8).

Paul shows us that the rule of judges has been restored in the presence of the Holy Spirit in the Church which enables godly men to be able to exercise wisdom on behalf of God’s people. The judges, the system God always intended for his people, have already been restored.

Our history books tell us that the early church became so good at this role of judging disputes between people that even the pagans began to come before them to have their disputes resolved, rather than go to the civil courts. This increased the Church's stature in the world of Rome, and had a profound impact on the justice system. In the medieval era it was not uncommon for people to appeal to the Church’s judges instead of the civil magistrates, because they knew they were more likely to get a fair and just hearing in the Church.

The church has only one king, the Lord Jesus Christ, and he is our ultimate judge. But he has also empowered his people through his Spirit to be able to make judgement calls, settle disputes, and enact justice in various ways. I think there is a greater fulfilment of this in the next life, in the new heaven and new earth, because we will judge the angels. But it is incredible to think that God has already fulfilled this promise. How much of the Church is even aware of this? Paul observed that many his day were not aware, has this been forgotten again? Or maybe the Church is just so degraded today that we need a revival before this can be remembered?

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