When we think of judgment, we often associate it the execution of justice or punishment. And certainly it does carry that meaning. But judgment also means simply to judge, like in a court of law where you decide a case. This second type is what I want to talk about. The purpose of a king is to administrate judgment, which includes several things. It involves the choosing of judges and all the responsibilities associated with this process. In Exodus 18 it tells us that Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, comes to see Moses. And after seeing all that Moses is doing Jethro gives some very wise advice.
Moses’ father-in-law said to him, “What you are doing is not good. You and the people with you will certainly wear yourselves out, for the thing is too heavy for you. You are not able to do it alone. Now obey my voice; I will give you advice, and God be with you! You shall represent the people before God and bring their cases to God, and you shall warn them about the statutes and the laws, and make them know the way in which they must walk and what they must do. Exodus 18:17-20
Jethro saw that Moses was judging the people all day long by himself. He instructed Moses that this would not work very long. But before Jethro talks about delegating responsibilities he says something you may not expect. He tells Moses to warn the people about the statues and laws. The people have to know the law and the way in which to work and act. This means as a judge you must not only render judgment, but teach people the right way. Some versions say teach instead of warn, although this is of little consequence because the idea of teaching the people the law is clear either way. Before moving on with Jethro, I want to drive this point home. You may remember King Jehoshaphat from the Old Testament. This king of Judah started a national iterant teaching ministry. And this involved civil government as well as religious law. In reference to this II Chronicles 17:7 says, “In the third year of his reign he sent his officials, Ben-hail, Obadiah, Zechariah, Nethanel, and Micaiah, to teach in the cities of Judah;”. These officials or princes taught civil law to the people, similar to how the priests would teach religious law. This was done in all the cities of the land; it was a national teaching endeavor. Jehoshaphat understood this was imperative for the people to know how to live and act. And this had lasting effects on his kingdom. It is the responsibility of a king to ensure this aspect of judgment or judging.
Now we all know the king does not do this himself – the problem Moses was running into. A king delegates this act of judging to others. This was the second aspect of Jethro’s advice to Moses. “Moreover, look for able men from all the people, men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe, and place such men over the people as chiefs of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. And let them judge the people at all times.” (Exodus 18:21-22) This part of Jethro’s counsel seems very good, for Moses could not possibly judge all the people. He had to delegate some responsibility. However, he also tells Moses what kind of men to choose. This can be easily overlooked, but Jethro clearly says these judges are to be men who fear God, who are trustworthy and hate a bribe. And we should understand this is the king’s responsibility – to ensure that “able” men who possess these character traits are chosen to judge. This is part of the king’s purpose.
Going again to Jehoshaphat in II Chronicles, it is no surprise how he chose his judges. Speaking of Jehoshaphat the text says:
He appointed judges in the land in all the fortified cities of Judah, city by city, and said to the judges, “Consider what you do, for you judge not for man but for the Lord. He is with you in giving judgment. Now then, let the fear of the Lord be upon you. Be careful what you do, for there is no injustice with the Lord our God, or partiality or taking bribes.” II Chronicles 19:5-7
We can see Jehoshaphat set a very high standard. He tells his judges that they judge for the Lord. So we find the same character traits in Chronicles: fear of the Lord, showing no partiality (trustworthy), and not taking bribes. When reading the account of Jehoshaphat, I am convinced he as king felt a great responsibility to ensure righteous judgment. And this is what a king does; he administrates judgment by choosing the most able men, able in the sense of righteous character. When a king considers it his mission to ensure proper judgment, then prosperity for his people will follow. Looking at Psalm 72, the text reads, “May he judge your people with righteousness, and your poor with justice! Let the mountains bear prosperity for the people, and the hills, in righteousness!” (vs. 2-3) Merrill Unger notes that “the mountains” in verse 3 are symbolic of kingdoms. And Adam Clarke in his commentary comments:
Perhaps mountains and hills are here taken in their figurative sense, to signify princes and petty governors; and it is a prediction that all governors of provinces and magistrates should administer equal justice in their several departments and jurisdictions; so that universal peace should be preserved, and the people be every where prosperous;
The bottom line is simple. The king who judges with righteousness and justice produces prosperity for the nation. And the opposite of this statement is also true. And it is worth asking the question that if we as a nation are not experiencing prosperity (not just money, but richness of life in every way), are our political kings judging with righteousness and justice? And without much debate, we all know the answer!
We live in a culture today that approaches life in a purposeless way. We do not understand or know our purpose. But we really do not have an excuse. The Bible is clear about our purpose, and dogmatically precise about the purpose of a king. The onslaught of self-serving politicians, who would make even the pagans blush, has left us empty and purposeless. But we must fight against the tide and realize our political kings have it all wrong. Their purpose is to serve, not be served. They are to execute and administrate righteousness, justice, and judgment. A king would be hard-pressed to achieve these things if he or she does not know what they are. Nonetheless, this is what is expected; it is a king’s primary role. Let no political king hasten to say that they do not know their purpose or what they should be doing. It is crystal clear. Of course many of us realize some of our kings do know what to do, yet refuse to do it. This is another matter entirely. Either way, they are without excuse. The purpose of a king is:
1) Righteousness – rightwiseness with kindness, compassion and love.
2) Justice – to do what is right, correct what is wrong, and execute swift justice on the oppressor.
3) Judgment – to administrate judges and judgment with the fear of the Lord, showing no partiality, and hating bribes.
It is past time for political leaders to execute righteousness, justice, and judgment instead of pursuing self-gain and politically safe agendas. It is time for God to find someone willing to stand in the gap among our political leaders no matter the cost. But the truth is if God cannot find anyone to stand up for his righteous principles, he will undoubtedly remove the cancer and start again.