Tuesday, April 13, 2021
Deuteronomy. Day 2, Moses Recalls A Time When He Was Overwhelmed
Moses has found the task of leading Israel to be overwhelming on several occasions but at times this was due to him trying to do everything himself instead of delegating some of the work. Today he recalls a time when he was overwhelmed by his duties and was given the godly guidance to choose wise men to help him.
I am not sure whether our passage today refers to Exodus 18, when Moses' father-in-law, the priest of Midian, advised him to select judges to help him hear the people's cases, or whether our passage refers to Numbers 11 when the people wailed about the lack of meat and the Lord told Moses to choose seventy leaders to help him with the people.
When announcing to the people that leaders would be appointed, Moses said to them, "At that time I said to you, 'You are too heavy a burden for me to carry alone. The Lord your God has increased your numbers so that today you are as numerous as the stars in the sky.'" (Deuteronomy 1:9-10) In both Exodus 18 and Numbers 11 we found Moses feeling like the people were too heavy of a burden for him to carry by himself. And now there are far more people than there were then because the Lord has caused them to be fruitful.
He goes on, "May the Lord, the God of your ancestors, increase you a thousand times and bless you as He has promised." (Deuteronomy 1:11) Heavy as this burden is, Moses is grateful to the Lord for increasing their number and he prays their number increases more and more. He loves the people of Israel and wants them to prosper.
He recalls what happened when, exhausted with his duties, he realized he was trying to do too much on his own. At that time he had said: "But how can I bear your problems and your burdens and your disputes all by myself?" (Deuteronomy 1:12) The answer to this was that he didn't have to bear their problems and burdens and disputes all by himself. Whichever time this is a reference to, the solution was to choose men capable of sharing the work, so Moses had instructed the people, "Choose some wise, understanding and respected men from each of your tribes, and I will set them over you." (Deuteronomy 1:13)
The people had agreed that this was a sensible idea. "You answered me, 'What you propose to do is good.' So I took the leading men of your tribes, wise and respected men, and appointed them to have authority over you---as commanders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens and as tribal officials." (Deuteronomy 1:14-15) This process was done carefully and thoughtfully, in an orderly manner.
Before these men began their duties, Moses gave them godly instructions. "And I charged your judges at that time, 'Hear the disputes between your people and judge fairly, whether the case is between two Israelites or between an Israelite and a foreigner residing among you. Do not show partiality in judging; hear both small and great alike. Do not be afraid of anyone, for judgment belongs to God. Bring me any case too hard for you, and I will hear it.' And at that time I told you everything you were to do." (Deuteronomy 1:16-18)
One of the laws the Lord gave Israel was, "Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly." (Leviticus 19:15) It's a sin to judge with partiality. Cases must be decided on their own merit. It's wrong to decide in favor of the wealthy because of who they are or because they can slip the judge a bribe. If the evidence shows the wealthy person is at fault in the dispute, he is to be judged accordingly. It's wrong to feel sorry for a person because he's poor and because we think that makes him the underdog or because we have a dislike for the wealthy person who is accusing him in court. If the evidence shows that the poor person is the one who is in the wrong, the judge must decide the case accordingly. Cases aren't to be judged in favor of an Israelite in disputes between Israelites and foreigners unless the evidence proves the Israelite is in the right. An Israelite judge isn't to rule in the favor of his countryman simply because he's his countryman. A judge also isn't to be swayed by someone's influence in the community. Even though there may be a public outcry if a popular official is found guilty of a crime or misdemeanor in court, the judge isn't to allow that to influence his ruling. If the man is guilty, the judge must find him guilty, no matter who he is. This is why Moses instructed the judges, "Do not be afraid of anyone, for judgment belongs to God." We are to fear God, not man. God will be our judge if we show partiality and treat someone unfairly. Instead of worrying about what the people around us will say about us, we need only be concerned about what God will say about us.
Human beings have been created by God with a sense of fairness. Even while we are still very small children we understand the concept of fairness. A young child is capable of noticing, for example, that his bowl of ice cream is a bit smaller than another child's bowl of ice cream. This offends his sense of fairness and he will probably complain or cry over the situation. The Lord placed a desire for fairness within us, not just so we can look out for ourselves, but so we can look out for others. We should be just as concerned about our fellow man receiving a fair share as we are about receiving a fair share ourselves. We should be just as concerned about our fellow man receiving justice in the courts as we would be if we found ourselves standing in front of a judge. As soon as we start allowing our justice system to become partial and unfair, we are all in danger of not having our rights represented properly. The system begins to break down under such unrighteousness. The Lord, who is a fair and impartial judge, wants human judges to model themselves after Him. In addition He wants us all to model our behavior after His when dealing with our fellow man. We aren't to give someone an unfair advantage because they're wealthy or popular or influential or in a position to do something for us or because they're related to us or because they're our same sex or race or religion. The Lord values every soul the same. Jesus Christ died for every human being so that every human being would have access to forgiveness and salvation. We have no right to judge anyone unfairly.