Leadership and Authority
Open Your Bible
Deuteronomy 16:18-22, Deuteronomy 17:1-20, Deuteronomy 18:1-22, Philippians 2:3-4
By the end of this year, I will have three little boys—ages five, three, and a newborn. As is already the case with my older two, I imagine that I’ll have a lot of disputes to mediate and a lot of catastrophic disagreements to mitigate. Already, my five- and three-year-old come to me with lips pursed in outrage, chubby fingers pointing at one another and insisting the righteousness of their cause.
My sons could not be more different. One of them resembles a younger version of me—tender-hearted, quick-tempered, and full of big emotions. The other resembles a younger version of his father—tough-minded, resilient, and calculating. And yet, as their mother, I would never be able to pick a favorite. I love them both fiercely, whether they’re piling into my bed every morning for our ritual “snugs” or bickering in their room that same afternoon, looking for a referee.
In our current cultural climate, thoughts of justice can bring up all manner of emotions. A word and concept that is mentioned countless times in God’s Word has taken on very partisan, rather than biblical, connotations. Whether we’re arguing about social justice, criminal justice reform, or seeking justice for the persecuted, for many of us, the word conjures up ballot boxes, picket lines, and picket signs rather than the impartial God of the universe.
One thought that helps preserve the beauty of justice in my mind is the fact that our God is the patient Father of His earthly children. Though it doesn’t seem possible to me, He loves us infinitely more than I love my thumb-sucking little prizefighters. Like a tender parent, it is His desire to see His children walking in unity (Psalm 133:1). Like a wise parent, as Israel makes her way out of Egypt and towards the promised land, God is making provision for this unity through earthly mediators whose job is to echo His lovingkindness.
He requires righteous judgment (Deuteronomy 16:18), not hampered by partiality or bribes. He requires righteousness (Deuteronomy 16:19), and a pursuit of His justice alone, not personal glory or gain. And to ensure that justice and righteousness are the only pursuit of the judge, the accused, and the accuser, He requires single-hearted worship of Him alone (Deuteronomy 17:2-7). This call is even higher for the Levitical priests, who are called to mediate in especially difficult cases because of their close walk and relationship with the Father (Deuteronomy 18:1-8).
We live in an age so different from that first trek into the promised land, but God shows us in Philippians 2:3-4 that the heart of His calls for justice still ring true: we are to be looking out for the interest of others. Whatever our blood relationship, familial bond, party affiliation, or political views, we are to see one another as more important than ourselves—as family—as sweet, lisping children, if that’s what it takes to show the tender mercy God requires.