christine's bible study

The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever. Isa 40:8

deuteronomy 17:8-13, national authority

Read Deuteronomy 17:8-13 at Bible Gateway.

Previously: deuteronomy 16:18-17:7, judging with just judgment

(Please review the teaching tools of scripture, especially the Hebrew paragraph divisions and chiastic structures. The paragraphs marked by an “s” at their close are weak paragraphs, which indicate a change of facet but not a change of theme or topic. The paragraphs marked by a “p” at their close are strong paragraphs, which indicate the completion of a theme or topic.)

This section, Deu 17:8-13, is the next weak paragraph explaining the fifth commandment, Honor your father and mother. (The fifth commandment is explained in Deu 16:18-18:22, and this is my summary of it.)

Deu 17:8-13 {s} Authority of the high priest and judge

Each of the weak paragraphs in this section explains the different kinds of delegated authority (as there is more than one authority God has given in the earth, Rom 13:1). Yesterday we saw that God has delegated authority to local judges to judge local cases (“in all your gates,” Deu 16:18). When a case is too difficult, the local judges are to take it to the national leaders to judge (Deu 17:8). Not any national leader: the high priest, the Levites, or the judge “there in those days,” (Deu 17:9). Before Israel had a king, they were judged by a national leader- judge raised up and appointed by God — Moses, Joshua, Deborah, and Samuel are examples.

Why these and not the king? This is where America’s founding fathers got the concept of separation of powers from. Not all the delegated authority is in one basket. There are local authorities, and national authorities. The national authorities are not to micro manage the smaller localities, there are local authorities for that. There are judges, and high priests, and kings, and they have responsibilities which differ from each other. The king is the political leader, he does not judge matters of the Law or Torah. That is not his expertise. The high priest, the Levites, and the judge raised up by God – they are presumably experts in the Law or Torah, and they are to judge the difficult cases.

There are spiritual authorities and political authorities. The local and national, spiritual and political, serve in balance with each other, preventing a single authority from gaining absolute power. This section contains an admonition which is hard for Americans to hear:

“You shall do according to the sentence which they pronounce upon you in that place which the Lord chooses. And you shall be careful to do according to all that they order you. According to the sentence of the Torah in which they instruct you, according to the judgment which they tell you, you shall do; you shall not turn aside to the right hand or to the left from the sentence which they pronounce upon you.” Deu 17:10-11

To honor God’s authority is to submit to His judgments as right and true, and to the judgments of those He has placed in authority as right and true. We cannot have the idea that we will only obey if we like the judgment or are in agreement with it. What if we are wrong and they are right? If they are right and we rebel, then the wrong is laid on our doorstep. If they are wrong and we obey, then the wrong is laid on their doorstep. And those in authority have a much greater burden and responsibility, thus a much greater consequence, to be sure that they are right.

These are the questions that have played out in history and man has sincerely grappled with. The Nuremberg Trials put Nazi leaders on trial (not all Nazis) because of the truth of this principle, that those in authority have a much greater burden to be right and thus will face a much greater consequence if wrong. The leaders tried to excuse their actions by saying they were only following Hitler’s orders. That did not excuse them, the international court decided, because there is a natural law which every man knows and should not violate. This is a secular way of saying that truth and justice are woven into the fabric of our universe and are universally known (the Scripture says that all things are upheld by the word of His power, Heb 1:3).

What if our national leaders are ordering us to do something contrary to the Law (God’s word) and not in accordance with it (Acts 5:17-32)? In other words, God’s Torah and His word (which explains His Torah, not contradicts it) is the final and ultimate judge – all lesser authority flows from it and from Him! We must know it and Him! And we must appoint only those who know it and Him, and who are submitted to it and to Him, to positions of power!

We will continue to examine these questions, but that scenario is an indictment against us also, because in our system our national leaders are elected, and if they are issuing orders contrary to the Law, then why did we elect them? We are suffering the consequences of our foolishness in that case.

These are the kinds of things that we must repent from, since our founders gave us a beautiful system uniquely in accord with the wisdom of God found in His word, and we have allowed it to slip from us and to be usurped. The first thing we need to do, is to learn again the principles of wisdom contained in the Ten, and to submit our hearts to that wisdom, and to teach it to our children and as many others as will listen. And then repent of our pride and foolishness before God, because only He can heal such a woeful mess as we have made.



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