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Picking Judges - A Lesson from the Bible

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According to Exodus 18, civil magistrates represent God in a delegated and limited capacity, similar to the way Aaron represented Moses to the people with Moses as “god” (elohim):

Then the anger of the LORD burned against Moses, and He said, “Is there not your brother Aaron the Levite? I know that he speaks fluently. And moreover, behold, he is coming out to meet you; when he sees you, he will be glad in his heart. And you are to speak to him and put the words in his mouth; and I, even I, will be with your mouth and his mouth, and I will teach you what you are to do. Moreover, he shall speak for you to the people; and it shall come about that he shall be as a mouth for you, and you shall be as God to him” (Ex. 4:14–17; cf. Psalm 82:1, 6; John 10:34).

The Hebrew word translated “gods” in Exodus 4 and Psalm 82:6 is a reference to those who exercise judicial authority in God’s name and under His jurisdiction. “The passage refers to the judges of Israel, and the expression ‘gods’ is applied to them in the exercise of their high and God-given office.”[1] To be brought before a judge was like being brought before God, because the judge represented God. The word translated “God” in Exodus 21:6 refers to a judge who acts in God’s name. This can be seen in Exodus 22:8–9 where the word translated “judge” is, again, elohim.

Judges act in the name of some god, whether the people, themselves, the State, or the God who made heaven and earth. There is no neutrality. Some have turned this God-given authority to seek power as an end in itself. As O’Brien tells Winston Smith in George Orwell’s 1984, “Power is not a means; it is an end.” Later on, Smith shows that he finally understands when he painfully writes: “GOD IS POWER.” The State is power because the State has declared itself to be the one and true god.[2]

The call to separate religion from judicial matters only confuses things. The rejection of the God of the Bible only means that some other god fills the vacuum. Judging in the name of some god—spoken or otherwise—is inevitable. Right now, the Supreme Court has turned to international law for its judicial god. They want us to believe that going overseas means they are following a higher law. Of course, international law has as its foundation the will of man. Ten years from now, the standard for judging might be something else. It really doesn’t matter since behind it all human autonomy is the standard. Judicial restraint and even original intent mean little when judges believe they are gods by nature.

Endnotes:

[1] Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1971), 525. Leon Morris, The Biblical Doctrine of Judgment (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1960), 33–4. See his entire discussion on pages 33–36.
[2] Herbert Schlossberg, Idols for Destruction: Christian Faith and its Confrontation with American Society (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1983), 197.

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