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Thursday, 27 September 2007 22:00

The Qualities of Those Who Judge Featured

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The Situation

pastor_gerry.jpg Israel had just defeated Amalek by the hand of God – Joshua had battled while Moses held his hands high in supplication to the Lord (Ex 17:8-13). After this Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law came with the man of God’s sons and his wife and met him where he was camped in the wilderness at the foot of the mountain of God (Ex 18:5). Moses bowed down before his father-in-law and kissed him and according to custom, they enquired of each other’s welfare before they entered the tent (Ex 18:7).

It was in that tent that Moses related to his father-in-law all that the Lord had done: The plagues of Egypt – The defeat Pharaoh for Israel’s sake and God’s deliverance from the hardships of the wilderness – this caused Jethro to rejoice for the Lord’s goodness – this was Jethro’s response…

Ex 18:8-12
9 Jethro rejoiced over all the goodness which the LORD had done to Israel, in delivering them from the hand of the Egyptians. 10 So Jethro said, " Blessed be the LORD who delivered you from the hand of the Egyptians and from the hand of Pharaoh, and who delivered the people from under the hand of the Egyptians. 11 "Now I know that the LORD is greater than all the gods; indeed, it was proven when they dealt proudly against the people." 12 Then Jethro, Moses' father-in-law, took a burnt offering and sacrifices for God, and Aaron came with all the elders of Israel to eat a meal with Moses' father-in-law before God. NASU

The next day when they got up Moses went about doing what he normally did – he sat to judge the people – and the people gathered around Moses from morning until evening (talk about a long day). As Jethro beheld this he couldn’t believe what he was seeing and questioned Moses about it…

Ex 18:14
14 Now when Moses' father-in-law saw all that he was doing for the people, he said, "What is this thing that you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge and all the people stand about you from morning until evening?NASU

Moses responded to the inquiry of his father-in-law

Ex 18:15b -16
"Because the people come to me to inquire of God. 16 "When they have a dispute, it comes to me, and I judge between a man and his neighbor and make known the statutes of God and His laws."NASU

Now I can understand how this pattern had developed. Moses had been God’s spokesman before Pharaoh. He had been sent with the mandate of the Holy One to the enslaved Hebrew people, which had been given him on the mount of God in the wilderness. Yet Jethro, being an objective observer, and a man filled with wisdom could see that the end result of this pattern would be destructive to Moses and the people. How would the people learn to govern when they entered the land and how would the man of God himself survive if this behavior continued much longer?

Ex 18:17b -18
"The thing that you are doing is not good. 18 " You will surely wear out, both yourself and these people who are with you, for the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone. NASU

There is a principle here. Sometimes, when we are so focused on our service to God we aren’t able to see as clearly as we should, what His will actually is. The Father has designed the body so that we need what each other has to contribute. There are no Lone Rangers in God’s kingdom.

Listen to how the verse above is expressed in The Message: The Bible in Contemporary Language

Ex 18:17-18
17 Moses' father-in-law said, "This is no way to go about it. 18 You'll burn out, and the people right along with you. This is way too much for you — you can't do this alone. THE MESSAGE: The Bible in Contemporary Language

Jethro continued by counseling Moses as to how he must change his actions. God desired to teach the nascent nation civil order that when a generation prepared entered the land that they had been given they would be an example to all the nations around. Several previous generations of the Hebrew people had lived in slavery and now it was necessary that they learned how to govern themselves under the guidance of God.

Ex 18:19-20
19 "Now listen to me: I will give you counsel, and God be with you. You be the people's representative before God, and you bring the disputes to God, 20 then teach them the statutes and the laws, and make known to them the way in which they are to walk and the work they are to do.NASU

It was then Jethro outlined the prerequisites, the qualities by which the choice of judges should be made. We will look at the advice of the father-in-law of Moses as containing four basic points, which when adhered to would bring forth the will of God.

Quality number one: They were to be able men

They were to have within them the innate ability to fulfill the job description.

This would mean they had to have been recognized as already displaying the aptitude it took to do what the appointment would entail – they were to be already functioning in a way that displayed the qualities although not presently in the position.

In the margin of the NASB for verse 21 where it states that Moses was to select out it states that he was simply to “see” these appointees – they were already doing what they were called to do although not yet appointed. When recounting this selection (seeing) process in the book of Deuteronomy Moses told it like this…

Dt 1:12-14
12 'How can I alone bear the load and burden of you and your strife? 13 'Choose wise and discerning and experienced men from your tribes, and I will appoint them as your heads.' 14 "You answered me and said, 'The thing which you have said to do is good.' NASU

These men were to be able. Now I do understand that the word able could be interpreted in many different forms, but we have the definition of able directly from the mouth of the prophet of God, and therefore from the mouth of God Himself. These men were to be wise – discerning – and experienced. In these three words is definition of able. If they were to lead God’s people – if they were to sit as judges they would have the following qualities under the term able. (1. They needed wisdom to know what to do. (2. They needed discernment (the ability to distinguish or tell the difference between the truth or a lie, to recognize the fault in disputes, to detect errors in people’s perceptions and judgments; they needed to be able to tell the difference between God’s will and people’s desires). This is one of the fundamental requirements that one must possess if they are to serve in a leadership capacity in the body of Christ, and this discernment must only come through distinguishing ability of the Holy Spirit of God Himself.

Finally, (3. The quality of being able needed to entail experience – they had to have gone through a process in their lives to bring them to a point where they could function in this position. Any that has either gone through, or is presently going through this process can attest to the fact that it is sometimes painful, sometimes filled with rejection and frustration, and sometimes brings you to the point of giving up. It is then that path makes someone take stock of their reason for wanting to serve God. The motive has to be pure and selfless. The motive must be simply that, God is worthy to be served.

Quality number 2: They were to be men that Feared God

They were not to make decisions based upon their own wisdom and experience but based upon God’s will. Someone that does not “fear” (reverence) God will not seek His will in their decision making process. If you will remember above, one of the sub-qualities in the definition of being able, was wisdom. It is in this deep reverence for God that we find the initiation of wisdom.

The writer of Proverbs said it well when he stated by the anointing of the Holy Spirit

Pr 1:7
7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge;

Fools despise wisdom and instruction.NASU

Listen to the same verse in the Amplifies translation.

Pr 1:7
7 The reverent and worshipful fear of the Lord is the beginning and the principal and choice part of knowledge [its starting point and its essence]; but fools despise skillful and godly Wisdom, instruction, and discipline.AMP

The fear of the Lord is reverent and worshipful. How many churches have placed people in leadership positions that do not reverence God in their lives? The pool that many fellowships have to draw from is to seldom deep. Therefore when there are slots to fill and classes to teach many churches simply plug people in. All sorts of damage have been done to the Body of Christ, citizens of the Kingdom, by electing to do things this way. It is born of expediency and a wrong sense of necessity. A pastor is first and foremost responsible for this type of behavior and I believe that I have the liberty to say that because I am a pastor. If God wants a particular position filled he will provide the means and the people to fill it. This was the way it was in the time of Moses and it is the same in our time as well.

The Word states that Moses was an immensely humble man. As a matter of fact the Word says that Moses was more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth (Nu. 12:3 NIV). He understood that it was God that had delivered the people from Egyptian bondage. It was his reverence of God that caused him to be a great leader. If you look at the second part of Pr 1:7 you will notice that it says that “fools despise (ignore) wisdom and instruction. When his father-in law came to him and said; “What is this thing you are doing for the people?” – “Why do you alone sit as judge?” Moses could have allowed himself to become offended. He could have responded to Jethro; “God chose me, not you, I am the leader, you have no right to tell me what to do” – “look at all God has done through me” – “I know what I’m doing, so keep your mouth shut”

Rather than responding in arrogance and becoming defensive in says in verse 24…

Ex 18:24
24 So Moses listened to his father-in-law and did all that he had said.NASU

It was this humility that caused Moses to bow at the feet of his father-in-law and kiss him – it was this humility that caused him to respond to the will of God from the mouth of Jethro. This was because he feared God and did not reject wise counsel.

Quality number 3: They were to be men of truth

The Hebrew word translated “truth” in Ex 18.21 means certainty or trustworthiness It comes from a prim word that means to build up or support, to foster as a parent or nurse, to render or be firm or faithful, to trust or believe, to be permanent or quiet, morally to be true or certain. The word from which the Hebrew word comes that is translated truth, simply means stability. It is translated in the KJV as: establishment, faithful, right, sure, or true. These leaders that were to be seen or selected, were to be functioning in this quality of stability during times of hardship – they were to mean what they say, and say what they mean

Since the quality of fearing God came before the quality of truth it must be seen that the truth that they held to had to flow out of a nature of someone who feared the Lord and recognized His absolute truth above all else. Stability in truth can come from no other source – and it is born through hardship and learning dependence on God as well as seeking His will. This dependence gives a permanence to our actions and causes us to remain quiet and faithful when other’s lives are falling apart. Truth must always entail steadfastness.

Quality number 4: They were to be men that hated dishonest gain

To hate dishonest gain simply meant no bribes. Those in places of authority have often used their positions to take advantage of those with less power. Additionally, those in places of authority have often used their positions to prosper by the riches of those they judge.

When giving instruction before the event of entering the Promised Land in Deuteronomy, Moses told the people…

Dt 16:18-20
18 "You shall appoint for yourself judges and officers in all your towns which the LORD your God is giving you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with righteous judgment. 19 "You shall not distort justice; you shall not be partial, and you shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and perverts the words of the righteous. 20 "Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue, that you may live and possess the land which the LORD your God is giving you. NASU

Judging with righteous judgment meant three specific things. They were not to distort justice. The Holman Christian Standard translation has, “Do not deny justice”, where the New Living Translation has, “You must never twist justice”. The point seems clear; justice perverted by personal agenda is no justice at all.

The second part of verse nineteen is connected to the first. Not only were the judges that were appointed not to twist justice they also were not to be partial. There we find the personal priorities that pervert justice.

The third phrase is a natural consequent of the first two. If someone in a position of power is driven by personal agenda being will to subvert justice for personal gain they can be influenced to make decisions not based on the righteous will of God, and thereby they are not impartial. Bribes blind the eyes of the wise and pervert the words of the righteous. Now we see that this setting of order was a preparation to live in the land that they were to inherit. It was by justice that they would live in the land and it was by justice that they would possess what the Lord had promised to give them.

These men that were to be chosen were to hate with their very lives actions that would compromise their integrity when making decisions concerning God’s people. Ultimately it is only righteousness and justice that brings peace among people and sets order in society. This order is dictated and established by God alone through those that serve Him with a pure heart.

Let’s review the qualities of those that God calls to lead…

  1. God’s leaders are to be able: Wise – Discerning – and Experienced
  2. God’s leaders are to be fearers of God: Not making decisions based upon their own wisdom and experience, but based upon God’s will
  3. God’s leaders are to be people of truth: Stable, supportive, faithful permanence – Exhibiting moral integrity
  4. God’s leaders are to be people the hate dishonest gain: They are not to take advantage of their positions and let this advantage compromise their ability to make decisions pleasing to God – decisions that are based upon His will and that benefit and promote peace among the People of God


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